Third base has been a real test to the adage that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. Sticking with players through their slow starts or long stretches of vacant counting stats has no doubt tested many of you, not to mention having to plug holes when injuries arise. Keeping a pulse on third base trends, there’s a decent waiver wire pickup, an annual early June buy low candidate.
In fanatasy baseball circles, it’s likely that Trevor Plouffe has more value as a shortstop (among the multitude of positions he’s eligible at) but up until a few weeks ago, he hardly had any value whatsoever. From April 6th to May 18th, Plouffe was “hitting” .135/.264/.284 with three home runs and a pair of doubles and if not for his positional versatility, he probably would have been sent back down to the minors.
Since May 19th, however, he’s caught fire — batting .327/.351/.727 with six home runs, four doubles, 11 RBI in 57 plate appearances His overall line stands at a not-so-awe-inspiring .217/.299/.473 but it’s worth pointing out that his BABIP is only .207 on the season. During the stretch from May 19th, it was a little more league-average at .308 and he consequently posted terrific numbers. Based on his hit trajectory, his expected BABIP is about .270 on the season in large part due to an elevated fly ball rate, but while that’s perhaps not ideal, it’s certainly not .207 bad.
Note: After Tuesday night, Plouffe’s line since May 19th is now .350/.371/.783.
An interesting note on Plouffe is that as his hits started piling up, his walks dried up and his strikeouts have come down. In his first 25 games, he walked 13 times and struck out 18 and since May 19th he’s walked just twice and struck out 10 times. It could be that he’s simply getting meatballs in a “I dare you to hit it” approach by opposing pitchers or he’s being more aggressive at the plate. Regardless, it does seem like he’s seeing balls that he likes in the strike zone as he’s certainly tightened up his zone:
Plouffe has never profiled as a particularly high batting average kind of guy, but if his batted ball profile can start to resemble something closer to his career rates and his BABIP hovers around .275, he could hit .260 for the rest of the year — and his home run pace would certainly be worth having him around at that rate. No, he’s not likely to hit 30 home runs, but he definitely could finish up over 20.
Ramirez rather predictably came out of the gates looking wholly disinterested in hitting a baseball. From April 6th through May 1st, Ramirez was hitting just .205/.253/.364 with two home runs. His wOBA in April was starting to look like a caricature of his career trends at just .284 in April, up to .366 in May and now pushing .400 in June. Here’s his career wOBA by month:
So Ramirez really started his trend up earlier this season, although almost all of that production came in late May. Since the 19th of May, Ramirez is hitting .345/.438/.618 with three home runs, six doubles, and twelve RBI. It’s not all wrapped up in good fortune either as his BABIP is .348 over that time span, which might be a little rosy, but not otherworldly.
His batted ball profile is almost exactly what his career averages are and yet he’s getting just killed on home runs per fly ball at 7% (versus a career 13.1%). Milwaukee might not be the friendliest place on earth for right handed batters to hit, but it’s not much different than what he knew in Chicago, and statistically speaking, it’s actually a touch better – so you can expect that to improve. And perhaps improve a lot. His contact rates are down in comparison to his career rates, but consider the aforementioned crummy starts to the season, so don’t let that get you down quite yet.
If you’ve been hanging on to Ramirez through a miserable April and most of May, you should have a big cigar in your mouth looking like George Peppard, flanked by Faceman, Mr. T, and a funny looking dude because the proverbial plan has come together. If you’re in a buying mood and you’d like to pounce while his overall line isn’t terribly impressive, you might want to float some aggressive offers out there because the wait is probably over on Ramirez. He might not be the 30 home run, 110 RBI machine he once was, but there’s a good chance Ramirez will hit 15 home runs from here on out and his place in the order will likely net him another 50-60 RBI given good health.