Fantasy & Reality: Ramirez, Tomas, Judge & More

Jose Ramirez: 2017 Projection

Jose Ramirez was an afterthought for most people coming into the 2016 season. He had struggled early in 2015 (.176/.243/.235 in the first half) and was demoted and Francisco Lindor got called up. He came back in the season’s 2nd half and has been a different hitter ever since. His second half improvement went unnoticed because of the bad first half stats bringing down his value.

I read back through news reports to see if he was dealing with an injury or a change in approach while in the minors and could not find anything. Instead, I will throw out a bunch of stats showing the change without knowing the reason. First, here is his 2015 average exit velocity from baseballsavant.com.

Before getting demoted, his average batted velocity was below league average (84.8 mph) and after coming back it hovered around league average (87.9 mph). Besides hitting the ball harder, he went to a more line drive approach with his swing.

Change in Jose Ramirez’s Batted Ball Profile
Time Frame GB/FB Hard% Bunt% ISO
2014 1.67 23% 12.5% 0.084
2105 (1H) 1.50 21% 11.0% 0.059
2015 (2H) 1.17 27% 0.0% 0.179
2015 1.13 27% 0.0% 0.150

Instead of trying to get on base with legs via groundballs and bunts, he has moved to a line drive approach which can help to explain the changes in his output. I don’t see 2016 as a fluke and expect more of the same going forward.

The one stat, I don’t have a good feeling on is his AVG. Last year he had a nice .333 B ABIP which Steamer expects to regress to .303. With Ramirez’s new approach and natural speed, he is likely to support a higher BABIP. The rest of the Steamer projections look reasonable with an increase in power and less stolen bases as a possibility. For next season I will go with a projection of:

600 PA, 12 HR, 72 Runs, 67 RBI, .300 AVG, .355 OBP, 20 SB

 

Yasmany Tomas: 2017 Projection

I was completely off the Tomas bandwagon before the 2016 season. I wasn’t even at the fair where the bandwagon was going around. What I missed out on was a decent offensive season where he came in as the 27th overall rated outfielder. Let me start with his offense and then get to the intangibles.

The 26-year-old pulled off the power trifecta by increasing his FB% (23% to 31%), his Pull% (32% to 41%) and Hard% (31% to 41%). These factors (and an extra 100+ PA) help to explain the jump in home runs from nine to 31 with the rest of his stats staying relatively constant.

Looking forward, I am not sure he will be able to keep up the home run spike (25% HR/FB) because of the +40% Hard hit rate. Earlier this week, I showed that players with a > 40% Hard% see a 6% point drop the next season. I think he is more in line with 25 home runs instead of the 30 range if given a full season of plate appearances. The full season of plate appearances may not be in his future.

With a new front office and coaching staff in Arizona, Tomas may see limited playing time because of his horrendous defense and base running. His defense was so bad it erased all of his offensive performance putting him right at a replacement level player (-0.1 WAR). The team may start to limit the amount of time he is in the field by “resting” him more or subbing him out. I think 400 PA is a reasonable expectation from him with the chance the number drops even lower. Once players start reporting, try to find any hints on his role in Arizona.

The ideal situation would be a trade to an AL team where he can DH every day, but Arizona will likely need to eat much of the ~$45M left on his contract. With an AL team, I could see him get over 600 PA. Right now I am going to go with the following projection knowing I may need to adjust the plate appearances later.

400 PA, .270 AVG, .310 OBP, 18 HR, 2 SB, 44 Runs, 55 RBI

 

Notes

Hal Steinbrenner has been bragging up Aaron Judge.

“My expectations are [Judge is] going to be my starting right fielder this year. That’s a big deal and a big opportunity. I know he’s going to make the most of it.”

I am not sure how much time he will get to play if doesn’t get his strikeouts under control. Last season his strikeout rate was an insane 44% in 95 plate appearances. Steamer projects him at a 28.5% K%. I feel teams are more accepting of a high strikeout rate if the player displays some power. Judge is projected to post a .198 ISO next season, but is this ISO value high enough to offset his high strikeout rate?

To find out, I went I found the 20 non-catchers with the highest strikeout rate to ISO power ratios. The reason I use this stat, I wanted to find the players who have the highest strikeout rate compared to their power. Basically, what is the minimum power needed to offset the high number of strikeouts. Furthermore, I divided up the players by plate appearances and minimum strikeout rate. So here is how the results after the data were divided up.

Note: If a number has a () around it, only that many players hit the PA and K% threshold.

ISO Power Needed to Overcome High K%
PA >25% K% >30% K% >35% K%
100 .043 .065 .165
200 .077 .119 .205 (19)
300 .109 .150 .216 (10)
400 .120 .176 .227 (5)
500 .130 .216 .231 (2)
600 .170 .239 (16) NA

In today’s game, a >25% strikeout rate is acceptable, but if a player has one over 30%, they will need an ISO over .200 to almost get a full season of plate appearances. A >35% strikeout rate is a real threshold which really limits a player’s chances to get playing time. A .200 ISO is definitely needed for the player to even get limited playing time.

Using Judge’s Steamer projection, he looks safe for playing time, but if he strikeout rate starts creeping over 30%, he is going to need to hit for more than his expected power to keep playing.

• The Cubs playing time situation is even more of a mess with the recent signing of Jon Jay.

During the General Managers Meetings, Epstein was asked about Almora taking over in center, and the Cubs’ president of baseball operations said they would prefer to ease the 22-year-old into the role. Said Epstein: “I wouldn’t rule out the job being his, but I think it would be more likely that we would acquire someone to complement him and allow him to grow into the job more gradually.” On Tuesday, the Cubs did just that, signing veteran center fielder Jon Jay to a one-year deal.

I am just hoping some of the playing time issues clear up before spring training or the only two Cubs I feel confident will have guaranteed full-season playing time is Rizzo and Bryant.

Nathan Eovaldi was release by the Yankees. I don’t expect him to sign with another team until the end of the 2017 season since he recently had Tommy John surgery.

Gregory Bird is healthy enough to start next season so only is performance will keep him off the field.

That said, the numbers weren’t of great concern to the Yankees, who were just keeping their fingers crossed that Bird would be able to stay out of the trainer’s office. He passed that test with flying colors, and that encourages the Yankees that Bird will be ready for a Spring Training battle with Tyler Austin or whoever else they bring in to compete at first base.

“Bottom line, he’s knocking the rust out,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “It’s not about performance for him out there, it’s about just getting back in the batter’s box and getting his swing mechanics down, and seeing pitches and taking pitches.

• Some more Yankees news with Clint Frazier’s 2017 playing time chances.

I found this telling: Cashman recently said that though Frazier finished the year with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, there was a case to be made that he should have played the whole season in Double-A. But because the Indians promoted Frazier aggressively, after the Andrew Miller trade, the Yankees decided not to bump him back to a lower level.

“He’s on his way and he has a chance to have a very exciting future as an everyday player, if not a well above-average everyday player,” Cashman said. “His game and his performance will dictate over time what he eventually is, but I can’t tell you if in 2017, you’re going to see him in New York.”

Looks like Frazier may spend another season in Triple-A.

Matt Duffy looks to be 100% for the start of spring training.

Duffy came to the Rays in the Trade Deadline deal that sent Matt Moore to the Giants. He was on the disabled list at the time with a strained left Achilles. That injury eventually led to season-ending surgery to correct the lingering soreness in his Achilles. His surgery alleviated the pain he felt, and it was said to be performed in time for him to be ready for the start of Spring Training. From all I’ve heard, the surgery went well and he is on schedule to be ready once the team opens camp in Port Charlotte, Fla.

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Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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