The Cleveland Indians have been among the best teams in baseball for the bulk of the year, which may or may not come as a surprise, depending on who you talk to. One of the more fascinating elements of their ballclub has been the recent emergence of Jose Ramirez. A team starved for offensive talent coming into the year has seen Ramirez serve as a catalyst in recent weeks, as they continue to separate themselves from the rest of the pack in the American League Central.
The total body of work paints a solid picture for the Indians’ third sacker, although not necessarily one that screams elite-level performance. He’s slashed .305/.359/.453/.812 for the year, with a 118 wRC+. He’s struck out less than 12% of the time and walks at a decent enough 7.3% clip. The power hasn’t necessarily been a large component of his game, with a .148 ISO that would rank him 20th among 24 qualifying third basemen. Speed is an element of his game that not many third basemen carry with them, as his 20 swipes rank second at the position. He’s certainly been an above average offensive player, in terms of his ability to reach and make things happen out on the basepaths, even if he doesn’t have the power stroke of some of his MLB counterparts.
It’s what he’s done in the past month, though, for a strong American League contender, that really makes him significant among a crowded 3B group.
In the last 30 days, only one third baseman has posted a higher WAR than Jose Ramirez’s figure of 1.7. That comes from Kris Bryant, who is white hot and leaving the rest of the field well behind him, as the only player among that group that has surpassed the 2.0 mark over the course of the last month. If it weren’t for a negative Def rating, though, Ramirez could certainly be more in Bryant’s neighborhood. While a WAR sample over the course of a month isn’t necessarily a basis for making any real declaration about a player, he stacks up extremely well against his colleagues at the hot corner in a number of other respects.
Here are the top five third basemen from the past month and how they stack up in a variety of categories:
Those are some pretty notable names that Ramirez has not only hung with in these last 30 days, but outperformed in a number of cases. The average is way up above everyone else (no doubt aided by a .388 BABIP in that same timeframe) and hitting for quite a bit of power. The strikeout rate isn’t bad and largely falls in line with what he’s done at the plate this year. At the same time, though, how much of a reflection this is of the kind of player that Jose Ramirez actually is is certainly up for question.
For us, the important question is whether or not Ramirez will continue trending up, or if this recent hot streak could tail off in the relatively near future. In terms of the entire body of work, in conjunction with the type of player that Ramirez is, there isn’t a whole lot of apprehension coming from me. Sure, Ramirez’s Hard% ranks dead last among the qualifying 3B group, with hard contact coming at a rate of just 25.7%. Normally, that’d be tremendous cause for concern for a player on a hot streak. However, what he does have working in his favor is that he doesn’t make a lot of “soft” contact either, with a 15.9% rate coming in among the lowest in the group. He’s still managing a high linedrive rate at almost 25%.
This comes in addition to the fact that he can take the ball to all fields. His Oppo%, at 30.0%, ranks third overall at the position. This is reflected below:
That’s a healthy looking distribution and doesn’t afford defenses an opportunity to align themselves properly against him, despite the large influx in shifting that we’ve seen across the game. The switch-hitting element obviously lends itself to that sort of distribution, but he makes fairly consistent types of contact regardless of handedness, which would appear to work in his favor. Factor in the speed that he brings to the mix and he’s a legitimate offensive threat.
The power surge might be another story. In 2014, Ramirez notched 266 plate appearances with Cleveland. His ISO was .084. In 2015, that figure rose ever-so-slightly, up to .121, across 355 PAs. His .148 figure through 466 plate appearances this year indicates that the recent surge in power could certainly be an aberration. Especially when you factor in the lack of hard contact.
Ramirez isn’t going to continue to hit six home runs every 30 days, as he has in this past month. But he reaches base at a fairly steady clip, demonstrates a decent enough approach, and can add some swipes to a position that is relatively barren in that regard. You could obviously do better as a starter, depending on league structure, but as an injury substitute or depth addition, there are few better options out there than Jose Ramirez.