Yesterday we said goodbye to Bryce Brentz, as the roster implications of the J.D. Martinez signing took hold. If Brentz was the player who was most negatively affected by the signing, Hanley Ramirez is a close second. Coming off a -0.3 bWAR season, Ramirez clearly needs to bounce back, but that will be harder to do now that Martinez is on campus and ready to eat up most of the at-bats at designated hitter. Add in the fact that the defensively superior Mitch Moreland signed a two-year deal to play first base, and Ramirez’s pool of playing time shrinks all the more.
You’d never know that based on what Ramirez has said. If you’ll allow me to put my fan hat on here for a moment, I would like to say, if I can’t get the phrase “We’re trying to win this shit” on a T-shirt in the next week or so, I’ll be supremely disappointed. I’ll also be disappointed if Ramirez is relegated to the bench more often than not. Even if he has frustrated at times, he’s a fun player to watch and an easy one to root for, at least for this author.
With the kind of attitude he has displayed about this new roster development and a fully healthy shoulder, Ramirez is still going to be an important part of the 2018 season for the Red Sox. But just how will he work his way into the lineup?
According to Alex Cora, Ramirez will bat third, but the lineup we get today will likely look pretty different than the one we get on March 29 against the Tampa Bay Rays. The only way he could remain that high when he does play is by simply hitting. He has done it before. In 2016 he slashed .286/.361/.505 with 31 home runs and an OPS+ of 126 for Boston. Obviously that performance was sandwiched by two incredibly bad years, but he was also his healthiest in 2016, so if he is back to normal health-wise, the Sox wouldn’t be crazy to at least expect a closer facsimile to that season. If they do, it will be tough for Cora to leave him on the bench.
Besides just hitting better overall, Ramirez can push himself into the lineup more often by excelling in his half of the platoon role at first base. Moreland is a fine defender and a decent bat, but he’s not going to hit 30 dingers and he has never been a great hitter against lefties (.241/.300/.374 career). Enter Ramirez, who has a career triple slash of .295/.376/.521 against southpaws. However, as was pointed out on the Red Seat Podcast this week (listen, rate, share, subscribe!), Ramirez was terrible as a specialist against lefties in 2017. He slashed .179/.293/.679, which really dragged down his overall numbers. A return to his lefty-mashing ways will make it even more difficult to keep him out of the lineup.
According to the Red Sox’s PECOTA projections, which have been updated to include Martinez’s production, Ramirez is slated to make 279 plate appearances, slash .267/.337/.446 and be worth just a bit less than half a win this season. That’s not exactly the kind of line Ramirez is used to, but he will certainly get a shot to increase his chances by doing what he’s best known for: hitting. That was obviously an imperative before Martinez signed, but its all that more important now. Otherwise we won’t get to see Ramirez out on the field as often and then we’re all missing out.
Carson Smith knows where he wants his fastball to live. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Christian Vazquez is not psyched about the new pace of play rules, which include a limit on the number of mound visits. (Logan Mullen; NESN)
Mike Lowell has been hanging out at spring training with the Red Sox, helping out Rafael Devers. He is also a shining example of what it takes to succeed in Boston. (Steve Buckley; Boston Herald)
For David Price, getting to play with J.D. Martinez again is a welcome development. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)
Andrew Benintendi began his road to MLB difference maker by not playing baseball. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Players come and players go, but that doesn’t mean their baseball careers end. Here’s what some old pals like Will Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Felix Doubront are up to. (Nick O’Malley; MassLive)
Noe Ramirez pitched for the Red Sox last season. If you don’t remember that, you aren’t alone. (Daniel Poarch; BP Boston)
Spring training is going to be a little shorter this year for the Sox. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)