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So what does Cleveland have in Jose Ramirez?

Despite his breakout 2014, Ramirez still profiles as an average guy going forward

So what does Cleveland have in Jose Ramirez?
Jose Ramirez (Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)
December 9, 2014
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As the hot stove season heats up, it seems the Cleveland player eliciting the most decisive opinions is Jose Ramirez.

Which raises the question: just what does Cleveland have in Jose Ramirez?

We know what Ramirez has done as a major leaguer. After playing the role of plus-baserunning sparkplug off of the bench down the stretch in the playoff race in 2013, Ramirez spent the first part of the 2014 season in Columbus waiting his turn. Following the trade of Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the trade deadline, Ramirez assumed the role of everyday shortstop and ran with it.

The results for Ramirez were striking. The shortstop -- competing in just his age-21 season -- put up 1.8 fWAR and rWAR, while also being +7.0 runs in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and +4.0 runs in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). The pleasant combination was easy to see and a sight for sore eyes.

Ramirez finished fourth in rWAR among Cleveland position players (and fifth in fWAR) and was one of the very few players on the team who rated out positively on defense in 2014.

Naturally, given Ramirez’s youth and the way he came on strong at the major league level, the 22-year-old looks like a building block for years to come.

But it might not be that simple.

The flaws with defensive metrics

Scouting reports have long dinged Ramirez on defense, not seeing him as a player who really stands out as someone who can handle shortstop over the long haul. Being competent at shortstop has its value, but Ramirez seemed to surge past that in 2014.

The problem is, while Ramirez handled shortstop quite well last year, that does not necessarily mean he will continue doing that going forward.

The current, publically-available fielding metrics we have do a pretty good job of determining what happened on the field in a given year, but in order to say with some certainty what a player’s true-talent fielding ability is, we need something approaching a three-year sample. With Ramirez, all we have right now is less than one-half of a season at shortstop.

Given that the scouting reports on Ramirez question his ability as an elite defender -- painting him more as a steady guy -- it appears last year was more of a hot streak in the field as opposed to some huge step forward. In fact, buying all of Ramirez’s performance in the field last year per DRS means believing he is at the same level as J.J. Hardy, the guy who has won three Gold Gloves in a row.

And by UZR, it means believing Ramirez is as good as Andrelton Simmons. It is possible Ramirez is more of an above-average fielder at shortstop than an adequate one, but realistically, quite a bit of regression should be coming for the 22-year-old. He just is not going to stay on Simmons level over the long run.

Ramirez’s WAR totals in half of a season last year look really good, but a lot of that value is coming from his great defense in 2014. But if that takes a few steps back -- as it looks like it should -- it will seriously hurt Ramirez in the future.

They know that Lindor’s on his way

So if we expect Ramirez to fall back toward the pack defensively, it only makes sense that he will lose the job once Francisco Lindor gets the call to the major leagues. There is no timetable set in stone for that happening, but it should be somewhere in the May-June range, once the organization deems the top prospect ready to take over.

With Lindor’s arrival definitely pushing Ramirez out of the everyday shortstop role, the 22-year-old will have to get his playing time elsewhere. While he could play second base, the reality is most teams (the Marlins excluded) do not trade players they just gave long-term contracts. That, combined with the fact that Kipnis is a classic bounce back candidate, will probably keep Ramirez from spending significant time at second base in a Cleveland uniform.

In theory, Ramirez could move to third base -- where he would almost certainly be an upgrade defensively over Lonnie Chisenhall, but offensively, his bat would probably leave something to be desired. The 22-year-old’s .262/.300/.346 line, .084 isolated power, and 85 wRC+ stacks up well enough at shortstop, but moving to the hot corner causes some problems.

SS 0.254 0.308 0.368 0.115 86
3B 0.259 0.319 0.403 0.145 99

Ramirez essentially hit like a league-average shortstop in 2014, but if he were to start spending time at third base, he would be significantly below-average. While the Royals’ World Series run put the spotlight back on defense, teams still need to hit. Ramirez would help defensively at third base, but for a team looking for a few upgrades on offense, moving the 22-year-old to third base would be a step backward at the plate.

Flying high like Altuve, struggling like Segura, or staying the path?

Ramirez hit well enough to rack up some value in 2014, but going forward, how he does offensively will be heavily influenced by his luck on balls in play. Due to Ramirez’s low-strikeout, low-walk, high-contact, and low-power approach, the 22-year-old puts a lot of balls in play while not driving the ball for extra base hits all that frequently.

When Ramirez is sitting right around league-average in BABIP, like last year, he posts a below-average yet acceptable offensive season for an up-the-middle player. But BABIP can be a fickle thing.

A player with a similar offensive profile to Ramirez in 2014 was Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, he of the league-leading .341 batting average and 135 wRC+. Of course, Altuve was very heavily helped by his .360 BABIP, and the year before his elite 2014, he posted a 85 wRC+ and below-average 1.2 fWAR.

On the other side of the coin, another player with a similar offensive profile to Ramirez in 2014 was Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura, who saw his BABIP sink to .275, and thus, his wRC+ to 67 and his fWAR to an essentially replacement level 0.3.

It is possible Ramirez can hit like Altuve from time to time -- which would make him a fringe MVP candidate -- and it is possible he can sink down to Segura’s level, which makes him borderline unplayable. But it is more likely he will stay on his current path, which leaves him as a roughly average player going forward.

There is nothing wrong with having league-average players on a team -- in fact, they are very necessary -- but Ramirez will soon be a league-average player without a regular position. It is possible that Ramirez could have a season like Altuve in him, but it is also possible he has a Segura-like season in him as well.

The likely result will be in the middle -- also known as Ramirez’s 2014 without the elite defense -- which is something that does not quite fit into Cleveland’s future plans. That is why, if a trade presents itself that fill one of the organization’s other holes -- like for a power hitter like Brandon Moss or some kind of right-handed threat like Yoenis Cespedes -- Ramirez should not be untouchable, even with his years of team control and minimum salary through the 2017 season.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

December 11, 2014 - 12:42 PM EST
Tony, as always, great job. Looking forward to all you have in store for us all!
December 11, 2014 - 12:24 PM EST
Nubballguy, I planned on taking a look at Kipnis for the next Tribe Happenings next week. Will incorporate some JRam into it too. Also, there is a major board change coming...actually site too. Will get into that in a few days.
December 11, 2014 - 12:18 PM EST
Avory, once again, +1 on what you are saying. Perhaps you are the guy to write that article? I for one, would welcome reading it, as I am sure many others would as well. We can then have another round of thought provoking commentary. If not, I hope someone like Jim takes it on (or Tony).

Again, really enjoying the dialogue...and also looking forward to what Tony has in store to reinvigorate the Boards, good call out Tondo!
December 11, 2014 - 1:56 AM EST
Avory that's a reasonable argument, can't say I disagree with a word you just said. If Kipnis struggles or is middling it would make a lot of since to move him when it's time to bring Lindor up. It would help balance the lineup, potentially save money, and greatly improve the infield defense.

If Kipnis is racking however (.800+ OPS) and playing defense more at the 2013 level than 2014, then that's a dangerous move to make on a potential World Series contending team. Obviously we don't know if that's going to happen but just some additional food for thought ;)
December 10, 2014 - 11:22 PM EST
{chuckle} We need a quick edit capability here!

Ignore the last paragraph in my previous was a stray and got repeated, so apologies to all who post here (and I find the conversation quite good from practically everyone, so thanks for your contributions!)
December 10, 2014 - 11:16 PM EST

My concern is not that Ramirez will be a league average secondbaseman going forward (I don't view that as a criticism), it's that Kipnis will be one too (given what he will be paid, THAT is a criticism), and yet Ramirez is the one we keep talking about being a trading chip.

I'm not particularly interested in waiting for defensive statistics to "stabilize" or "normalize" or whatever they need to do before we can scientifically determine a player's true contribution to the team with a glove. All I know is that the strength of this team is its young pitching, and those pitchers don't need to wait for several years of UZR to know what player on this team will be able to nimbly turn double plays, range far left or right (and then actually bend down) to flag a grounder, or run into short right field or foul territory to get to flares and pop ups that our current first basemen and right fielders are not going to ever get to. I want a guy consistently capable of playing second base at an above average level, especially when he is cost controlled and has more than a decent chance to put up league average or better offensive numbers. Rather than go on and on about what Jose Ramirez might not be going forward, especially when we're not paying him anything, why don't we have a column about what Jason Kipnis will or will not be going forward considering what we're on the hook for?

The subtitle to this article--"Despite his breakout 2014, Ramirez still profiles as an average guy going forward"--is supposed to be reasonable and cautionary and that's all well and fine, but the real story is that "Despite his All-Star half season, Jason Kipnis has played two years of average or below average second base since the middle of how does HE profile going forward considering that contract? Better than Jose Ramirez?"

THAT'S the column I'm waiting to read, not anyone telling me to go "Whoa!" on Jose Ramirez because he's no Adrelton Simmons. Well guess what, Jason Kipnis isn't even Neil Walker at this point.

Not to worry though...Skip said on MLB Network this afternoon that Jason Kipnis is "coming back with a vengeance"; how that helps him bend over or not chase changeups in the dirt is beyond me, but I am still oddly comforted by Francona saying it. Let's hope that is the case, otherwise we'll have some tough decisions to make. I hope we'll be ready to make them. My concern is not that Ramirez will be a league average secondbaseman going forward (I don't view that as a criticism), it's that Kipnis will be one too (given what he will be paid, THAT is a criticism), and yet Ramirez is the one we keep talking about trading away once Lindor arrives.

I'm not particularly interested in waiting for defensive statistics to "stabilize" or "normalize" or whatever they need to do before we can scientifically determine a player's true contribution to the team with a glove. All I know is that the strength of
December 10, 2014 - 6:24 PM EST
Boy, lots of good comments on this topic! I agree that we don't know what we have yet in the very young Mr Ramirez, and we probably won't for another year or two. Definitely not the time to trade him. Not sure why you want to double down on your "average player" comment Tony, it seems to be a non-comment to me. Ramirez may turn out to be average or he may not turn out to be average, but geez he just turned 22 (!) and like any 22 year old, he's still growing and maturing as a player and person. As for his ability to play shortstop, he's clearly a stopgap, but a pretty decent one. Anyone who watched him a lot last year knows that he can really pick it, but that his arm is indeed "fringy." He's also (as someone who still remembers how a very young Carlos Baerga brought a new kind of fire and excitement to a moribund franchise) the most exciting player on the team, IMO.
December 10, 2014 - 5:00 PM EST
Nick the comments from Francona align very much with the scouting report. Lots of ranger and plus defender, but fringy arm. Also, remember, Francona is not going to come out and say his starting shortstop can't play the position.;) I mean, even today he said he thinks Nick Swisher can play right field next season. #managerspeak

Also, yes, those numbers are what we are talking about and what the whole point of the article was from Jim. The defensive metrics were outstanding.....but they are something that often need to be looked at over a time of 2-3 years and not 60 games. I wouldn't put too much stock into them one way or the other (whether he was good or bad).

Again, he is a solid option at shortstop. A great fit there that allows the Indians some time to align Lindor with the big club. But when Lindor is ready he is going to be the shortstop.
December 10, 2014 - 4:49 PM EST
Also, from Francona himself....

“I don’t think we were surprised,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Ramirez’s play. “I just think that when people in our industry look at somebody and don’t see maybe a big arm, they immediately go, ‘Second base.’ Well, his range is tremendous and he moves his feet really well and he’s got a good clock.
December 10, 2014 - 4:45 PM EST

Here are the quotes on JRam's defense

"His glove is getting rave reviews. The small-sample defensive numbers have him as a plus-20 shortstop in just under 350 innings, elite numbers despite the short sample."

Now I'm not a stats guru but that seems based off his MLB production, not based off of minor league scouting reports.

December 10, 2014 - 4:39 PM EST
Good point Chip!

Though I will say there are a lot of people who think Gonzalez is as good or better than Lindor defensively....;)
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 4:29 PM EST
Hardly an instigator, and hardly a surprise Chip. Never even talked about Gonzo. Have to be another day. Running out of paper !!!!
December 10, 2014 - 3:44 PM EST
Imagine what people will say when Gonzalez proves to be a better SS than Lindor! Yes, I can be an instigator.
December 10, 2014 - 3:19 PM EST
Agreed Joe! Nice piece here by Jim.....a lot may not agree but it does offer a different approach.
December 10, 2014 - 3:16 PM EST
Some may be under-estimating Ramirez because of the stats, but not me. The stats only help support the subjective belief that he ultimately is just a solid, average everyday Major League player. Have felt that for some time. If he gets a chance to play 2B full time then he could be a slightly above average ML guy (55-59 on scouting scale).

It's a great problem to have with Ramirez and Lindor and ultimately my hope is BOTH are great. I even think the expectations with Lindor are ridiculous and he won't live up to what people want. Maybe it's just me where I like to be cautiously optimistic on young guys at the big league level.:) One thing is certain is this is going to be a growing debate this spring when Lindor impresses and then the first few months of the season as people analyze everything he does in Columbus and everything Ramirez does in Cleveland.
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 3:09 PM EST
In all honesty Tony, I think this was an excellent piece. When you can draw these kinds of numbers/responses, you have hit a nerve in a lot of people. This was like a round table with some great comments. And if Lindor/Ramirez make up our double play combination for the next 10 years, I will be ecstatic. But that means Kipnis is dealt. But that is for another day !!! Keep up the great work guys !!!!
December 10, 2014 - 3:06 PM EST
I just looked at it from the ultimate goal view point, and that is to get on base. Maybe Ramirez's bat to ball skills are better because he doesn't put the effort into hitting it over the fence as Lindor does, which would explain the higher strike out rate and more power of Lindor. I'm not trying to downplay Lindor. I think he is going to be a fantastic player, but you can't underestimate the player that Ramirez is because the stats don't support it. Minor league career slashes:
Jose Ramirez 306/355/411/766
Francisco Lindor 278/355/381/736

Defensively I've stated that Lindor is awesome, but so is Ramirez in his natural position and he's done a damn fine job at SS.
December 10, 2014 - 2:45 PM EST
Tondo, some changes are coming quite soon with the board and comments section here......hold tight.
December 10, 2014 - 2:43 PM EST
To add, in scouting, an average player is a 50 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
December 10, 2014 - 2:42 PM EST
As fans, can we agree that they both will be great players? ;-)

Good discussion. Could use more of those heated discussion on the almost forgotten Board section of the site
December 10, 2014 - 2:40 PM EST
Joe, I think the point is to manage expectations. I myself believe that Ramirez *could* be more. Lindor *could* be less. But the expectation and realistic assessment for me is Ramirez will ultimately prove to be a solid, average player. And, again, there is nothing wrong with that. Average players are 2-3 WAR players. I think people are misconstruing average as meaning bad. Average in baseball is actually a good thing.
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 2:32 PM EST
Wow. After all these comments on a comprehensive assessment of JRam, we finally ascertain both Ramirez and Lindor are average, at best. I think this whole discussion is absolutely brilliant. You can make the numbers say anything you want. Why are we getting so upset and wound up on 2 pedestrian young players ? Because they are young !!!! Absolutely brilliant Jim and Tony !!!!
December 10, 2014 - 2:30 PM EST
Chip, subjectively, Lindor is viewed as a more patient hitter. But objectively, he is as well. Using on-base percentage doesn't necessarily show patience....especially in the case of Ramirez and Lindor since Ramirez is a career .306 hitter in the minors whereas Lindor is a career .278 hitters. Ramirez's on-base is heavily infuenced by his high batting average while Lindor's is helped by his patience and walk rate. For their career, Ramirez has a 7.1 BB% and Lindor a 10.0 BB%. That's a notable difference. They get the same results with the on-base rate....but two different style hitters.
December 10, 2014 - 2:23 PM EST
Tony, I don't know where you are getting your stats, but Lindor is not more patient or better at getting on base. For their minor league careers Ramirez had a total of 1209 AB's striking out a total of 114 times with an OBP of .355. Lindor has had a total of 1419 AB's striking out 226 times with an OBP of, you guessed it, .355. I will go as far to say that Ramirez's upside at 2B is as high as Lindor's is at SS. Rip me if you want, but performance over perception in my eyes. My point to all of this is if Ramirez is merely a pedestrian player, then so is Lindor after all the hype.
December 10, 2014 - 1:25 PM EST
You might be overstating it a little Greg. I no doubt remember a few at bats where he battled for several pitches, but even the most impatient hitter will do that from time to time. Ramirez is a reputed aggressive swinger who makes a lot of contact. He won't strikeout a lot but he also won't walk a ton either. He'll probably be an "average" walker.;)

Ramirez has walked at about a 7-8% rate in the minors. A 7-8% walk rate is considered to be below average to average. Also, last season he averaged 3.82 pitches seen per plate appearance in Cleveland. That would have ranked right around 80-85 in the pack of 146 players qualified for the ranking league that puts him at an average to below average when ranked among his peers strictly on that alone. He also had a 63% rate swinging at pitches in the zone and 32% rate swinging at pitches outside of the zone.....again, numbers that are considered average to below average.

Ramirez is a tough out because he won't strikeout a lot, but from a discipline aspect he's always been an average at best guy whether looking at it subjectively or objectively.
December 10, 2014 - 12:48 PM EST
There we go again the value of the K/W ratio. I watch almost all the Indian games last year and to my recollection he had many 10 pitch at bats. Besides being a tough K he made pitchers throw a lot of extra pitches.

I think the player you compared him to Chone Figgins is a very good selection. In his prime Figgins could start in left, 2nd, or 3rd.
December 10, 2014 - 12:24 PM EST
Love all this JRam convo! Particularly Avory's commentary that I hope all will take a look at and consider.

A lot of "ifs" here but if:Lindor, JRam AND Kip get off great and its time to move Lindor up, I would be much more disposed to consider moving Kipnis while his value is high to a team looking for a good, offensive 2nd baseman, particularly if the return were good.
I just like the D and upside that JRam has to offer over what I think Kipnis is, particularly with his lack of 2nd half success in his career to date.
Like Avory, I hope that management won't be hidebound in their thinking should these opportunities arise. Like all, I look forward to seeing what all these guys do and reconvening around June 1 to reconsider!
December 10, 2014 - 12:23 PM EST
I agree Rocky. The thing is the Indians believe Lindor is ready now. The only reason he is really not in Cleveland is the clock issue. He's a superior shortstop to Ramirez....offensively they are similar but Lindor is more patient and probably fits better as a two hitter. Again, if Ramirez is playing great and the team is doing great, then the decision could be delayed....or Lindor could get hurt.....but outside of that Lindor is expected to be the shortstop at some point in May or June.
December 10, 2014 - 12:16 PM EST
Thing that bothers me about the perception that Lindor gets promoted automatically after his "clock is managed". We are expecting to & expected to compete next season & in win now mode the only reason to promote anyone is if that player helps you to win now. We won't have the leeway to put up with growing pains.
December 10, 2014 - 11:28 AM EST
Anyone that knows baseball, watches games, and has followed Ramirez to this point understands that he is a better 2B than SS. The thing is, he is a pretty good SS. No he is not Tulo, but he should be given credit for what he has done based upon his performance. If you want to saber metrically assassinate someone, then focus on Kipnis' defense and the probability of him performing offensively over the coarse of an entire season. With the lack of power in today's MLB, Ramirez's value is even higher due to all the other skills that he has.
December 10, 2014 - 11:27 AM EST
Seems like this innocuous little piece on J Ram has generated more posts than I've seen on any one subject on IBI for a long time. That tells you something- this kid is popular with fans. I think a lot of it is youthful exuberance and the way he just comes in and plays the game, whether it's running out a triple, laying down a bunt or going deep in the whole to throw somebody out. Look at the Yankees new replacement at short for Derek Jeter, Didi Gregorius. Hit .226 w6HR and 35 runs scored in 2013. He's got some flashy leather but he is not the offensive force J Ram is. The Indians need defense up the middle to go along with their pitching centric game and I don't know whether J Ram and J Kip are going to be confused w Androlton Simmonds and Brandon Phillips, but if they can get on base and make 97% of the routine plays in the field, the Indians are in good shape to start the season. And J Ram most definitely has trade value, Antonetti won't give him up unless he gets something good back.
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 11:01 AM EST
Great points Tondo. And while we are all feeling/not feeling the love for JRAM, we have to keep in mind that Lindor has some expectations to live up to, as well. He hasn't played in the big show yet. Wonder how our comments will read a year from now on both JRam and Lindor.
December 10, 2014 - 10:54 AM EST
Tony, and it wouldn't be the first time these reports would have been slightly wrong. Not dead wrong, but if JRam's better than his scouting profiles, which he has already outperformed and proven wrong pretty much every season, then it's just a little hiccup on the experts part. It's not like they said some spec is a top 50 guy and then he completely busted.

We experience this with Indians prospect every season. You and me were among the first to say "watch out for this TJ House guy". Nobody had him in their top 20, some didn't even notice him as depth SP. Has perception changed due to performance? I'm sure it has and all of a sudden his "value" and "ceiling" is seen in a different light, don't you think? Same with guys like Roberto Perez or Yan Gomes.

JRam has developed the way most on here hoped the likes of Paulino or RRod would, who got all the hype and upside love from the same analysts. They were wrong about those guys too, it happens, so why can't they be wrong about the upside of JRam? Over/Undervaluing is more the norm than hitting on a profile, it's natural. Like in the game, the analysts are considered great when they can hit ~30% of their profiles. As long as JRam doesn't hit a wall, it makes little sense to draw a line and say "that's his ceiling" and even then it would be premature to do so. Just keep him, he's too valuable for the Indians right now. Even if he has a down season, he has years left to regain trade value, has options left to make room on 25 roster worst case. He brings too much to the table that the Indians already lack: solid D, versatility, speed, switch hitter...and he can bunt too ! Can't think of another hitter on the 40 that has this skill set
December 10, 2014 - 10:44 AM EST
50+ comments on JRam, more than the winter meetings, perhaps, largely because everyone knew about the Moss trade for days. Regardless, lots of good discussion here. No one should be untouchable. That said, I could see him traded for a controllable SP. Btw, I like the Luis Castillo comp.

I project JRam as...
.265-275ba, 20-25dbls, 7-10triples, 3-5hrs, 35-40sb

That is a qlty major leaguer, maybe a guy that gets fringe AS consideration during his career yrs.

I think he has an avg. arm but good range and quickness allowing him to play good SS, and superior 2b. I could see JRam as a super sub with ability to play multiple spots and play almost daily.
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 10:37 AM EST
Tony, these are opinions only, and these national 'pickers are as right as we are. Granted, 3B is a power position, and he not really suited for that, but as a SS, I think he still has the ability. Didn't hear much about a weak arm last year when he took over. Sure, I would look good replacing Cabrera, but the overall inprovement on the left side of the infield was very noticeable after he was inserted. Ask the pitchers. Think he could have a future at SS if he were given the opportunity. He is not even close to his ceiling, I don't think.
December 10, 2014 - 10:28 AM EST
Nick I am curious what you mean by "from a national perspective his defensive skills are highly regarded"? Just wondering who nationally is saying that.

Opinions can change but I am not aware of many changing THAT much about Ramirez at shortstop. He surprised with some good play there last season, but were we so impressed with the better play after the pathetic Asdrubal Cabrera was finally moved off there that it is inflating JRam's value and actual performance?

Here is something to consider.....national scout experts thoughts on Ramirez going into the season in their 2014 scouting reports:

Baseball America: "He has the athleticism and versatility to play second base, third base or shortstop, but second is the only spot where he profiles as a regular. His hands work well and he has smooth actions, but he lacks the arm for shortstop or power for third."

Baseball Prospectus: "Very good glove at second; has some defensive versatility; good overall fundamentals. ... arm is fringe; not a good fit for the left side of the infield ... Realistic Role: High 4; below-average major leaguer/utility player."

John Sickels: "Solid glove but like the others he’s destined for utility work or a trade in this organization."
December 10, 2014 - 10:13 AM EST
What I have learned from the comments on this topic...

We have overvalued Ramirez.....Under Valued Lindor....not sure on the true value of Gonzalez

If Ramirez is that good...Meaning he is holding his highest value and teams looking for SS. Logic tells me its time to trade him for Max Value to help this team now and the future.

If I remember correctly, during Indians playoff push Ramirez botched a game ending DP which cost the Indians a win against the Twins which led the way for KC to clinch the wild card spot.
December 10, 2014 - 10:01 AM EST
I also find it very hard to believe JRam's defense will regress.

From a national perspective, his defensive skills are very highly regarded. Metrics are one tool but certainly not an end all be all for that.

Would love to keep him at 2B; he's a very balanced player offensively and I have very little worry about him growing into more power as he gets older. His intangibles are very strong and that's something that is hard to measure. I'd rather keep him and use Gonzalez as trade bait.
December 10, 2014 - 9:00 AM EST
Rocky, plans can always change, but the plan right now is to bring Lindor up 4-6 weeks into the season after Lindor settles in at AAA and the service time clock issue is manipulated. The only way Lindor does not come up is if he is hurt or really struggling.....or if Ramirez is playing out of his mind. So there is always a chance Ramirez can stick longer at shortstop next season, but a lot will have to go right for him and bad for Lindor in order for that to happen. I hope Ramirez plays well, just increases his value to the Indians and other teams.

Gregg, it is hard to say Ramirez is a better option at second base right now than Kipnis. Kipnis is a more established player and already an All Star...while Ramirez is still all potential. I think we will learn a lot next season about both Kipnis and Ramirez. If Kipnis rebounds then he no doubt stays at second base after next season, but if he struggles again and Ramirez and Lindor shine.....well, they may need to consider a move.
Canadian Joe
December 10, 2014 - 8:46 AM EST
A lot of interesting discussion around JRam, and the only thing I get out of all this, is we don't know what we have in him yet. To say his fielding will regress, and he will not hit, is lunacy at this point. Common sense would say the more he plays SS, the better he should become. Based on what he has done in the minors so far, the more pitching he sees, the more he should adapt. The kid is not an idiot. He will get better. And to say he has peaked in value, at age 22, is nonsense. Whether he is dealt or not, I think he will be one helluva ball player, in Cleveland or somewhere else. HE'S ONLY JUST 22 !!!!!!!!!
December 10, 2014 - 8:18 AM EST
Jose Ramirez isn't a utility guy. I don't understand why some even suggest that. Before the end of the season I said he could start at either SS or 2B for about 10-12 teams right now in the ML. He's still young and will get better. The best comparison I can give you is Luis Castillo that helped the Marlins get to the WS to beat the NYY.

I see JRam as a guy who will be about .290, 7-55 with about 25 SB's and be a tough K. IMO, this isn't a utility player. I think other teams know this too. It would be a waste to keep him on the bench when he could start somewhere else and you could maximize his value. I know everyone is looking forward to Lindor but at the same time I don't think it's time to throw away the player that's there or to minimize him.

December 10, 2014 - 8:11 AM EST
I'm for trading "high" on JRam (or moving Kipnis to RF or trade him) because I believe if Lindor and JRam are performing on the same level, Lindor will bump JRam bc of the hype surrounding him. Lindor's the org.

JRams age and performance should not be taken lightly, he has blown throw the minors and was an everyday player at SS at age 21. We would be clamoring about him if he were a SP or OF. But, bc he's not the heir apparent it's easy to down play him. I think JRam is closer to his ceiling than Lindor and that's how/ what most of the discussion is about surrounding Lindor, but, don't forget the age and performance level of JRam.

Honestly, I think we are talking about the wrong guy and the wrong position. First, I think the org. is more willing to trade Gonzalez than their starting SS and hyped prospect (Lindor). Second, the Indians have 4-5 prospects (Holt, Moncrief, Hood, Naquin, Ramsey) in AAA that could be contending for a slot in the OF. Personally, I believe that's were any deal is done for the Tribe - from org. depth SS and OF. OF has the most players at the highest level that could be traded to fill other needs. Btw, the signing of Destin Hood last week was equal to signing Carlos Moncrief. It may seem redundant, but, the Tribe has created more depth and added a legit prospect with upside remaining.
December 10, 2014 - 7:57 AM EST

Yes, Lindor and maybe one of James Ramsey or Tyler Naquin could be enough to get Matt Kemp. What I've read elsewhere is the Dodgers want a pitching prospect like Tijuan Walker or James Paxton, other names associated with Kemp from the Padres are young SP Matt Wisler, Joe Ross, and another (forget - who).

Anyone remember the Indians trading away two pitching prospects (Pomeranz and White) for a FOR arm? Prospects are prospects, until they've proven they can make it at the bigs the are largely over inflated hype. How many prospects make it? Look over the top prospects list from 3-5 yrs ago...there's always more talent coming, there's always injuries and poor performance. Chances are players will under perform or be injured before they ever "make it."

I like Lindor, but, if it means dealing him for Matt Kemp or Cole Hamels or whoever I'll plug him in the deal. But it has to be for value, I mean I'm not dealing him Cespedes or Upton. That is, players with short term contracts, it has to be for controllable assets.
December 10, 2014 - 7:49 AM EST
Good discussion. Two questions:

Who has evaluated JRam's defense? I don't like defense metrics, so basing his play on those doesn't wash with me. Has Jim talked to someone in the org about this or does he know minor league evaluators or has he watched every game & judged for himself?

Why is Lindor automatically slated to come up by June? What if he sucks in Cbus or he gets injured? The downside is that he spends the whole season at AAA and we control him for an additional season?

Don't see the reasoning for the rush to move JRam other than selling high.
December 10, 2014 - 7:29 AM EST
Jose Ramirez is underrated and Francisco Lindor is overrated
December 10, 2014 - 7:16 AM EST
I acept your definition of average-a competent major leauge performance. However in the same response you mentioned he might be All Star caliber at second base.

that's my problem. He is a much better second base option than Kipnis. Yet the organization won't consider moving Kipnis to another spot. Like one of the poster said the only reason Ramirez won't play second base is because the organization doesn't want him there.
December 10, 2014 - 6:46 AM EST
Would Lindor plus a few other pieces be able to bring Matt kemp plus a considerable amount of cash back to Cleveland?

if so what other pieces do you think would be needed
December 10, 2014 - 5:39 AM EST
You can talk about moving Kipnis til your blue in the face but Antonetti and Francona aren't going to do it this season. And if Kipnis rebounds they're not going to do it the year after that either. He was an all-star second baseman in 2013. And please stop with the fielding metrics, those are meant to be used to evaluate across years not months. You are shaving with a machete my friend. Have you actually seen Andrelton Simmons play, Ramirez ain't comparing to that defensively.
December 10, 2014 - 5:03 AM EST
No, alton, the article is NOT being misconstrued, Jose Ramirez is being misconstrued by the author.

Jose Ramirez is a second baseman, not a shortstop, and the fact that he put up Andrelton Simmons-type defense at shortstop should only have us salivating at what he could do at his natural position when Lindor takes over at short. The issue is not, and should never be, whether or not Ramirez "regresses" at short, it's how fast can we get him to second? The fact that the author dismisses out of hand any thought of moving Kipnis off of second or off the team speaks volumes of how we we adhere to conventional wisdom, in this case "heaven forbid, we just signed him to a long-term contract, we can't trade him!" Well, why not? If you have a guy whose defensive capability is vastly better than the incumbent, where the difference is so great that the guy with the long-term, expensive contract is going to have to hit like Jeff Kent to justify keeping the young, cheap guy on the bench, why on earth aren't you speculating why we should trade HIM, not the 22 year old whose upside could be pretty high, if you add in league average offense with that defense.

Tondo hit it on the head, but for whatever reason, discussions about Kipnis's future are tantamount to whistling in a graveyard: we really don't want to confront the truth. Well, the truth is, a franchise like Cleveland cannot afford to adhere to old, scared ways of thinking, especially when it comes to long-term contracts that seem team-friendly, but could be in the process of souring quickly. Are we really interested in paying Kipnis $14 million a year in 2018 and 2019 for the kind of second halves we've seen in 2012 and 2013? A guy with a major league low .246 OPS on changeups? The only reason Jose Ramirez is "blocked" at second base is because we reflexively say he is. Only poor organizations would think like that, and I trust we aren't one that artificially paints itself in a corner, throws up its hands, and says there's nothing that can be done, trade the 22 year old who costs squat but could deliver big.
December 10, 2014 - 2:56 AM EST
I think the whole point of this article is being misconstrued. Seems to me Jim is saying Jose is a good ballplayer but if we can get a better player in exchange then it would be smart to make that move. We all know that chances are Jose won't finish the season as our shortstop, so it would seem reasonable to posit that trading a bench player, even a talented bench player, for a starter of equal or greater value would have a greater net benefit to the team because that player would have a greater chance to contribute.

I'm sure we could find another slap hitting utility infielders with speed at some point that could fill the bench role adequately. The question is the value of the player in return for Ramirez as no one wants to give him away here so let's not make it a holy war (looking at you Tondo). Lastly, please don't tell me anyone on this team is untouchable unless they won a cy young (Kluber) or were an MVP candidate (Brantley).
C L Who
December 10, 2014 - 1:32 AM EST
Once again, either trade JRam while his value is very high, or trade Aviles and let JRam play the utility role. Either way is fine with me.

Tony, the Carlos haters just don't acknowledge that he's in the top 30 or 40 position players in MLB for run production, HR, OBP, etc. I don't know why. Heck, Carlos should lead off since he's got the best OBP on the team. Also, that would give him more ABs to drive in runs with his power.
December 9, 2014 - 10:52 PM EST
Now I know why so many people don't like Carlos Santana and the like. A lot of over the top expectations if you ask me. Again, if Ramirez is an above average player then that is a borderline All Star. I don't see that except maybe at second base. I see a nice, solid long time player in MLB. The thing is the defensive metrics at shortstop are a bit out of whack. He was good....but not THAT good. Over the course of a full season his performance is bound to even out hence the reason he may see a regression more to an average to slightly above average defender there. That's what he's always been viewed as. A plus defender at second base and someone who can certainly play shortstop but is in the solid average to slightly above average category. His metrics from last year put him in the Andrelton Simmons category which he is not.

It's a great problem to have. For me, I just like to manage my expectations. I expect a slight tick back defensively next year for him but a slight uptick basically the same player. A good, solid average player for the team. He should do a nice job holding the fort at shortstop until Lindor comes up in May/June. Again, I don't think a lot of people understand what "average" really means here. It's actually a good thing. Average does not mean you are in the middle of the pack of players in the game....average is in the upper half of players in the game.
December 9, 2014 - 10:39 PM EST
It makes no sense to me the JRam would regress as a fielder. Its not like hitting where the league can adjust to him. Experience will help him get better not worse. I think where JRam is vulnerable for regression is as a hitter. That being said, he has consistently performed and improved throughout his career and I think he will do so more. I think we keep him and sell high on Lindor and get a power hitting 3b/of or FOR prospect in return. Or trade or move Kipnis and have Lindor SS and JRam 2B. That would be a fun combo to watch.
Head Check
December 9, 2014 - 8:25 PM EST
Jeff P. Well put.
The reality is we.don't know what J-Ram is capable of substaining at the major league level. That is what drives me bonkers when posters say or infer that he is at his max value now or however they want to phrase it. We might be looking at an all-star by the time June rolls around. Or we might be looking at someone who we wished had been traded around now. It is a bit of a gamble obviously but I think the Indians best bet is to keep him. That could change though once I heard some of the names of the.players we would get Iin exchange.
December 9, 2014 - 7:58 PM EST

An average player is a 2 WAR player.
December 9, 2014 - 7:47 PM EST
At what point in time has Ramirez proved that he is just average? He just turned 22, flew through the minors being one of the youngest players at each level. If you dig hard enough, or put the coefficients in the right place, you can find a reason to downplay anyone. The kid is an above average SS and an even better 2B. What he is doing at his age is fantastic not average. Then to think he will regress is just ignorant IMO.
Jeff P
December 9, 2014 - 7:44 PM EST
Let's look at JRam this way. We'll know even more about him by June. If the guy explodes on the scene, then we may have some very tough decisions to make. If he is average, like Tony said, what's wrong with that? Average is a good thing. If he struggles, he can still be a valuable bench player. He may stay. He may go. Either way we'll probably get some value out of him. Isn't that what's supposed to happen?
December 9, 2014 - 7:15 PM EST
Actually I should have said Tondo 5:20 PM posted - that will teach me to be faster.
December 9, 2014 - 7:12 PM EST
I agree with Tondo particularly his last post. I am in no rush to see Lindor in Cleveland particular, if JRam gets off to a good start and Kipnis has an unusually, for him, good start to the season. I think JRam has more upside than Kipnis except in the power department.
Several outfielders have had worse advanced defense statistics in Cleveland than elsewhere (Stubbs, Bourn, and Murphry), why is that?
December 9, 2014 - 6:40 PM EST
It's all good Matthew, I just get a little sensitive when it comes to Ramirez. Jim's skepticism is warranted, there's no guarantee that JRam will ever develop into more than AVG, but even in this worst case scenario, he's a cost controlled player and fills a position at excellent value. I don't get the urgency to trade or shop him. Again, he is not blocked yet. He's just "virtually" blocked by two guys who have to (re)prove themselves first. He's a 22yo starter on this roster. That's what the Indians have right now and since they are in a contention window, I very much consider him untouchable unless they trade for a better, more proven player at SS.
December 9, 2014 - 6:34 PM EST
I don't get upset at calling someone "average" Tony, if your question is directed at me. I just don't think the description applies, given his age and stage. He just played half his age 21 season credibly at the ML level and he has a MiL record that exceeds average at every tool except power and walk rate.
December 9, 2014 - 6:33 PM EST
Just thinking out loud here...

I had to be convinced JRam was for real. A few yrs ago I had RRod above him based on talent (potential) over actual production (that was close). Unlike some, I am convinced that JRam can be an everyday SS for someone. A yr later, and s Sept. callup I was convinced JRam can be a difference maker on the bases if given the opportunity (see: Dee Gordon "lite"). He will never have power, but slapping the ball into the OF and picking up bases with his speed will be his forte. I think he can and will succeed at the big league level. At 22, he's just begun to tap into his potential. However, I think he's at max value for the Tribe because he is the starting SS, let's not kid ourselves, other teams know Lindor is knocking and lined up for the SS spot and Gonzalez is right behind him. I'm not sure, JRam will get the opportunity when Lindor is ready, that's just how it is when a club thinks it has a cornerstone type player. Thus, I support the notion of moving JRam, but, Id move Lindor in the right deal and not think twice about JRam holding down SS for the next 5-6yrs.
December 9, 2014 - 6:29 PM EST
Gregg, that's because Lindor is not an average player. He has better skills across the board than Ramirez, hence why he's always been a better prospect.

Also a 0 WAR play is considered a scrub. A replaceable player. Generally, a 1-2 WAR player is a role player and 3-4 WAR is a solid starter.
Scouty McGrew
December 9, 2014 - 6:28 PM EST
You quote scouting reports? Which scout?which report? Is this an organizational report?

Just curious.
December 9, 2014 - 6:24 PM EST
You never use the word average to descripe Lindor. Correct me if I am wrong an average player would have a WAR of 0.

I think Ramirez is going to significantly better than average. I see the writer of this article used my comparison to Altuve as Ramirez's upper limits. I also thought your comparison to Chone Figgins was quite fair. Just because Lindor is a better prospect doesn't mean he is going to be a better mlb player.

I really like Kipnis. I just don't think he is anywhere near the second baseman Ramirez will be. I wonder if Kipnis could play center of left.
December 9, 2014 - 6:06 PM EST
Why do people get so upset when a player is called "average"? It's actually a complement folks. Average players are actually quite good to have on a team. Ramirez offers some great depth and will hopefully make it tough for the Indians next year with his play to remove him for Lindor.
December 9, 2014 - 6:00 PM EST
Alternate sub-heading

Despite his minor league results, defense, versatility and speed, as well as his breakout 2014 in MLB at an early age, Ramirez still profiles as an average guy going forward. Well, maybe not average. Maybe pretty good. Hard to tell at this point, but its pretty clear he lacks power!
December 9, 2014 - 5:35 PM EST

I should have specified. I didn't mean to refer to your post as blind optimism. You're consistently one of the best posters on here.

I was referring to sufferfortribe criticizing Jim for not "rooting for the home team."

I am one of the biggest J-Ram fans here, I just thought Jim's piece was fair skepticism about his future. The one part of Jim's analysis that I will disagree with is his future value.

Even if we assume that J-Ram is only an average defender and that he won't improve with the stick despite only being 22, he's a player with probably $60M+ in surplus trade value. He's worth way more than a rental like Moss or Cespedes.

Personally, I think J-Ram will probably regress to roughly league average with the glove but will end up being solidly above league average (for an SS) with the stick. I've said this before, but I would really, really love to see the Tribe stick with J-Ram as the everyday SS until at least June 1, and leave Lindor at AAA. I agree with you, Tondo, that Lindor still has a ways to go with the bat and I would prefer to give him that extra time at AAA to continue to improve his offense while we get a clearer picture of J-Ram at the major league level.
December 9, 2014 - 5:28 PM EST
The fact that second base is his natural position wasn't considered important in this analysis since the Indians were already set at the position as well as the other team mentioned. Nor was any mentioned made that Ramirez may be significantly better at 2nd than Kipnis. The possibility of moving Kipnis to another position was not even considered a possibility. Nor was the possibility of trading Kipnis if he bounced back for a REALLY good player.

The fact that Ramirez switch hits and which will help balance the line was consider of no importance especially after the Indians added another lefty to the line up. The more I read the evaluations of Ramirez and Urshela the more I become convinced the most important offensive stat is the K/W ratio.and not the K/Total At bats. I must have been watching some one else but I counted a number of 10 pitch at bats for Ramirez.
December 9, 2014 - 5:20 PM EST
Blind optimism? Ramirez improved every year. He jumped a level, got promoted and filled a position of need, upgrading on a former AllStar, improving the team ERA by 1 total run, while at SS, proving the same analysts and profilers on here wrong yet again.
He is a prospect's nerd wet dream, but because he never got that kind of hype it's somehow "to good to be true". So now, to "imagine" that this kind of player is still able to "improve", given his age is blind optimism? Considering JRam's track record and career path so far, I consider this analysis and some before them as "blind criticism", retrofitting reality to profile.

I had to laugh out loud reading that "It is possible Ramirez can hit like Altuve from time to time -- which would make him a fringe MVP candidate" in a manner as if this is not good enough. If he has that kind of upside on a BABIP aided season, even if only for one season out of the next 5-6, then you keep him and enjoy it. Writing a sentence like that one and saying at the same time that his value is "at max" is so obviously conflictive that it borders stupidity, sorry for the bluntness.

What's this angst of Ramirez losing his value? At worst he's a great UTIL and late inning base runner off the bench and if, god forbids, he lucks into a MVP like Altuve season, you can still sell plenty high on that, much higher than now.

People talk down Ramirez' ceiling and act as if they know what player he is, but at the same take it for granted that Lindor will be much better and that Kipnis will return to form and play up to his contract. To me, those two scenarios are far from a given, at best at around 50% happening. That's where "Mr.AVG" JRam comes into play

Devin R
December 9, 2014 - 5:20 PM EST
I agree with most posts here. I love the energy JRam brought last year and can foresee him being a high quality utility IF with speed and solid defense. That said, there is little argument his value is about as sky high as it will ever be. If we can use his youth/2014 performance/solid up-the-middle fielding to our advantage and score a MOR arm or RH bat w/ some pop, I say go for it. If not, I'll be happy to watch him this coming season and for seasons to come. Win-win.
December 9, 2014 - 5:18 PM EST
oops- sorry. that last anonymous was me
December 9, 2014 - 5:18 PM EST
I think Ramirez is a proven contact hitter, an outstanding defender, with good base running skills. Most importantly, he just turned 22 in September (not quite three months ago). Its ridiculous to describe him as "average" at this point given his highly developed skills at an unusually young age. He might develop into an Omar or he might not, at which point he will be probably still better than average (thanks to that glove).

Its only because the Indians have at least one other player who is as good as Jose coming up (Gonzalez, a year older) and one superior player (Lindor, a year younger) that we aren't celebrating this kid.

His greatest value to us at this point may well be as a trade chip, given that he's blocked at both short and second on the Tribe. But denigrating him is dumb.
C L Who
December 9, 2014 - 5:12 PM EST
(1) trade Aviles and make JRam the utility infielder (question: how well could Walters fill that role, with a much bigger bat?) . This saves money and is a defensive upgrade anywhere in the IF JRam plays instead of Aviles


(2) trade JRam now while he is at a high value
December 9, 2014 - 5:03 PM EST
If people want to read blind optimism instead of coherent analysis, Bleacher Report is right there waiting for your clicks.
December 9, 2014 - 4:58 PM EST
Well Said @Tondo, I think there is a good chance Lindor bats around the Mendoza line in 2014. His defense may be superior, but JRam could easily prove to be a much better bat and baserunner.
December 9, 2014 - 4:55 PM EST
Jim, love how you are predicting worse play for Jose. Way to root for the home team.
December 9, 2014 - 4:46 PM EST
Just throwing this out there...

Jean Segura lost a young child during the season last yr. I'm not sure he or anyone would post solid numbers. Just saying, it had to be extremely tough for him.

As for trading JRam...

Yes, they should be willing to trade him, he's not the future, and as much as I like him, I realize he's at max value right now. The Padres need a SS, and have excess pitching they reportedly are willing to move. JRam and a cpl prospects for Tyson Ross anyone?
December 9, 2014 - 4:21 PM EST
The kid became a major league regular by age 21 - I think you are selling him short.
December 9, 2014 - 4:17 PM EST
They have a just turned 22yo prospect who shot through the minors and aced all tests he has been thrown at so far. He is a tough out, makes contact and already looks like an elite UTIL with nice speed = the perfect 10th position player on a roster. He still offers a lot of upside to start at either SS or 2B.

If it wasn't for Lindor, probably anyone on here would consider him untouchable. JRam is the projected starter at SS for 2014. People seem to think he's just a placeholder, but forget that this actually means that JRam is the better ball player right now. He also is a safety net for both Kipnis and Lindor should their careers not develop as hoped.

Speaking of. Lindor, he is a great talent, no doubt, but he first has to prove to be better than JRam, because as of now, he simply isn't, it's all projection and he has only one year on Ramirez. Let him first surpass .700 OPS at AAA before we annoint him. His OPS has declined through the levels the past 3 years, which is a little concern: .783 in A+, .753 in AA to .695 in AAA. Those are still great results considering his age, position and defense. That's why he is a top prospect, but that's also why he isn't a top ML player yet. First things first.
December 9, 2014 - 4:10 PM EST
Hell of a straw man you've built there, Norm.

Not sure how you make the leap from "Not untouchable" to "No place in the organization"
December 9, 2014 - 3:56 PM EST
Jim, are you saying that an IF who plays an above average 2B, an average SS/3B and has enough speed to be included in the better base stealers doesn't have a place in this organization? If he is never anything else, he sounds like the ideal UT to me as a floor and great protection in case of injury. I might make the trade for a SP but not Cespedes who doesn't have the benefits of Moss IMO.
December 9, 2014 - 3:34 PM EST
Said it before and will say it again.....there is absolutely nothing wrong with being average in MLB. And if Ramirez is a utility guy that is not a bad thing. Adds a significant boost to the bench in so many ways and a great handcuff due to injury.
December 9, 2014 - 3:32 PM EST
Of course Jose Ramirez and many others are not untouchable.. The Indians have a very good utility guy who can play just about anywhere on the diamond and would give it a go if forced to go behind the plate.. He's, in short.. a ball player..not a SS.. not a 2B.. not an IF'er.. just a ball player.. He has value to other clubs. He would start on several of them.. His best defensive position may be as a utility guy..

Should the Indians trade him if the return fills a need..

In a heart beat.. he'd be missed..

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