The WAR Room: A special, in-depth look at Ramsey & Walters
Analyzing the advanced stats for Cleveland's trade deadline returns
The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer.
However, today is a special edition of The WAR Room taking a look at Cleveland's deadline acquisitions: James Ramsey and Zach Walters. We have all seen the scouting reports and raw stat lines written about and tweeted, but what do the advanced stats say?
Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.
But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.
As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.
Also, the lack of good defensive metrics for the minor leagues means we have to adjust for a range of defensive abilities. To account for this, I will give you each player's WAR with a qualifier: either poor-defense WAR for a poor defender (-10 runs below-average per 162 games), average-defense WAR for an average defender (0 runs per 162 games), or great-defense WAR for a great defender (10 runs above-average per 162 games).
One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.
|Name||Team||Age||G||PA||Poor D WAR||WAR||Great D WAR|
|James Ramsey||Cardinals (AA)||24||67||243||2.3||2.7||3.2|
With 2.7 average-defense WAR in 67 games this season, Ramsey has shown an ability to play at a borderline MVP-pace in Double-A, something that is great to see out of the 24-year-old. Though Ramsey was technically not being challenged at a more age-appropriate level in Triple-A, the outfielder was blocked by the wealth of prospects in the Cardinals' system. Plus, while he was not in Triple-A, Ramsey did exactly what you want to see an older prospect do at a lower level: dominate. Compared to Cleveland's Double-A players in Akron, Ramsey is right in the mix for the top spot with Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor, though Ramsey got to his mark in fewer games.
Important Scouting Notes
The reason Ramsey has only played in 67 games this season is he missed 24 games from sustaining a shoulder injury after colliding with the outfield wall in May and missed 18 more with a muscle strain in late June. These injury problems seem to be more fluky than chronic, however. While on the field, Baseball America's 2014 preseason prospect handbook praised Ramsey's makeup and lack of a "glaring weakness" with each of his tools "grading out at least average across the board."
There is some swing and miss in Ramsey's game, as evidenced by his 23.5 percent strikeout rate (118 K%+) this season. The outfielder makes up for the strikeouts, however, with his 11.0 percent walk rate (127 BB%+), an approach that, in part, allowed Ramsey to own a .389 on-base percentage (121 OBP+). It would be ideal for Ramsey to tighten things up a bit more on the strikeout front, but as it is, the 24-year-old is making his approach work.
Of course, what is really making Ramsey's approach work this year is his power, as his .226 isolated power (188 ISO+) stands out, even in the typically hitter-friendly Texas League. How much of Ramsey's power is being helped by the Springfield Cardinals' homer-prone home park is still an open question, one not likely to be resolved by his move to Huntington Park. But as it is, Ramsey made some mechanical adjustments to his swing and hit for power in back-to-back years; this could be a case of a hitter making the changes necessary to raise his own ceiling.
As with most players performing at an MVP level, Ramsey has been the benefactor of some BABIP luck. Prior to 2014, Ramsey put up solidly average BABIP numbers, which is likely the level we should expect his current .364 BABIP (121 BABIP+) to regress toward. However, that is not a totally outrageous BABIP figure, and while it is certainly helping Ramsey's .389 on-base percentage (121 OBP+), his 11.0 percent walk rate (127 BB%+) is likely a bigger factor. Ramsey may have fewer balls in play go for hits in the future, but as long as he maintains his well-above-average walk rate, he should be just fine.
It will be interesting to see how much of Ramsey's power is the byproduct of his home ballpark and how much is from his mechanical adjustments, but it will still be a while before we find that out. As it stands right now, however, Cleveland acquired a very interesting prospect who has shown an ability to hit for power, draw walks, and play center field (36 games there in 2014 to go with 25 in right field). He may be another left-handed hitting outfielder and may ultimately end up in a corner, but Ramsey has not had enough experience against professional left-handed pitchers (only 251 professional at bats) to strictly declare him as another David Murphy-type platoon bat. In only his second full professional season, Ramsey put up some pretty big numbers and was just promoted to Triple-A. His ultimate upside may be limited, but seeing a long shot playoff team turn two months of Masterson into the potentially impactful Ramsey is a definite win.
|Name||Team||Age||G||PA||Poor D WAR||WAR||Great D WAR|
|Zach Walters||Nationals (AAA)||24||60||237||2.3||2.7||3.1|
Walters' 2.7 average-defense WAR in only 60 games is a very elite pace, one that would net him a seven-win season if extended out for an entire season. Additionally, in a very small sample size, Walters posted 0.2 fWAR in 43 plate appearances with the Washington Nationals this season as the 24-year-old did not seem overwhelmed by being in the major leagues. Among Columbus Clippers' players (his Triple-A equivalents), Walters ranks at the top of the team in WAR, just ahead of Roberto Perez, Tyler Holt, Jesus Aguilar, Jose Ramirez, and Giovanny Urshela (a more complete update of the Clippers' WAR will be forthcoming on Sunday).
Important Scouting Notes
According to Baseball America's 2014 preseason prospect handbook, Walters is fully recovered from a broken hamate bone in 2012 that sapped his power. Additionally, Baseball America feels Walters "could become an adequate defensive shortstop with offensive upside" but "profiles better as a utility man who can fill in all around the infield or on an outfield corner."
Baseball America also describes Walters as a free swinger, something still present in his 2014 results. Walters' 23.8 percent strikeout rate (123 K%+) is well above the International League average while the 24-year-old's 7.7 percent walk rate (86 BB%+) is below average. That is not a positive combination -- and is a big reason Walters' .358 on-base percentage (108 OBP+) is only slightly above-average -- though it is one that can work if there is a ton of power present.
Speaking of power, we reach Walters' true calling card this season. Apparently fully recovered from that 2012 hamate injury, Walters has been punishing International League pitching all season, posting a .308 isolated power (232 ISO+) that is carrying his offense this season. Additionally, while that .308 isolated power could seem a little fluky -- especially considering Walters only played 60 games in Triple-A this season -- the 24-year-old posted a similar .265 mark in 134 Triple-A games in 2013.
Walters' power in 2013 did not matter as much as it has this season, however, due to his .286 on-base percentage. Some of that could be related to his slightly below-average BABIP, something that has bounced back in 2014. Not only has Walters increased his walk rate from 3.8 to 7.7 percent, his BABIP has jumped from .285 last year to .348 (112 BABIP+).
Given that Walters played all around the diamond this season (28 games at second base, 17 at shortstop, 14 at third base, eight in left field) and the presence of Francisco Lindor in the organization, it looks like the 24-year-old will continue to be a utility player for Cleveland. But regardless of his position, Walters seems to be a valuable switch-hitting power threat that is close to major league ready. A little more improvement on his plate discipline could make Walters even more scary, but as he is, he should hold down a real major league role in the near future.
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A propos to Matt's comment, do you guys beileve that in general the Tribe is too slow to promote existing talent to the majors, too slow to trade a glut of talent to fill needs at the major league level, and too slow to move league average players already on the major league team, or any of those three?
Ramsey I am guessing may remain off the 40 man, especially if they don't need to add him for the 40-man and can bring him to ST as a NRI (like Lindor if they decide not to give him a September call-up). Ramsey is limited to just the OF and hits left handed (unlike being position versatile and hit versatile like Walters) so his ABs would be very limited even if he was called up, so why start the clock early when you don't have to since the odds are he will be at AAA the full year next year with Brantley, Bourn and Murphy (all LHH) under contract next year and Holt (RHH) able to be the 4th OFer.
I'll be checking these guys out in Columbus, where I live. But I hope the indians give them a look in September once rosters expand so everyone can see the new prospects.