Image: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
2021 age: 28
Bats: Both; Throws: Right
Contract: $9 mil (Year 3 of 4 year/$26 mil contract with club options for 2022 and 2023)
2020 stats: 254 PA – .292/.386/.607 – 17 HR, 46 RBI, 10 SB – 164 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR
2020 in review: After a poor second half in 2018, and a rough start to 2019, Ramirez is back on track as an MVP candidate and a 30/30 threat with the best strut in all of baseball. In 2020, Ramirez was on an MVP tear and tried to come to close to a 20/20 season in a 60 game year. He finished second in the MVP voting, giving him three top-three MVP finishes in his career now (2017/2018/2020). Ramirez remains one of the most fun players to watch in baseball that nobody talks about enough, despite his MVP finishes.
Offensive impact: Jose does everything well offensively. After a two year drip in average, he didn’t quite get back to .300 but he his .292 and posted a .294 BABIP, which was also his best since 2017 before his average dipped. As a switch hitter, Ramirez destroys all pitching (.845 OPS vs. LHP, .850 vs. RHP), hits for average mostly, power and steals bases. He doesn’t strike out often for a 30 homer threat (16% in 2020) and takes his walks (9.8% career walk rate). In his career, Ramirez has 127 homers and 127 steals and an .848 OPS.
Defensive impact: Defensive metrics saw Ramirez as a slightly below average defensive third basemen in 2020. For most of his career at third Ramirez has been average and even above average. He has been a gold glove finalist before, for what that award is worth now. Ramirez had -6 in Defensive Runs Saved by Fangraphs but a 2.0 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating) so his defense wasn’t that bad. He was at an even 0 in 2019 but Statcast’s Outs Above Average had him at 6, so he’s still a good third baseman despite a down season by metrics in 2020. Also, gone are the days where Ramirez is going back to second base. Rather than move Ramirez to second base and open up third base for Nolan Jones, Cleveland kept him at third and he’s probably not going to move back at this point.
Beyond the stats: In 2017 and 2018, when Ramirez finished in the top-3 for AL MVP, his barrel rate was 5% and 8.3%. It dropped 6.3% in 2019 when he struggled. But in 2020, it was 10.2%, the best of his career. A barrel is the optimal exit velocity and launch angle (above 98 mph exit velocity and a launch angle between 26-30 degrees). That produces the best hit ball and slugging percentages over 2.000.
2021 role: Ramirez’s role as the everyday third baseman hasn’t changed. Even with Francisco Lindor, Ramirez was the straw that stirred the drink offensively for Cleveland, and that also doesn’t change. As he goes, the Cleveland offense will go. The uncertain lineup they will roll out will need Jose to be in MVP form once again. With Carlos Carrasco gone, Ramirez is also now the longest tenured player with Cleveland at the ripe old age of 28 and with eight years in the majors in Cleveland. He’ll have to lead by example and attempt to take on that role in the clubhouse.
Fantasy impact: You can feel safe taking Jose Ramirez in the top-10 of any draft. Ronald Acuna, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trevor Story might be better options above Ramirez, but you’ll get at least a 20/20 season, maybe a 30/30 season from Ramirez. He’s the best option at third base and a surefire first rounder.