Two stories caught my attention today. The first was Edwin Jackson finally finding a home, albeit not with a team that anyone predicted, and for a fifth of the coin he had originally been seeking. The second story involves the soap opera that is Hanley Ramirez. What should your expectations be for the one time elite shortstop?
EDWIN JACKSON SIGNS WITH NATIONALS
Edwin Jackson has agreed to a one year deal with the Nationals for a reported $8-12 million (we’re still waiting for the final numbers for the one year deal). Jackson had hoped for something like five years and $65 million when the offseason began, but he quickly found out that not one general manager was smoking on a crack pipe when they were contacted by the righties representatives. Jackson is young, just 28 years old, and he clearly possesses an impressive right arm, but give me a break Edwin. You own a 60-60 career record with a 4.46 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Sure you’ve thrown at least 180-innings the past four years, but you are woefully inconsistent and there is simply no way that you are worthy of a contract approaching the dollars you reportedly wanted. Not by a mile. Jackson could certainly put up strong fantasy numbers, his career bests are 14 wins a 3.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 181 Ks, but he’ll likely be a maddening play from start-to-start. Think of him as a depth arm in mixed leagues and hope he puts it all together.
As for what the Nats do moving forward, it looks like the following four arms are locked in the rotation: Jackson, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and. That leaves them with a bit of a logjam for that 5th spot in the rotation with names like John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler fighting it out. So who wins that spot? Well it appears like the Nats want to remove one name from the mix, that of Lannan. The lefty, who is coming off a season of 33 starts with a career best ERA of 3.70, lost his arbitration hearing with the club and will have a $5 million salary in 2012 (he had asked for $5.7 million). The Nats are looking for a center fielder so they appear to kicking the tires on dealing Lannan for one. My question is, what team would give up a starting center fielder for a pitcher with the follow numbers?
Career 4.00 ERA, 1.42 WHIP. Those are big league average numbers.
Career 4.71 K/9, 1.39 K/BB. That K/9 mark is two an a half batters below the league average while the K/BB mark is about 0.80 below league average.
Lannan does own an impressive 53 percent ground ball rate for his career, so he’ll likely have a job pitching for an awfully long time, but he’s just not in possession of a skill set that should excite anyone. In the fantasy game he is nothing other than an innings eater in league specific setups.
CAN YOU TRUST HANLEY RAMIREZ?
There is a ton of excitement around the Marlins this season. A new yard, new players like Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes (see Marlins Spending Like Drunken Sailors) have the fan base pumped up. But what about Hanley Ramirez? You know, the former first overall draft pick who struggled in 2011 with his performance, was forced to undergo shoulder surgery, and now is being asked to switch positions to third base â€“ what should we make of him in the fantasy game for 2012?
First the good news. A report in the Miami Herald quoted Marlins’ President David Samson as saying that Hanley should be ready to go by the start of Spring Training. Hanley is already taking BP at home in the Dominican Republic so physically he appears to be sound. Mentally, well that’s a whole other story that adds a level of intrigue to the mix. Is Hanley going to sulk since he’s been asked to move to third base, or, is he going to realize that the team will be better off with Reyes at shortstop? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Hanley’s noggin’ is clear. What does that mean for his outlook for 2012?
Currently, ADP numbers reflect that the majority of folks are targeting HanRam in the second round of drafts. Given that his last four healthy seasons have resulted in 20/20 efforts with at least 90 runs scored and a .300 average, it’s pretty easy to see why people are so eager to add him to the mix. Toss in that third base eligibility, and there’s yet another reason to target Hanley in the top-25 this season. However, a voice of reason before you go all in with the Marlins’ star. Point by point, here are some concerns.
(1) Hanley has hit .332, .301, .342 and .300 in his last four healthy seasons. Obviously expecting him to hit .300 makes sense, but there’s a huge difference between hitting .300 and .335. Like many others with high batting averages, Hanley is at the mercy of his BABIP number. That number has been over .325 each of his healthy seasons, a strong mark (the big league average is about .290-.300), but he’ll need to get it up over .350 to have an impressive batting mark. Why? Hanley’s line drive rate has been under 20 percent each of the past five years (that’s the big league average). It’s actually a bit worse given that his LD-rate the past two years is a combined 16.1 percent. That’s a terrible mark and one that must have a .350+ BABIP to lead to a .300 batting average. That’s not impossible to expect given his history, but it’s pretty hard to pull off consistently.
(2) Hanley has seen his homer total dip from 33 to 24 to 21 to 10 last season. You can throw last year out if you want, but that still leaves him with back-to-back seasons with an average of 23 homers a year, 10 less than he hit in 2008. Will that power come back now that he’s dealing with a repaired shoulder? It’s one thing to hurt an elbow or wrist, but often times shoulder injuries lead to lingering issues with strength. Even if we assume that his strength will be at 100 percent in April, an again I highly doubt that, does his game lead one to think a return to 25+ homers is in the cards? I’m not so sure. Hanley has been a guy who posted a GB/FB ratio of about 1.10, right on the big league average. However, since the start of the 2010 season that number has shot up to 1.54. That’s a huge change, and not one that you want to see for a guy who you are hoping to add some pop to your lineup. In fact, Hanley has hit 51 percent of his balls onto the ground the last two seasons, and that simply isn’t going to lead to 25 homers. If he doesn’t start lifting the ball more, 20 homers should be the max that you expect out of him this season.
(3) So we’ve seen there are some concerns about his batting average and his ability to lift the ball into the cheap seats. Now I’ll add that there is some concern about his ability to steal a base. Ramirez stole 51 bags in 2007, but he’s been nowhere near that number since. In fact, he’s averaged about half that total the past four years (29 steals). Now there’s nothing at all wrong with any player, let alone one who qualifies at shortstop, stealing 29 bags, but that’s a far cry from 50 so make sure that you don’t overestimate his success on the base paths.
So what to do with Hanley Ramirez? Given his shortstop and soon to be third base eligibility, he’s a prime player to target. Throw in the impressive numbers he’s posted in the recent past and how could you not be interested in signing him up to play for your fantasy squad. On the other side of the coin though we have an up and down situation with his batting average, deteriorating power, a more sluggish approach on the base paths, an unknown return from shoulder surgery, and his grumpy demeanor, a result of being asked to switch positions. Add up all those negatives and I’ll almost certainly let someone else have the pleasure of rostering Ramirez, even if that means I’m passing on a dynamic talent. I just see too much uncertainty when I gaze into my crystal ball to take him too early in drafts.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.