Thoughts on Hanley Ramirez
In his first 15 games for the Florida Marlins, Hanley Ramirez is hitting .344/.400/.594 with six doubles, two triples, two homers, three steals, six walks, and 16 strikeouts in 64 at-bats. The only flaw here is his strikeout rate, more than once per game. Everything else is strong. . .power, batting average, OBP, speed. Unless things change quickly (and the season has hardly just begun of course), it will be Ramirez in contention for Rookie of the Year, not fellow Marlin Jeremy Hermida.
Let's review Ramirez and what I've written about him in the past.
Ramirez made his pro debut in 2002, hitting .341 in 45 games for the GCL Red Sox, then .371 in 22 games for Lowell in the NY-P. His performance was strong and scouts loved his tools, but he also showed a sour attitude and a poor work ethic. I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2003 book, noting that it was a conservative grade.
Moving up to the Sally League in 2003, Ramirez hit just .275/.327/.403 for Augusta. Granted he was age 19, and he did steal 36 bases. More worrisome was continued erratic defense, and further run-ins on disciplinary matters and poor work ethic. Still, I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2004 book, on the basis of his youth and tools.
Ramirez split '04 between Class A Sarasota and Double-A Portland, hitting .310 at both levels along with a .360 OBP and .512 SLG at Portland. Outstanding for a 20-year-old shortstop! He improved his defense, and also showed a much better attitude and work ethic. I gave him a Grade A- in the '05 book, and predicted that he would be ready to take over a shortstop job in 2006.
`05 was a mixed bag. Ramirez continued to tighten up his defense, and for the second year in a row he showed a good work ethic and no problems with bad behavior. But his hitting was disappointing: .271/.335/.385 for Portland. His power dropped off, he lost 30 points of batting average and OBP. His strikeout rate remained reasonable, but he just didn't hit with the same authority as the previous year. His OPS was right at Eastern League average.
I puzzled over his grade in the 2006 book. I originally rated him at Grade B+, but changed it to Grade B before the book went to press. I wrote that he needed a year of Triple-A, but that the trade to Florida might push up the timetable.
So here we are in late April and Ramirez is tearing the place up. As you can see, his track record is a bit erratic, excellent at times and just-decent at others. The concerns about his personality and work ethic have abated. While I don't think we can expect him to hit .340 all year, his quick start should firm up his hold on the shortstop job. Given his age and athleticism, he has a good chance to develop into a truly outstanding player, perhaps something like Edgar Renteria at his age 27/28 peak.