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Evaluating Assets: Jose Ramirez

Rumors abound and no matter the Indians position at the deadline, speculation is a wholly delightful activity. One which I cannot help but partake in.

This piece is focused on one of the potential assets that the Indians can use to upgrade the team for a possible wild card run, rather than the spare parts that can be dealt to upgrade other rosters.

There are two types of assets that tend to have the most value in deadline deals for veterans. One being the prized prospects, the Zimmer, and Frazier types. The other is cheap, cost-controlled talent with some big league success.

I don't believe in using the first in this category at the deadline but as is always the case, no player should be immovable.

The second category is one which the Indians roster is full of two of which are very movable without endangering the Indians long or short term projections. Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez.

Jose Ramirez  is complex to evaluate as a trade asset especially if you believe that the market is acting purely based on recency bias.

It is fairly easy to forget that in Jose Ramirez age 21 season he posted ~2 WAR in 68 games with above average defense at shortstop, significant base running value and a .300 OBP.

Ultimately, this is a fair expectation of Ramirez going forward, especially if transitioned to second base as his defense at second is gold glove caliber, and defense at shortstop is average to above average.

Offensively, Ramirez has always shown solid walk rates for a player lacking power and incredible contact skills, putting the ball in play frequently.

League average contact% in  2015 is 79% and Ramirez contact % was 86.1%.

Unfortunately for Ramirez in 2015 balls in play were a cruel, cruel mistress. Ramirez' batting average on balls in play was .200 in 2015.

Following his .297 BABIP in 2014, and excellent minor league BABIPs this was relatively inexplicable.

For one; in 2014 on ground balls between 70 and 95 MPH the league averaged .340.
Jose Ramirez, in 2015 on ground balls in this range was 2 for 26.

Also a noticeable decline in line drive rate occurred. However, his entire track record suggests that 2015 is a mere aberration as his contact/speed combo and BABIP track record project somewhere around .300. The point is that 2014 is a more likely reflection of true talent BABIP than 2015 and 2014 JRAM is very valuable.

Important to note once again, Jose Ramirez was very valuable during a stretch run in the big leagues at age 21.

Chris Mitchell has done very fine work attempting to strip down the statistics to which ones correlate in some way to big league success through the minor leagues.  With the key ones at almost every developmental stage being K% and BB%.

After 2014, Mitchell used the significant inputs to project long term war value through age 28. Among all position player prospects , Ramirez had the third best projection in front of Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, and Gregory Polanco at 16.3 WAR through age 28.

Of course this sounds a little bit audacious and perhaps Ramirez has a skill set that is overvalued by this research but other projection systems including Dan Szymborski's have similarly optimistic projections which have him producing multiple 2-3 WAR seasons with a closed ceiling at 3 WAR.

Which brings us to the other significant value of Jose Ramirez, cost control. The 2016-2017 seasons will be at the league minimum and the 2018-2020 will be arbitration seasons in which speed and defense are usually undervalued by the process.

What this makes Jose Ramirez is five years of cheap, cost controlled likely ~2 WAR seasons with immense surplus value.

Jose Ramirez has a nice speed+field combo with the contact skills to be a productive big league asset as he already showed in his age 21 season.

In MLB, the contract and the asset are inextricably linked, in Jose Ramirez both the player and the contract make for a very solid chip if one is not confined by recency bias.

I must note that I ultimately prefer retaining Ramirez and him assuming the Aviles role with which Ramirez could offer a significant improvement at a reduced rate. However, his value to other teams in a starting role may trump his value as a super-utility type.

* A piece regarding Roberto Perez as a young movable asset is on its way in the next few days.


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