I feel your pain. Like many others, I had Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) as the third-best player heading into drafts. Even as he fell off a bit at the end of last season, I believed in everything he accomplished. After all, he’s just 26 years old and found ways to improve in virtually every offensive metric for three consecutive seasons and put together an epic 2018 season in which he hit 39 home runs and stole 34 bases. While I didn’t expect that level of success for this year, I’ve certainly been disappointed by the 66 wRC+ he’s earned so far in 2019.
For those unfamiliar with wRC+, it’s a stat that scales hitter performance, with 100 being average. A wRC+ of 66 can be roughly interpreted to mean that he’s only been 66% as good as an average player.
Yesterday’s 2-5 outing where he smacked two doubles, scored two runs and drove in two runners is certainly a step in the right direction, but many fantasy owners are wondering what they should do with the young Ramirez. I have had several folks ask if should they try to sell him to an owner who still believes he can be elite or just keep him plugged in to their second base slot and continue to take their lumps while they wait for him to bust out. For me, the only answer is the latter.
First, I still believe in the skills he has shown for the past two seasons. There’s potential for him to hit 20 more home runs and steal 20 more bases before the end of September, which would make him an elite fantasy asset (because remember, we want to rank players for what we think they will do going forward, not just what they’ve already done). Also, it’s not as though he’s been without value. While the hits haven’t been falling for him as much as we’d like, he’s still walking at a 12.1% clip, and he’s stolen 14 bases, which is the second-highest total in baseball. Further, the expected stats indicate that he may have had some bad luck, as his .240 expected average and .403 expected slugging, while not impressive, are much better than his actual .209 average and .313 slugging. Sure, the Cleveland offense has been incredibly disappointing so far this season, but you should believe in the young All-Star. All players struggle from time to time, and while it’s easy to cobble together a narrative as to why he’s not good anymore, I would urge you to ignore that narrative. If there’s anyone in your league willing to sell him for a top-30 to -50 player, you should 100% make that trade. If he’s on your team, keep him in your lineup. There’s no way Jose isn’t a top-20 hitter the rest of the way, if not a top-20 player.
Pete Alonso (1B, New York Mets)—3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 4 RBI. He’s third in the majors in home runs and is one moonshot away from 20 on the season. The hype on the power was real, folks. The strikeout rate is probably going to remain close to 30%, but his slightly above-average walk rate and massive power should help offset that issue. He’s inside my top 10 at first base, and I could see him pushed up as high as eighth (which is more impressive than it sounds).
Dominic Smith (1B, New York Mets)—3-5, 3 R, HR, RBI. Remember when THIS was the Mets first baseman we were clamoring for? He’s been finding some low-key time in the 2-hole recently and is taking advantage of it, slashing .370/.469/.556 in 64 trips to the plate this season. It has mostly been pinch-hit work for the 23-year-old, but they’ve been testing him a little bit in left field the past few days. If he finds playing time, he could be worth a dice roll in deeper leagues.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—2-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. He looks well on his way to repeating his 2018 season, which is exactly what we hoped for. He’s played in 812 major league games, and yet he’s only 26 years old and is entering the prime of his career. He’ll hit 20 to 25 home runs and sport a .285 batting average for years to come.
DJ LeMahieu (2B/3B, New York Yankees)—1-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, 2 BB. He’s a great source of batting average, as evidenced by his career .299 batting average and by having an average above .300 in three of the past four seasons. He may not be in Colorado anymore, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t hit at least .280 the rest of the way with a handful of home runs and steals chipped in.
Luke Voit (1B, New York Yankees)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 3B, RBI. For those who believed in him in the preseason, consider your faith rewarded. While he hasn’t been quite as unstoppable as he was in the 47-game sample we saw at the end of 2018, he’s managed to walk in 13.3% of his plate appearances and mash 14 home runs. He should finish the season with at least 30 dingers and should stay in the top 12 or so at first base.
Max Muncy (3B/1B/2B, Los Angeles Dodgers)—2-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. He’s getting plenty of runs as the table-setter in Los Angeles and is doing a fine job with the role. He’s an excellent play in OBP leagues thanks to his double-digit walk rate, and while he won’t hit 35 home runs like he did last season, something in the high-20s should be in the cards.
Kyle Schwarber (OF, Chicago Cubs)—1-3, R, HR, RBI, BB. The good news is that he’s slugging .596 over the past two weeks with six home runs, 15 runs, and 11 RBI while walking 15.5% of the time. The bad news, of course, is that his batting average is only .228 during that same stretch and is at .224 for the season. That being said, we already know what Schwarber’s profile is—he’s a low-average, high-strikeout power bat with a good walk rate. That makes him a great (and generally undervalued) play in OBP formats but difficult to roster in any standard league that features fewer than five starting outfielders.
Lourdes Gurriel (SS/2B, Toronto Blue Jays)—2-6, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. To answer all of the questions I’ve been getting about his “legitimacy”: (a) Yes, he has a pretty good power tool and can hit his fair share of home runs, (b) Yes, he should be able to squeeze some playing time out of the outfield and infield throughout the season, and (c) I could see him as a long-term middle infield option in 12-team formats. He’s unlikely to save your season, and this hot streak will likely be followed by stretches such as the one we saw in March and April. He’s worth owning, but he’s not a top-100 hitter or anything like that. He’s probably just inside the top 150 hitters (which is where Jonathan Metzelaar ranked him in yesterday’s Hitter List).
Jackie Bradley (OF, Boston Red Sox)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. The turnaround is happening, folks. I’m just going to keep planting that seed.
Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—3-5, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. He’s in my top eight at first base. That’s a very pleasant surprise. I’m not sure he can go much higher than sixth or seventh (the names above him are absolute studs), but he’s awesome.
Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire.