The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.
Jose Ramirez, 3B
Throws: Right -- Bats: Switch -- Entering his age-24 season -- Contract: Pre-Arbitration (Eligible for Arbitration in 2018)
2016 In Review: Ramirez went from an 0.7 win player in 2015 to a 4.8 win player last season. Part of that may have been due to the fact he didn't have a guy like Francisco Lindor breathing down his neck this time around, or perhaps because he had a veteran like Juan Uribe to take him under his wing. Make no mistake, though, Jose Ramirez has now turned into one of the most indispensable players on the roster for the Tribe. A big reason why the Indians made it as far as they did without Michael Brantley is because Ramirez effectively replaced Brantley's production.batting .312 with 11 homers and 76 RBI's in 152 games and becoming one of the top clutch hitters in the game posting a .355 average with runners in scoring position and a .366 mark with runners in scoring position and two outs. The Dominican infielder played all over the diamond in 2016, but eventually settled at third base after the departure of Uribe.
Versus Right-handers: As a switch hitter, Ramirez has the advantage of playing matchup from either side at the plate, but his splits were almost dead even against left and right-handed pitching last season. Against right-handers, the 24-year-old put together a .312/.361/.457 slash line with most of his RBI's, steals and extra-base hits coming against them. Ramirez also had a better strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38:31 against right-handed pitching.
Versus Left-handers: Against southpaws, Ramirez's slash line was nearly identical at .311/.368/.473. Although his extra-base totals were higher against right-handers, the Tribe infielder showed more pure power when batting from the right side against lefties with that .473 slugging percentage and a .162 ISO, 16 points higher than his mark from the left side. Overall, though, Ramirez is almost the exact same hitter no matter who's on the mound or which batter's box he's standing in.
Defense: Ramirez got reps all over the field in 2016 with most of his playing time coming in left field and at third base. Starting the year as the team's primary utility player, he appeared primarily in left field substituting for the ailing Michael Brantley and, for an infielder by trade, didn't play too badly posting -2 DRS and a -2.1 UZR. After moving to third base, Ramirez fared better with -1 DRS and a positive UZR of 3.2. He also saw time limited time at second base and shortstop, although second appears to still be his natural position with positive marks in both DRS and UZR categories. Heading into 2017, Ramirez should be the starting third baseman and hopefully he can continue to improve his defense there.
Fantasy Impact: The question for Ramirez moving into 2017 is can he keep this pace up? At the age of 24, his best years should still be ahead of him. As far as projections go, Steamer predicts more of the same in 2017 for Ramirez, although his power is expected to decline somewhat with his slugging percentage and ISO dropping to .421 and .134, respectively. This could be because he showed limited power in the minors and his first two major league seasons up to this point. Maybe it was a fluke last season. Maybe he's a late bloomer as far as finding a power stroke. It will definitely be something to keep an eye on in the new season, but bear in mind he doesn't need to hit home runs to be a productive player for the Tribe.
Summary: Watching Jose Ramirez's transformation in 2016 was certainly one of the more pleasant developments of a memorable campaign for the Indians. He established himself as not only a starting caliber player, but also a key hitter in the middle of the lineup. Now with the prospects of Edwin Encarnacion and hopefully a healthy Michael Brantley joining that part of the order, there's no immediate pressure on the Dominican native to replicate his productivity from last year. If he does manage to accomplish that, however, he would further lengthen what could potentially be one of the more potent lineups in all of baseball.
Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here: