For all the talk about what a good teammate Hanley Ramirez has been this year and his solid work at first base defensively it’s going to need to improve soon if the Red Sox truly plan to contend. In 24 games played so far Hanley has a WAR of -0.2 with equal amounts of negative value from his offense and defense. The Red Sox need to figure out quickly if this is a long term issue or something he can figure out.
To be honest if anyone told me Hanley would have a -0.6 UZR right now (-6.4 UZR/150) I wouldn’t have believed it. For a player who in only 747 innings of work in left field last year he showed no interest and resulted in a -31.9 UZR/150. Then showing up and admitting he never practiced or tried out a first baseman’s glove was concerning at the minimum.
Based on small sample size of UZR and what we’ve seen I have to say Hanley is a passable first baseman. I know I didn’t expect that, but not having to replace first base along with third base has really helped the Red Sox through April of this season. The larger issue now is where did Hanley’s bat get lost this offseason.
There was a lot of talk by the TV crew that Hanley has worked on a new approach and when you make those comments followed by a double you look really smart. Not to mention Hanley has a solid batting average making him look good by old baseball numbers. The problem is a bit deeper though.
Ramirez had previously been able to draw a good number of walks and walked nearly 10 percent of the time, but in Boston that number has been less than 5 percent for whatever reason. This year he is also striking out at a career high level of 23 percent (career 16% walk rate). Combine those and his OBP of .305 is not surprising. What is concerning is that is even inflated by some good luck. His BABIP stands at .360 while his career rate is only .328.
Once his numbers level out if he is still striking out and walking at these rates he’ll be hitting closer to .250/.265/.360. That .520 OPS would be the worst among all first baseman with a qualified number of at bats and even right now he’s only 19th among that group. It’s still early in the season, but Hanley is playing replacement level at a position that can’t afford that level of play.
The big loss here and the most curious is where has the power gone? Since July 12 of 2015 Hanley his hit only one home run in a total of 53 games. It’s clearly time in my opinion to worry about Ramirez being a power threat. He’s had a full offseason to recover and overall his approach is only slightly worse in strikeouts and walks, but the power is non existent.
With Pablo Sandoval out for the season now it looks like Travis Shaw is no longer an option at first base. That leaves the Red Sox to contemplate what to do if Ramirez is the next player to fall. Sam Travis is not hitting much better at Triple-A right now and while Brock Holt could get involved the options at left field aren’t better or even ready yet. The Red Sox seem set to have to find out one way or another if Ramirez is going to get his power back.