Player spotlight: Hanley Ramirez

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Hanley Ramirez avoids the tag by Jose Reyes on a stolen base attempt. Both are clearly top four fantasy picks, but is it a given that Hanley is #1? (Icon/SMI)

With Alex Rodriguez set to undergo surgery and miss at least a couple of months, Hanley Ramirez has now become the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy baseball drafts, at least for most people. For me, there is no question who the No. 1 pick is, but it’s not Hanley. Sure, he plays shortstop—a position that thins out quickly—and sure, he had an excellent 2008 season…

+------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| YEAR | AB  | BA    | HR | RBI | R   | SB |
+------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+
| 2008 | 589 | 0.301 | 33 |  67 | 125 | 35 |
+------+-----+-------+----+-----+-----+----+

… but that 2008 was inflated by quite a bit of good luck, which we simply can’t expect to continue into 2009. Let’s take a look at some of the underlying indicators.

Power

If you’re new to THT Fantasy Focus and are unfamiliar with True Home Runs (tHR) or any of the other stats I’m using, check out our quick reference guide. These stats provide a much clearer picture of a player’s talent, so it’s well worth taking a couple of minutes to learn them.

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | HR | tHR | HR/FB | tHR/FB | nHR/FB | OF FB% |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+
| 2006 |  22 | Marlins | 633 | 17 |  19 |    11 |     12 |     12 |     31 |
| 2007 |  23 | Marlins | 639 | 29 |  26 |    14 |     13 |     11 |     37 |
| 2008 |  24 | Marlins | 589 | 33 |  21 |    21 |     14 |     13 |     33 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+--------+--------+--------+

As you can see, Hanley’s home run total didn’t change much from 2007 to 2008. On the surface, it’s easy for us to say that he was adjusting in his 2006 rookie campaign (and played very well then), then exploded in his sophomore year and continued into his age 25 season in 2008, firmly establishing himself as the premier middle infield power threat.

If we look just a bit deeper, however, we see Hanley’s 2007 and 2008 power were achieved in different ways. In 2007, he hit a lot of fly balls (37 percent) while keeping a modest HR/FB (14 percent). In 2008, his fly ball rate fell (33 percent) but his HR/FB skyrocketed to 21 percent.

If we look even deeper, though, we see that True Home Runs doesn’t buy this 2008 power surge. His tHR/FB is on a three-year upswing, but even at 14 percent in 2008, his tHR/FB is much lower than his actual HR/FB. Put all of this together and tHR thinks Hanley should only have hit 21 home runs in 2008.

Going forward, marginal gains in tHR/FB should be expected as he ages, but unless he can hit more fly balls, cracking 25 home runs won’t be likely. As I believe that your first round pick needs to be consistent, that you need to have a good idea about how they are going to perform, I wouldn’t put Hanley down for more than 22 home runs on my cheat sheet.

Contact

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | BA    | tBA   | CT% | BABIP | xBABIP | LD% | BIP/HR | BIP/tHR |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+
| 2006 |  22 | Marlins | 633 | 0.292 | 0.291 |  80 | 0.344 |  0.339 |  21 |     30 |      27 |
| 2007 |  23 | Marlins | 639 | 0.332 | 0.307 |  85 | 0.355 |  0.331 |  18 |     19 |      21 |
| 2008 |  24 | Marlins | 589 | 0.301 | 0.282 |  79 | 0.332 |  0.334 |  17 |     14 |      22 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-------+-----+-------+--------+-----+--------+---------+

Hanley has posted batting averages over .300 two years running now, further giving the illusion of dominance, but we see that his True Batting Averages (tBA) have been less than excellent. His .332 average in 2007 was driven by an inflated BABIP (.355 compared to a .331 xBABIP) and an 85 percent contact rate that looks like the outlier in this sample set. Let’s look at our plate discipline stats to see the cause of this:

+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 |  22 | Marlins | 633 |  80 |        106 | 0.13 |          89 |       65 |
| 2007 |  23 | Marlins | 639 |  85 |         99 | 0.25 |          92 |       62 |
| 2008 |  24 | Marlins | 589 |  79 |        105 | 0.19 |          89 |       58 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

As we can see, Hanley’s 2007 contact rate was driven by an increase in Bat Control, even while his Judgment fell. Bat Control is normally a very stable stat, but Hanley wasn’t able to maintain his gains into 2008. It’s possible he’ll get back up there, but as Bat Control is so stable, it’s not entirely likely.

In 2008, Hanley’s BABIP regressed as expected, but his batting average was then propped up by all of those extra home runs that we discussed earlier. When they disappear, his True Batting Average falls all the way to .282.

Going forward, it’s pretty safe to put him down for a BABIP in the .330s—that’s where his xBABIP has been his entire career. If we give him an 80 percent contact rate (maybe a little pessimistic, but again, we need to know what our first round pick will do), a .334 BABIP, a 14 percent HR/FB, and a 33 percent fly ball rate, his batting average would be .292—less than what almost every major projection system is predicting.

Speed

+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| YEAR | AGE | TEAM    | AB  | SB | SBA | SBO%  | SBA% | SB% | FAN SPEED | FAN BALLOTS |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+
| 2006 |  22 | Marlins | 633 | 51 |  66 | 0.244 |   39 |  77 |        85 |           9 |
| 2007 |  23 | Marlins | 639 | 51 |  65 | 0.262 |   35 |  78 |        74 |          10 |
| 2008 |  24 | Marlins | 589 | 35 |  47 | 0.284 |   24 |  74 |        84 |          23 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+----+-----+-------+------+-----+-----------+-------------+

While Hanley stole more than 50 bases in his first two years in the league, this past year his total fell all the way to 35. This was mostly a result of him attempting to steal less frequently (SBA% — a rate that has dropped each year he’s been in the majors), despite having the opportunity to steal much more often (thanks to a big spike in his walk rate). He was also successful on his steals less frequently (SB%).

His official website posed the question, “Are the days of [Hanley] swiping 50 a year over?”. Hanley responded by saying, “It’s getting close to being over. Not completely over, but I won’t have as many.” This absolutely explains at least a portion of the drop in his attempt rate.

So what does this portend for 2009? Well, it’s entirely possible that Hanley will start stealing more again—he is, after all, just 25 years old and has done it two out of three years—but we must also take not that he’ll be moving to the third spot in the batting order and that he’s actually said he’ll be stealing less. Given these two facts, it’s entirely possible—perhaps even likely—that Hanley falls even further in 2009, into the 25 to 30 SB range.

All said, Hanley’s stolen base situation for 2009 is murky at best—again, something we want to avoid in our first round pick, especially for the guy taken first overall. I’d be comfortable putting him down for 30 or 35 steals on my cheat sheet.

Market value

I’m not going to run through the whole exercise here. Almost everyone has Hanley as the No. 1 shortstop and as the No. 1 player overall.

Concluding thoughts

All said, I’d be comfortable expecting this line out of Hanley: 600 AB, .292 BA, 22 HR, 33 SB, 100 RBI, 90 R. While this is certainly a quality fantasy line, I don’t believe it even touches what we might expect from Jose Reyes: 650 AB, .300 BA, 15 HR, 55 SB, 65 RBI, 110 R.

By my calculations, this would make Reyes worth several dollars more than Ramirez, perhaps as many as $5. Ramirez would probably be my second choice, but I just can’t digest these assertions that he is the undisputed No. 1 pick. He is not. Reyes is more consistent and will quite likely post better stats.

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Comments

  1. Jon said...

    Does the mets new stadium worry you regarding Reyes homerun projection?  The hittracker article in the annual made it seem like death valley for homers.

  2. josh said...

    people make such a big deal about getting power in the 1st, but you can almost as easily get it in rounds 2-5. if you paired Uggla with Reyes, you’d potentially have 200+ runs, 150+ RBIs, 40-50 HRs, 60-70 STL from your 2b/ss, albeit a .270 average or so.

    regarding CitiField, for 1 no one knows for sure how a new park will play out before they actually play games in it. and secondly, it’s not like Shea was doing the Mets’ hitters any favors.

  3. KY said...

    What about injury risk an each player and the fact that injuries effect speed and power players differently?

  4. PHIL said...

    That tHR rate was the eye-opening stat for me.  Pujols is clearly #1, with possibly DWright, Reyes, and Hanley rounding out the top 4.  The line you lay out is the basement for what Hanley can get i think, and he should out-perform it a bit. 

    Do agree that he is not the only #1 pick.  thanks for the stats breakdown

  5. Derek Carty said...

    Jon,
    I do worry about the move to Citi, although tHR has had Reyes at 21, 21, 19 HR the past three seasons.  I think 15 is a reasonable expectation given the new stadium and the fact that he’ll be 25 and nearing his prime.

    Josh,
    I agree to an extent.  I don’t think we can simply say “well, power will be there in rounds 2-5 so I can ignore it in the first round,” though.  A player needs to be evaluated based on everything he brings to the table.  Maybe it’s a ton of power, maybe it’s a ton of speed, maybe it’s a combination of all five stats.  Whatever the case may be, each of those contributions has a value, and all of those values must be added up to decide where a player should be taken.  Unless you’re employing some sort of strategy, the player with the best total value should be the pick.

    Also, I’d warn against taking Uggla at all.  I wrote about him earlier in the off-season here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/dual-spotlights-dan-uggla-and-ty-wigginton/.  I’d take Robinson Cano, Kelly Johnson, and Rickie Weeks – to name a few – before him, and they are all going later in the draft.

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

    Also, for those who haven’t read it yet, HitTracker’s Greg Rybarczyk had a great interview concerning how CitiField could play here:
    http://www.amazinavenue.com/2009/1/7/711009/citi-field-where-homeruns

    There have also been reports that it is a hitter’s park, but I’m more inclined to believe it will be the opposite.

  6. Derek Carty said...

    KY,
    I’m not aware of any serious injury concerns regarding either player.  Sure, injuries are always a concern, but this is true for all players, so I don’t see any reason to treat Reyes and Ramirez differently.  Hanley did have the shoulder thing a few weeks ago, but it doesn’t appear to be that serious.  Let me know if you’ve heard differently, though.

    Phil,
    Why do you think Pujols is clearly #1?  I kind of think Reyes is the no-brainer here.

    I agree that there is room for Hanley to outperform the line I submitted, though.  As I believe that a first round pick needs to be reliable, I don’t think counting on Hanley for more than that is wise.

  7. RS said...

    Shh…I have the third pick in my NFBC league this weekend and am counting on Reyes falling to me (I’m presuming, ok hoping, that Ramirez and Pujols go 1-2)

  8. Charles said...

    Derek, would you consider hanley to be above or below Wright?

    Also, so you see any reason to value players differently for h2h versus roto? I find myself inclined to place less of an emphasis on speed in h2h, but I really am not sure why.

  9. bpasinko said...

    I’m not saying Pujols is the clear #1, in fact I really don’t think he is, but I could see why people would want him #1.  He’s the most consistent, and you could do much worse than drafting like that in the first 5 rounds.

    With that said, you (Derek) made a point about Reyes I haven’t heard really at all, his consistency.  Reyes seems like opposite of consistency in drafts because people think of 06 Reyes as first overall but the other versions as a risky pick.  When in fact, his underlying numbers show a consistency that Hanley can’t compare with.

    Before I probably couldn’t convince myself to take Reyes 1, but now I think this put me over the edge, thanks!

  10. Derek Carty said...

    Charles,
    I’d probably have Hanley as #2 on my board, so yes, ahead of Wright.

    As to H2H, it kind of depends upon your strategy.  I don’t play H2H because I can’t handle the heavy luck involved in the postseason so I haven’t done heavy research into the best way to approach it.  Our Michael Lerra had a good article about H2H leagues here, though: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/category-influence/

    If you’re simply trying to compete in every category, I probably wouldn’t change my evaluations much (although a player like A-Rod might be more valuable since he will probably be fine for the playoffs), though again, I haven’t done any research on week-to-week consistency or anything like that.

  11. Derek Carty said...

    bpasinko,
    I was actually talking with a reader today about how Reyes isn’t generally considered ‘consistent.’  There’s still a stigma attached to him and people view him as an injury risk, but he’s been quite healthy for 4 years now (at least 647 ABs each year) and his underlying indicators have all been very stable.  This, plus his SS eligibility and the fact that his projected line is actually more valuable than the others in consideration (by my calculations), and Reyes is the clear #1 in my mind.

  12. Mike Ketchen said...

    Derek,

    I am wondering if you use Hit Tracker when doing HR projections? I see your reasoing behind Hanley hitting 22 but at the same time he was 5th in all of baseball for No Doubt HR and did not appear on the lucky HR leader boards or the Just enough leaderboards. His power is scary and his approach is improving considerably.

  13. Derek Carty said...

    Hey Mike,
    Yes, I do use HitTracker data, although I make different use of it than what appears on the HT site. 

    The main differences are:
    1) tHR neutralizes weather based on each park’s average weather conditions.  HT uses the actual weather of the day the ball was hit – obviously something a hitter has no control over.
    2) tHR assumes a 50/50 home road split.  HT runs every ball in whatever park it is hit.
    3) tHR adjusts for luck (i.e. a guy who hits a lot of deep home runs, logically, should also hit a lot of shallow home runs.  In small samples, this doesn’t always happen naturally, so tHR makes adjustments)

    I might be forgetting some, but that will explain a lot of whatever differences you’re seeing in.  The full article explaining tHR can be found here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/moon-shots-introducing-true-home-runs-hittracker/

  14. Keith said...

    Derek,

    I have the first pick in the first year of a keeper league.  5×5 mixed.  Would you go Hanley, Wright, or Reyes?

    Also, have you posted your rankings anywhere?

    Thanks.

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