Fantasy Baseball: Will Hanley Ramirez Have a Repeat of 2016?

Hanley Ramirez had a late-season power binge to end 2016 with a bang. Can we expect more of the same this year?

Following a disappointing, injury-marred debut season with the Boston Red Sox in 2015 and a disastrous experiment in left field, expectations were low for Hanley Ramirez going into last season.

However, a move to first base enabled him to hit 30 home runs, knock in a career high 111 RBI and slash a respectable .286/.361/.505 with a 127 wRC+. The power spike led to a 21.1% HR/FB rate and a .219 ISO, both the highest they've been since 2013.

Can we expect this level of production again in 2017?

Won't The Real Ramirez Please Stand Up?

One of the most notable aspects of Ramirez’s 2016 campaign was the stark power discrepancy between each half.

G HR GB% FB% Pull% Hard% HR/FB ISO wOBA K%
First Half 81 8 50.4% 30.6% 35.4% 35.4% 10.8% .147 .346 18.9%
Second Half 66 22 45.8% 35.8% 41.1% 39.5% 32.4% .309 .395 19.9%

So won't the real Ramirez please stand up?

Check out that second half HR/FB rate! While that’s almost certainly unsustainable for a full season (32.4% would’ve easily led all qualified hitters last year), his overall numbers indicate the power increase was no accident.

The rise of an already solid hard-hit rate shows he was crushing the ball with regularity, but coupled with the increase in fly balls and pulled balls, perhaps Ramirez was intentionally swinging for the fences after some midseason changes to his batting stance. And as a bonus, any change in approach wasn't at the expense of his plate discipline, as Ramirez's strikeout rate only experienced a small bump.

From August 27th onward, he hit a whopping 14 home runs, reminiscent of his hot start in 2015 when he hit 10 homers in April before spraining his shoulder running into an outfield wall. Now fully recovered from that, maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised by another Ramirez power binge.

Given the small sample size, it's difficult to say how much the second half trends will continue, but even if they drop off a bit, Ramirez has shown a HR/FB rate above his career average of 14.7% in three of the last four seasons, including both campaigns with the Red Sox (19.2% in 2015, 21.1% in 2016). His power has fluctuated all over the place throughout his career, but the signs are positive that with this current iteration of power is here to stay.

Ramirez's Steamer projections predict 23 home runs, which may seem like a modest total given the above, but it also predicts a .206 ISO, which is in line with what he accomplished in 2016.

So, what gives? Steamer also only anticipates 126 games played, which highlights the main cause for concern in drafting Ramirez.

What You Thought They'd Call Me Mr. Glass?

It feels a little dirty quoting a Kanye West song referencing an M. Night Shyamalan movie, but let's face it, Ramirez has been Mr. Glass for quite a while now.

After being Unbreakable early in his career, last season was the first time Ramirez has had over 600 plate appearances since 2012. While it's occasionally been a case of tough luck like his 2015 run-in with the outfield wall, Ramirez has had multiple shoulder surgeries and a long history of dealing with nagging injuries.

On the bright side, with David Ortiz now retired and the Red Sox signing Mitch Moreland, Ramirez should slide into the designated hitter role more often, which should help keep him fresh and out of harm's way.

Last year proves that a full season's worth of at-bats is still in the possible range of outcomes, and while it's best to keep expectations in check, there's hope he can come closer to 600 plate appearances than not.

I Catch A Beat Running Like Randy Moss

Remember when Ramirez used to run like Randy Moss and steal 50 bases? Well, you can be forgiven if you don't. That was a long, long time ago.

As recently as 2014, you could still pencil in double-digit stolen bases for Ramirez. He has only managed stolen base totals of six and nine in his two years with the Red Sox. Don't expect that to go up and is now entering his age-33 season. Despite staying healthy in 2016, Ramirez only attempted 12 steals.

The good news is since he resides in the traditionally slow-footed first basemen ranks these days, outside the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and Wil Myers, any stolen bases are usually considered a bonus.

And If You Don't Know, Now You Know

Last season proved that Ramirez's skills as a hitter haven't declined yet, and health permitting, a repeat of last year's 30 home runs and 100-plus RBI are well within reach. Of course, the health remains a big if, but it looks like that's already being factored into his draft day price.

According to current NFBC average draft position data, Ramirez looks like he'll be slotted well outside the top 50 overall, going somewhere between the sixth and ninth rounds in 12-team leagues.

Using Steamer projections, how does Ramirez compare with other first basemen in his price range?

Chris Davis 619 36 83 94 2 .231
Hanley Ramirez 532 23 71 82 6 .282
Eric Hosmer 639 22 77 85 5 .278
Carlos Santana 643 26 93 78 6 .254
Albert Pujols 521 25 65 79 3 .267

As you can see, even with only 532 projected plate appearances, Ramirez's numbers fall right in line with the rest of this group, and he won't sink you in batting average like Chris Davis, particularly during a time when paying up for home runs may no longer be necessary. With the potential for another 100 plate appearances added on top of this, Ramirez may very well have the highest ceiling of this tier.

If you decide to wait on first base in your draft, there is some clear value in taking a chance on Ramirez, especially if he drops to the eighth or ninth round. Sure, he could very well disappoint with another abridged campaign, but given what it will cost, he won't kill your team even if it comes to that.

The potential reward could have you saying "now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay" by the end of the season.