Fantasy Baseball: Wilson Ramos Should Immediately Be a Top Option at Catcher
The lack of quality offensive catchers in Major League Baseball -- specifically for the purposes of fantasy -- was a big topic heading into the 2017 season. As owners tried to figure out what to do with that spot on their rosters, their offensive options were pretty limited.
Part of the reason for that was one of the best offensive backstops in the game, Wilson Ramos, was going to miss the first half of the season after undergoing offseason knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. He was in the midst of a career year before getting hurt in the final week of the 2016 campaign, hitting .307/.354/.496 in 131 games for the Washington Nationals, which included 22 home runs, 80 RBI, a .361 wOBA and a 124 wRC+.
That performance was worth 3.5 fWAR, which was tied for the third-most among qualified catchers. A player in his situation -- being a pending free agent -- would normally look to score a big payday based off what he just did on the field, but the ACL injury killed any mega-deal that he could've gotten because he was expected to miss a significant chunk of this season.
However, he did land a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, who were banking on him returning by midseason and once again becoming one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. And now, Ramos is officially back, a bit ahead of schedule, and he should be the top waiver target of virtually every fantasy owner this week.
It's not hard to see why. The catcher position has lived up to its preseason billing as the worst in fantasy baseball. The below table shows the top 20 catchers so far this year, as ranked by fWAR. There are great options at the top, but the drop-off in production happens rather quickly.
|Russell Martin||Blue Jays||7||.220||.374||.390||.342||111||1|
If he plays like he did last year and can stay healthy, it's reasonable to believe he can be a top-five or top-seven catcher in fantasy for the rest of the season, which would be a terrific midseason addition to rosters who are in the mix for potential playoff spots.
Of course, Ramos will have to do the things that made him so effective last year, such as laying off pitches out of the zone -- his 30.2% chase rate in 2016 was a career low, while his swinging-strike rate of 9.1% was significantly lower than it was the year before (12.1%).
That improved plate discipline allowed him to get better pitches to hit, and he hit them a lot harder last season. Ramos' hard-hit rate settled in at 35.4%, which was a drastic improvement from what he did in 2015 (26.4%) and 2014 (27.5%).
Ramos is a top-shelf offensive talent at a position that clearly doesn't have many. His return to the everyday lineup will be a huge boost to the Rays, and to whichever fantasy owners are able to outbid for him in their season-long leagues.