Cleveland Indians: Jose Ramirez Playing Like an All-Star

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the biggest surprises for the Cleveland Indians this year has been breakout star Jose Ramirez. He’s been the Tribe’s best offensive player to date and one could easily the case that he’s been the team’s most valuable player over the first two months of the season. Despite that, Ramirez still appears to be an afterthought when it comes to the All-Star game, but Ramirez may be more likely to make the team than many realize. 

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Are the Numbers Good Enough?

The first thing most look at when considering what position player is or isn’t an All-Star is offensive numbers.  Despite coming off a rather disappointing 2015 season that saw him hit just .219/.291/.340 in 97 games, Ramirez has been the Tribe’s best offensive player in 2016. Through the June 1st, Ramirez is hitting a stout .315/.391/.463. He has a team-leading 136 wRC+ and has walked more than he’s struck out in 45 games and 170 plate appearances.

His offensive numbers stack up nicely compared to the American League as well. His 136 wRC+ is the 19th best in the American League, just ahead of Mookie Betts and Jose Bautista, among others.  For those that may not be as big a fan of metrics like wRC+, Jose Ramirez ranks 10th in the American League with his .315 batting average. His .391 on-base percentage ranks eighth in the league as well. He also has the lowest strikeout rate among all qualified hitters at just 8.8%.

Outside of just offensive numbers, many will (correctly) look at Wins Above Replacement to see which players have been the best overall in the league. Per Fangraphs, Jose Ramirez is 17th in WAR at 1.7 this year.  Of the 16 players ahead of Ramirez, none have fewer than 200 plate appearances (Ramirez has just 170). Needless to say, Ramirez has been one of the best and most valuable overall players in the league. The numbers say he is definitely worthy of being an All-Star, or at worst in the conversation.

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But Can He Actually Get Picked?

Most know how the All-Star selection works. Fans get to vote in the position player starters. After that, players pick most of the remaining with the managers getting final picks, making sure that every team gets at least one representative. There are some other rules mixed in, but that’s the gist of it. The players on the ballots for fans to choose from are set before the season begins and Jose Ramirez does not appear on the ballot at any position. This isn’t to say fans can’t vote him in (you’re allowed to write-in votes), but it means that Ramirez has zero chance of getting to the All-Star game in that fashion, no matter how worthy he may be.

That leaves the players and managerial choices. For all the hate fans get for who they vote in, players tend to be just as bad, if not worse, at picking who gets in. They will tend to go with more established players and/or cater to players the media deems worthy over the ones that are actually playing the best. That’s not to say they don’t make good choices from time-to-time or that the players couldn’t vote in Ramirez, but despite Ramirez actually outplaying a guy like Lindor at the moment, players would probably pick Lindor as the Tribe’s representative over Ramirez.

That could leave just the managerial vote, which is where a guy like Jose Ramirez could really get strong consideration for the team.  The American League will once again be managed by Ned Yost, as the Royals once again are the defending American League champions. Last season, Yost, in somewhat of a controversial move, picked super-utility man Brock Holt as the Red Sox representative. While Brock Holt put up some good numbers, Xander Bogaerts was probably the better choice from Boston. However, Yost raved about Holt’s versatility in the field and how having a guy like him on the bench could be an asset in a game that decides home-field advantage in the World Series (which the Royals benefited from).

"“What impressed me about Brock Holt is his versatility,” Yost said Monday night on ESPN’s All-Star selection show. “I think that super utility guys should be celebrated. He’s played seven positions for the Boston Red Sox this year. He’s put up really good offensive numbers (while) moving around the field.”“When you’re putting together a team, versatility is important,” Yost said. “You can put Brock Holt at any position and feel comfortable in the middle of the game. I just felt like he was very deserving of making the All-Star team.”"

While Ramirez hasn’t shown quite the versatility that Holt showed last year, he has played four different positions this season (2B, 3B, SS, and LF), and played a fifth in spring training (CF). If Yost is looking to fill out his roster the same way as he did in 2015, is there a better fit than Jose Ramirez?

Not only is Ramirez versatile like Holt, but he’s been much better offensively (to this point) than Holt was in the first half of 2015. Here’s a quick look at how their numbers compare:

There’s still several weeks til the All-Star game but it’s pretty clear who the better hitter/player is in this comparison…

Even if Yost wasn’t looking for a versatile player to fill out his roster, Ramirez is someone that in all honesty should be considered. He currently ranks second in the American League in WAR among left fielders, behind only Ian Desmond of the Texas Rangers (who has since moved to center field). Ramirez ranks first among American League left fielders in both batting average and on-base percentage, while he ranks third in wRC+ behind Brandon Guyer and Michael Saunders.

Some could argue that Ramirez isn’t a true left fielder, having played so much infield but consider that he’s started more game in left field (24) than all three infield positions combined (14) this year. If you had to pick a position designation for Ramirez it would have to be left field right, and right now, he’s easily been one of the top two or three in the American League. Not too shabby for a guy that was an infielder a year ago…

No Matter How You Look At It, Ramirez is an All-Star Right Now

The beautiful thing about Jose Ramirez this year is he’s doing it all. Playing solid defense, hitting, running, and showing off his versatility. He’s at the top of the leaderboard not only in sabermetric categories (wRC+, WAR) but traditional categories as well (AVG, OBP).  He’s been the best offensive player on the Indians and outside of maybe Lindor has been the best overall position player. One could easily point to a guy like Danny Salazar and say he should be the only Cleveland Indians representative as he has had a great year too, but if you want to pick the one guy on the Indians that would be their “MVP” the answer is Jose Ramirez.

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Of course, it is only June 2, and the All-Star game isn’t until July so lots can change between now and then. Perhaps Ramirez cools off a lot and he reverts back to the hitter he was in 2015. But just watching Ramirez this year and he looks a lot more like the player that was a top prospect in the game versus the struggling infielder we saw last year. Ramirez has always had “star power” in him and it’s showing to this point, and hopefully for him it translates into an All-Star nod. He’s definitely earned it and belongs on the team.