Wilson Ramos proves Cleveland Indians catchers can still hit
Entering Saturday night (Aug. 7) the Cleveland Indians had virtually no offensive production from the catcher position all season. The team had played a total of four different players behind the plate and none of them had been able to get it going at the plate. In fact, catchers for the Tribe this season entered batting .180/.246/.313 with 132 strikeouts and just 41 RBI, arguably the worst position group on the team at the dish.
Enter Wilson Ramos. On July 6, Cleveland signed Ramos to a minor league contract after he was released by the Detroit Tigers on June 20. For the Tribe, Ramos was just an insurance policy with Rene Rivera being released a few days later. Fast forward a month to Aug. 6 and the move paid off for the Tribe.
Once again, Roberto Perez hit the injured list and the team was in need of another catcher. With Ryan Lavarnway on the inactive list, playing in the Olympics with Team USA, Cleveland selected the contract of Ramos, and just in time to face his former team, Detroit.
At 33-years old, Ramos’ stop in Cleveland marks his seventh major league team across a 12-year career at the big league level. An All-Star appearance in 2016 with the Washington Nationals and again in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays, Ramos has been had a strong career with recent flashes.
Those flashes have been appearing in Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus over the last month as well. In 60 at-bats for the Clippers, Ramos was able to slash .317/.328/.517 with three doubles, three home runs and nine RBI. He also struck out just six times while drawing a walk. Luckily, his bat made a quick transition to Cleveland when he was called on.
In his first game with the Tribe, Ramos was placed seventh in the batting order and proved to have the best night of anyone in the lineup. He went 3-for-4, including a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth that ended up being Cleveland’s lone run in the 2-1 loss. Ramos was also able to aid a pitching unit that gave up just two runs, seven hits and a single walk.
To put into perspective how rare the offensive outburst was from the catcher position, Ramos’ three hits was just the third time this season a catcher has had three hits in a game for the Tribe and just the 12th time a catcher has had a multiple hit game this season. Rene Rivera had two three-hit games, one in May and one in June. Roberto Perez had two hits back on July 10, Ryan Lavarnway had two on June 17 and Austin Hedges has logged two hits in a game seven times this season.
The point, though, is that in one game Wilson Ramos did something for the Tribe that only Rene Rivera has been able to do this season. Hit the ball for a base hit three times in one game. The fact Perez has just one multiple-hit game is concerning in itself.
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The strong night from Ramos shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. He’s been a solid hitter over the course of his career, having a slash line of .271/.319/.432. The above average career numbers paired with a hot start in Columbus indicated that a surge at the plate could come with his call-up. However, it raises questions for the rest of the season for the position and beyond.
A late scratch on Aug. 4 with right shoulder inflammation, it’s hard telling when Perez will be able to get back in the lineup. If Ramos can keep up this play they might not want to rush Perez back at all. So far this season, he’s been the worst offensive catcher to play a game in a Cleveland uniform, slashing an awful .136/.246/.318 with only 15 RBI on two doubles and six home runs.
Obviously Perez’s draw is his defensive ability and high baseball IQ, but when the offensive production isn’t there at all, it’s hard to keep him on the roster. Given that Ramos can match much of Perez’s ability behind the plate, a continued showcase of better skills at the plate could make for a difficult decision by the front office.
With a club option for $7 million next season, Perez could be on the chopping block, especially for a team looking to save money. He’s only a year younger than Ramos, but Ramos is making about $5 million less this season. Should Ramos be able to even just match Perez in all areas, it might push the front office to cut ties with Perez and keep Ramos instead to save money for essentially the same production, maybe even an improvement.