Cleveland Indians: Who is Jose Ramirez?

Since Jose Ramirez debuted with the team in 2013 the Cleveland Indians have pieced together three consecutive seasons better than any other year since their 96-win season in 2007. In that time he has only played 180 games with 635 at-bats. So the Indians’ success is a bit more coincidental than I led on a few words earlier, but the point holds. That’s the type of player Ramirez is. He won’t be mashing to the tune of Bryce Harper or leading off like Jose Altuve, but if your team needs something in a pinch, Jose Ramirez is a coveted option to fill in.

That’s exactly what Ramirez does for the Indians and he is near-perfect in that role.

In his 15-game trial run in 2013 as a 20-year-old, Ramirez hit .333 with a pair of walks in just 14 plate appearances — and saw time at second base, shortstop and third base in his short stay in Cleveland.

In 2014 he spent additional time at shortstop and second base, and added to his do-it-all, team-first resume. Ramirez led the league — in just 68 games — with 13 sacrifice bunts, added two sacrifice flies and grounded into just three double plays. He stole 10 of 11 bases, had 14 extra-base hits and held a respectable .262 batting average.

He strengthened his argument as a necessary player on a 25-man roster last season when he added outfield to his repertoire. Earning time at third base again, Ramirez saw action in the grass as well. His average plummeted to .219, but he posted a sound BB/K ratio (32/39). He again stole 10 bases and bumped his extra-base hits to 23 in 97 games.

Ramirez has been that same guy in the early going of this season, too. Paul Hoynes, the Cleveland Indians beat writer for even highlighted his role and increased importance to start this season. And Ramirez hasn’t disappointed.

He’s hitting fastballs about as hard as he ever has in the past year, nearly identical to the way he was hitting last September — a month where he raised his batting average nearly 20 points.

Jose Ramirez' average batted ball speeds by pitch type from April 1, 2015 to April 20, 2016. Graphic via brooks

Jose Ramirez’ average batted ball speeds by pitch type from April 1, 2015 to April 20, 2016. Graphic via brooks

His .410 SLG is fourth highest on the Indians, and his average — of those four — is second to only sophomore phenom Francisco Lindor. His average among all Indians with at least 25 at-bats ranks third on the team, again behind Lindor and Jason Kipnis. He is one of five players on the team with 10 hits, but has at least eight at-bats less than each of them. He has added another eight games — seven starts — in the outfield with an additional four games at third base.

This is the same player who — signed as an amateur free agent at age 18 — spent three seasons in the Cleveland Indians minor league system. He holds a career .304 AVG in 335 minor league games. This includes a 113/123 BB/K ratio, 101 stolen bases, and playing time at the four aforementioned positions and center field.

In a 2013 article by Stephanie Storm of the Beacon Journal, the Akron Aeros’ (now RubberDucks) — the Double-A affiliate of the Indians — hitting coach Jim Rickon had this to say about Ramirez:

“…He doesn’t try to do too much. He knows who he is as a player and how he fits on the team and he helps you win with what he brings to the table.”

There may not be a more fitting description of the super utility player. Ramirez won’t knock your socks off at any one thing that he does, but he does a bunch of things suitably … and he does lots of things.

Ramirez probably doesn’t project to ever be a 150-game starter at any one position, but that’s OK. Earning playing time in north of 100 games per season at a handful of different positions, whether it’s to give another player a day off, as an injury fill-in, a late-game defensive replacement, or just some additional time because he’s playing well, Ramirez’ value doesn’t have to come as an everyday starter.

But one thing is for certain, his value during a six-month long season is felt nearly everyday and the Cleveland Indians are the current beneficiary.

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