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Roster review: Wilson Ramos

Oct 19, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 28

How acquired: Trade from Twins for RHP Matt Capps, July 2010

MLB service time: 5 years, 47 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $3.55 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2017

2015 stats: 128 G, 504 PA, 41 R, 109 H, 16 2B, 0 3B, 15 HR, 68 RBI, 0 SB, 21 BB, 101 SO, .229 AVG, .258 OBP, .358 SLG, .616 OPS, 6 E, 44% CS rate, 0.8 WAR

Quotable: “I’ve been working really, really hard to be healthy to be behind the plate for a lot of games. And this year I did it well. It makes me feel good, because I’m doing what I was working for. It feels really good.” — Wilson Ramos

2015 analysis: Wilson Ramos’ goal entering 2015 was simple: Avoid significant injury for the first time in his major-league career and catch at least 120 games. He was successful in that regard, never landing on the DL and getting behind the plate 125 times (seventh-most in baseball).

It’s not just that Ramos was behind the plate, though. He was effective back there, as well. His 3.43 catcher’s ERA ranked fourth in the majors. His 44.4 percent caught-stealing rate tied Russell Martin for the majors’ best. And, of course, he played his role in both of Max Scherzer’s no-hitters, the third he caught in his team’s last 162 games.

At the plate, though, Ramos was inconsistent. He went through a few hot stretches, delivered several of the season’s biggest hits (including his Labor Day grand slam against the Mets) and produced 68 RBI as a catcher (most in the NL). But his batting average, on-base percentage and OPS as a catcher all ranked last in the NL.

2016 outlook: Ramos has proven he can make it through an entire season intact, but here’s the question: Is he actually better off playing a little bit less? Ramos’ offensive production dropped this year. He showed at times in the past he was more productive when not catching every day; perhaps he might recapture some of that if catching, say, four times a week instead of five.

Ramos’ defensive reputation sometimes gets knocked because of his struggles receiving throws from outfielders and relay men on plays at the plate. To be sure, that has always been a problem area for him. But he has established himself as a very good game-caller and thrower, and that certainly counts for something.

The Nationals do face something of a decision this winter, though: Ramos is entering his walk year. Do they believe he is worth locking up to an extension? Do they figure they’ll let him leave as a free agent next offseason? Or would they consider exploring offers for him right now and seeing what they could get in return for a catcher who might not be part of the organization beyond 2016 anyway?

  1. JayB - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:02 AM

    trade for what you can get and upgrade…..just like the manager, training staff and Terrance….big changes needed to change the culture of this organization…..need hungry guys not comfortable guys.

    • wskyrnr21 - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:16 PM

      Right on Jay B!

    • natstater - Oct 20, 2015 at 1:40 PM

      What are they getting for Terrance?

  2. chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    It doesn’t seem there any viable change from the Ramos-Lobaton combo behind the plate. Ramos has actually developed into a very good defensive catcher; a position which is largely seen as defensive oriented. Ramos was mostly bad at the plate last season, despite a couple of timely big hits. But, he was decent at the plate in 2014, he is also young and relatively cheap. Given the circumstances, including the lack of upgrades through the Nats system and Free Agency (Wieters-?; injury problem and old- Pierzynski- ?; old and likely will regress from 2015), I would give Ramos another chance to see if he can put it all together- durability, offense, and defense.

    • veejh - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:24 AM

      Any slight uptick we gain with the bat will be a downtick in defense. I say give him another year and hope Severino ends up working out. 2016 might end up being a mini rebuild/wait for some MiLB players to develop to fill the holes year.

    • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:17 PM

      Lets promote Severino and trade Ramos for what we can get. He was the slowest base runner on the team. Lobaton hit near 300 in the part of 2014 where he was the everyday catcher. I would like to see him and Severino 50 – 50.

      • senators5 - Oct 19, 2015 at 8:11 PM

        I would say he was the slowest in MLB. With all the data freaks out there, is there a stat for the slowest runners? WR certainly would be near the top.

  3. ArVAFan - Oct 19, 2015 at 8:20 AM

    At 0.8 WAR and $3.55M, he looks to be priced about right, and unless someone corrects me, there aren’t a lot of great free agent catchers this year (maybe none). Maybe instead of a new catcher, we need a new manager who will maximize his current value by not overusing him, and spend the available dollars on more desperately needed improvements (i.e. bullpen). For a team that’s built around good pitching, and a lot of other expected turnover on and off the field, I would hesitate to change the primary catcher (Max might have something to say about that: unless you eliminate the four-letter words, and in that case he might have nothing to say).

    There’s a difference between building a great roster and building a great team. I see Ramos as a valuable part of both this coming year. Of course, the only opinion that matters is Rizzo’s, and we’ll see what he does in due time.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      +1

    • janebeard - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:56 AM

      Totally agree. There will be way too much turnover on this team this spring. Keeping the Buffalo matters.

  4. rgsie - Oct 19, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    He can hit and that’s important.

    • wskyrnr21 - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:19 PM

      .229 is hitting?

  5. natsguy - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:15 AM

    I would have to dispute that about Ramos being a good pitch caller. He also has issues with blocking pitches in the dirt. I do not agree that he is a good defensive catcher.

    • veejh - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:26 AM

      I thought someone posted that he was one of the best at blocking pitches in the dirt. I’ll agree he’s awful at fielding plays at the plate.

      • adcwonk - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:31 AM

        Yep — a short while back a few of us noted an article that cited some advanced stats regarding Ramos’ passed balls, and how many WP’s he prevented, etc. Ramos came out near, or perhaps at the very top, of NL catchers.

        If I recall correctly . . .

    • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:05 AM

      Ok, well, you may dispute that he is a good defensive catcher, but all the catcher metrics (as flawed as they may be) have him as a top MLB catcher.

    • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      +2 and he can’t run. We have Severino and Lobaton, trade Ramos for what you can get.

  6. langleyclub - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    Matt Wieters is a free agent, and there are rumors that the Nats will be involved. He is not the superstar that he was projected to be, but is a more productive bat than Ramos, and is a switch hitter which could help balance the Nats lineup.

    Wieters made $8.3 million in 2015, and will be looking for a lot more. One red flag for Wieters is that after playing 130+ games each year for 4 years between 2010 and 2013, Wieters has missed a lot of time over the last two years. Wieters is represented by Boras who apparently has a direct line to the Lerner’s bat phone; so, you know that Boras will be talking to the Nats about how much Wieters could help.

    Ramos is arbitration eligible this off-season, and he will likely get a raise above the $3.5 million that he made in 2015. Would guess Ramos will make in the $5 to $6 million range in 2016, and Wieters will make between $10 and 12 million in 2016, possibly more. So, if the Nats do make a play for Wieters, they will need to decide if it’s worth the extra money sign Wieters and trade Ramos. I would like to see the Nats land Wieters, but scary that he has only played in 101 games the last two years.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      Remember, though, that in signing an FA like Matt Wieters, you’re going to be committing that money for at least four years.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:09 AM

      AJ was good last season, but bad in 2014. He will also turn 39 in December. You really want to take a risk on him for a multi-year deal in the +$10 – 15 million range???

    • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Weiters can’t stay healthy and he’s only really had one impressive offensive season. 80-90 games of average offense seems more likely from him. I think we can risk getting the same production for longer from Ramos.

  7. catcher50 - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    Twenty years ago, Ramos would have been considered a +, if not ++ catcher. Now, there is an emphasis on pitch framing (this will disappear if and/or when MLB goes to electronic calls of balls & strikes) because every team has multiple pitchers can throw at 95+ and umpires go more by where they think that the catcher caught the ball. This is, however, a learnable skill.

    If Ramos can learn to be a better framer and his workload is reduced (he was visibly tired at the end of the year), the current combo is fine. That is invalidated if the Nats can get Wieters, who is a free agent, but probably only a 2 or three year solution.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 20, 2015 at 2:30 PM

      FWIW Ramos is rated as about league average as a pitch framer; if anything, slightly above. Wieters, OTOH, is a terrible framer.

  8. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 19, 2015 at 9:44 AM

    This all comes down to context and comparison. If you compare Wilson Ramos to Johnny Bench or Buster Posey you’re going to be disappointed. If you compare him to the readily available alternatives — particularly at his 2016 salary — he looks an awful lot better. Only a very few teams in any given season can look to their catcher(s) for real and significant offensive production (on a consistent, week by week basis). A lot of us (including yours truly) expected Mr. Ramos to become one of those. That he hasn’t, doesn’t make him a failure or mean that he’s expendable, unless your repacement is truly an upgrade in overall value. He’s an average to slightly-above-average MLB catcher. And that’s not a bad player to have on your team.

    • veejh - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:09 AM

      I wonder if the Lerner’s are still in “win now” mode, or if they are willing to accept that 2016 is a mini rebuild year?

      • npb99 - Oct 19, 2015 at 12:03 PM

        We may lose Harper after 3 years. That means we really don’t have time to rebuild. Every year is a must-win.

    • joemktg - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:11 AM

      Do you extend, do you let him play through his walk year or do you trade?

      • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:06 PM

        Depends on their/your evaluation of Mr. Severino. I’ll defer to others who’ve seen him and followed his development.

  9. jd - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Defense was fine. Hitting brutal. .258 OBP is not acceptable from a regular. My hunch is we hope for a bounce back year and will see how Severino develops through next year.

    Spending tons of money on the bullpen is a terrible idea. Look at the 4 teams still standing. Toronto, NY and Chicago all have home grown or cheap solutions in the bullpen. KC’s closer is a converted starter who was basically an after thought in the Shields for Myers trade. We have to upgrade the bullpen but not by throwing money at it. The next closer might be Rivero or it might be A.J. Cole or it might be someone we acquire in a quiet trade. Spend the money on a big time left handed bat.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:13 AM

      Agreed, but where do you play an expensive big time LH bat?

      • jd - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:19 AM

        2 possibilities:

        1) In right field, moving Harper to center field and Taylor as the main sub.
        2) Creating a 3 man rotation with Werth and Taylor.

  10. Section 222 - Oct 19, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    I’d be very surprised if Ramos isn’t the primary catcher next year. One of the problems is that MW saw him as a middle of the order bat, and he just wasn’t. Accept that he’s a mediocre hitter and bat him 7th or 8th and improve the lineup elsewhere. Definitely say no to Weiters — his bat just isn’t good enough and his arm is way too weak to justify the likely expense.

    It surprises me that he’s ranked so highly defensively, but I’m not going to argue with the numbers. And the thrown out stealing percentage is very impressive, and valuable. In Ramos/Lobo we have a solid pair that our pitching staff works well with. I do think that will pay dividends.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      +++

    • jd - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      The concern is how much Ramos has regressed offensively. He was somewhat unlucky, his BABIP was .256 against a career avg of .281 but this only partially explains the drop to a .258 OBP from a career avg of .301.

      Could he have been playing too much? maybe. I think it’s reasonable to give him 1 more year to see who the real Wilson Ramos is and to allow Severino to develop more but I don’t think Ramos will be worth the big bucks once he gets to free agency.

      I am going to disagree with you about Wieters, his OBP is a consistent .320 year after year which makes him a way better hitter than Ramos. His arm is far from weak. Injuries have caused him to have down years in 14 and 15 but still better than Ramos. I wouldn’t spend the money on him either especially since we are in the process of developing a good young catcher but I wouldn’t mind a veteran like LuCroy or Pierzynski to help bridge the gap.

      • Section 222 - Oct 19, 2015 at 12:12 PM

        Good points, and I largely agree. I definitely would not sign Ramos to a long term deal. My aversion to Wieters is mostly because he’s a FA and will cost a lot and likely require a long term commitment.

        Hey, if Lucroy were available I’d love to have him on the Nats. But as far as I know, he’s not– not without looting the farm. Not so sure about AJ. Do you think he’ll continue to hit like he did this year? He’s going to be 39!

      • Sweet. Fancy. Charles. - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        Pierzynski would be especially useful if they bring Papelbon back. Maybe sit them next to each other and both problems get solved.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 21, 2015 at 8:14 AM

        haHA!

        ===

        Sweet. Fancy. Charles. – Oct 19, 2015 at 3:56 PM

        Pierzynski would be especially useful if they bring Papelbon back. Maybe sit them next to each other and both problems get solved.

  11. trfwans - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    James Wagner in the other paper recently had a write up on the Nats catcher situation. He pointed out that Ramos played more games than ever before in his career and his offense suffered for that. He also pointed out that Lobaton wasn’t too great offensively either, probably due to lack of playing time. Seems like a smart manager might have been able to come up with a workaround for that. Unfortunately we didn’t have one last year.

    • jd - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:41 AM

      That’s a fair point. I am not sold on Lobaton although it appeared that Gio worked well with him.

      • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:25 PM

        When Loby played every day in 2014 he was hitting 299. I’ll take that anyday froom my eight a LHB catcher batting 7 0r 8. Severino is good defensively with more pop. Play them 50 -50 and move on. We have guys behind him on the depth chart that are available for emergencies and when Loby drops off. Spencer Kieboom has been a power hitting prospect.

  12. raleighnat - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    Letting Ramos play through to free agency seems the way to go to me. Solid if not spectacular. Good upside if managed well and bounces back. Worse case we have normal catchers. More pressing needs than an upgrade here.

  13. donniebenth - Oct 19, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    After all the injuries, numerous people implored Wilson to temper his hustle to try to stay healthy.

    He did… on both accounts.

    And, it is possible that his production suffered as a result. How many double plays did he hit into? How many times did he not run out a borderline infield hit? How many times did he not go from first to third or stretch a ball hit into the gap into a double (and therefore leave him as canon fodder for a double play on first base)?

    I guess it is a trade off. Getting it right seems to be the difference between a long, healthy career and the alternative.

    To me, it’s not just the OPS, but the other liabilities that his offense brings due to lack of speed (both natural and self-imposed).

    I’m torn on Wilson. I like him a lot and want him to succeed… but it’s getting late early in his career.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      Even going flat out, full speed, I’m pretty sure those DPs would have still been DPs.

  14. philipd763 - Oct 19, 2015 at 1:21 PM

    If Lobaton had a better bat, Ramos could take more time off and his performance might improve both behind the plate and on offense. Clearly, last season he was overworked, especially at the end of the season when the Nats were out of contention.

    • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 3:27 PM

      Lobaton has a better bat, but needs to play every other day. When Ramos was on DL in 2014 Loby hit 299.

      • jd - Oct 19, 2015 at 4:13 PM

        Lobaton hit .299 in his dreams. In 2014 hi hit .234 .287 .304 which is awful.

      • trfwans - Oct 19, 2015 at 5:50 PM

        What part of “when Ramos was on DL in 2014” did you not understand?

  15. Joe Seamhead - Oct 19, 2015 at 5:49 PM

    I was always a Wilson Ramos fan, but in my opinion he is the epitome of the guy that is over-rated by the hometown fan base, stats be damned. I remember a year when the O’s won with Rick Dempsey behind the plate, and he was a horrible hitter, but he handled the pitching staff. I can deal with a catcher that doesn’t hit, but is Wilson really all that good at calling a game? I used to think so, but am no longer so sure.and like Pudge, call a lot of fastballs and you throw a lot of base runners out. I also think he could be a lot better consistently receiving throws to the plate from the outfield. And am I the only one tired of watching the jog to first base? And,no, I am not ignorant, nor insensitive, to his hamstring issues, but this issue is a place where the Nats could improve.

    I am not going to look it up, but who was that guy the Orioles signed to take Dempsey’s starting spot? How’d that work out?

    • trfwans - Oct 19, 2015 at 5:55 PM

      If Ramos hadn’t been through the whole kidnapping thing, and if he didn’t have the catchy “audience participation” walk up song, Nats fans would have been calling for his head long ago. He plays like Danny Espinosa with Michael Morse’s lovable cuddly reputation.

      • veejh - Oct 19, 2015 at 5:58 PM

        Willllllllllllssssooonnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • chaz11963 - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:11 PM

        Ramos has become a very good defensive catcher. Yeah, he was bad this year at the plate. But, he was decent last year. If he can just be decent again at the plate, he will be a top all around catcher, since the position is traditionally not relied upon for offense.

      • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:22 PM

        Danny Espinosa is the SS in 2016 and last year he gave us production that was better than Desmond if you extrapolate for equal plate appearances with a slightly better BA but w/o the highs and lows. One hr more than Desi, fewer k’s, much less errors, more flexibility ( you can get GG defense at almost every position there is, and more BB than Desi. Even with arbitration he is a huge bargain and one of the main reasons we were number one in the division before the return of the “regulars”..

  16. ArVAFan - Oct 19, 2015 at 6:38 PM

    Hmm. Bringing up the Venezuela connection reminds me: I didn’t get to meet Ramos, but have spent some time chatting with his family down in Viera. Once Mama Ramos found out that one of the group I was with was from Venezuela, she called all the Venezuelan players over to sign his baseball. Apparently no one messes with Mama Ramos. Her English is quite good, as she spends a fair amount of time in the US (probably safer that way). Met one of his brothers, too.

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 19, 2015 at 6:50 PM

      Again, I have always been a Ramos fan, and I think the original trade was one of Rizzo’s best. That said, I also think that he has holes in his game that may, or may not, be correctable.I love his persona, but I have reservations regarding parts of his game.That said? I have no ideas as to who would be available as an improvement for him.

  17. sunshinebobby - Oct 19, 2015 at 7:45 PM

    I just don’t understand all this love for Wilson. I mean, I know the guy’s been through a lot in his personal life, and we’re grateful he and his family are all right.

    But on the field, he has regressed, and he’s going to regress more. Anybody who thinks he’s an “excellent defensive catcher” needs to recall how he butchers throws from the outfield. Poor Harp. He probably could have had at least three more outfield assists — if Wilson could catch a ball and tag a baserunner. But he has consistently shown he cannot do both.

    Kudos on him playing 125 games. And he does OK throwing out baserunners. But I think Loby is a much better handler of pitchers, though he doesn’t hit a lick.

    Don’t kid ourselves: catcher is perhaps out weakest position. I would have loved to have seen more of Severino. But of course, Matty kept playing Ramos even after we were mathematically eliminated. Wieters would be an upgrade, but probably not worth the cost.

    I’d dangle Ramos with Esco and see if that’s enough to land a) a quality catcher or b) a reliable 8th inning guy.

    I believe if we start 2016 with Ramos as our regular catcher, we’re in trouble.

    I hope I’m wrong. But I don’t think so.

    • veejh - Oct 19, 2015 at 8:17 PM

      OK at throwing baserunners out? I think he was the best, if not, he’s 2nd best in the NL. Holding runners at 1st is probably the most important defensive metric, imho.

      • infideljack - Oct 19, 2015 at 11:29 PM

        He still never was even average at fielding balls thrown home. His record for PO’s is abysmal and he is arguably the worts NL base runner. Lobaton frames pitches better and imo calls a better game. When Loby got regular sarts during the WR DL or 2014, he hit for a 299 BA. Give him half the AB’s and days behind the plate and Ramos is not even a close second. We now have a serious replacement in Severino. Buh bye Wilson…hope someone else buys your potential and rewards us with a young prospect that helps build our future.

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