ABOUT HANLEY RAMIREZ
A year ago, Hanley Ramirez was not ready to become a part-time player. That was one of the reasons the Boston Red Sox cut him at the end of May 2018.
Here’s the deal:
1. Ramirez had a clause in his 2018 contract that if he had 497 plate appearances, his $22 million salary for 2019 would become guaranteed. Ramirez was terrific in April, batting .330 (.874 OPS) with 3 HR and 17 RBI.
2. But in May, Ramirez batted .163 (.510 OPS) with 3 HR and 12 RBI. He was 13-for-80 with 14 strikeouts. He was in an 0-for-21 slump when waived. Boston had to pay his $22 million salary in 2018 – but wanted to avoid the $22 million in 2019.
3. Was Ramirez in a slump or in decline? Boston didn’t bother to find out. The Red Sox had enough talent to win the American League without him. Ramirez did not play for anyone else in 2018. There also was a strange story about Ramirez and drugs, but it turned out to have no merit. He was never charged or even questioned.
4. In 2016, Ramirez had a monster season: 30 HR, 111 RBI, batting .286 (.866 OPS). In 2017, he batted .242 (.749 OPS) with 23 HR and 62 RBI. That’s why it was a little surprising Boston cut him after a bad May – especially given how well hit hit in April.
5. Boston believed Ramirez would not be content as a platoon player – given the need for more at-bats to trigger his $22 million option.
6. A year later, Ramirez is on a minor league contract with the Tribe. He is open to any role that would give him a big league job. The 34-year-old Ramirez batted .333 (.854 OPS) vs. lefties in 2018. From 2016-18, he was a .280 (.898 OPS) hitter vs. lefties.
7. The Indians wanted a right-handed bat with power who could help against left-handed pitching. Ramirez is mostly a DH at this stage of his career. That’s fine with the Tribe. They have Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers to play first base. Both also can play the outfield.
8. It’s a no-risk venture for the Tribe. He will be paid $1 million if he makes the team. Tribe coaches Carl Willis and Victor Rodriguez were on the Boston coaching staff when Ramirez played for the Red Sox. They gave the Tribe the green light in terms of his character.
9. The Indians scouted Ramirez this winter, where he batted .266 (.829 OPS) with 3 HR and 10 RBI in the Dominican Republic. He was playing himself back into shape after sitting out the last four months of the regular season. The Tribe saw enough to give him a chance to revive his career.
ABOUT THE TRIBE
1. The Indians are thrilled to see Leonys Martin playing and feeling completely healthy. Martin had a life-threatening bacterial infection that ended his season on Aug. 7, 2018. He was acquired from Detroit on July 31, 2018. An elite defensive center fielder, Martin was 5-for-15 with the Tribe before he became seriously ill.
2. Martin looks strong in Goodyear. This could be a big deal for the Tribe. The 30-year-old is a good hitter vs. right-handers (.279), compared to lefties (.176). Fangraphs rated Martin as the second-best defensive center fielder in the AL in 2018. Martin is 6-for-11 this spring.
3. One possibility would be to platoon Martin in center with Greg Allen. As a rookie in 2018, Allen batted .257 (.654 OPS). After the All-Star break, it was .310 (.784 OPS). He is switch-hitter. For now, Allen is playing all three outfield positions. Allen is 5-for-10 this spring.
4. The Indians are pleased with Cody Anderson, who is making a strong comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery. He is being prepared as a starter in the spring, but don’t be surprised if he helps in the bullpen during the season.
5. Another player making a good first impression in big league camp is Oscar Mercado. He was acquired last July in a minor deal with the Cardinals. The 24-year-old outfielder batted .278 (.738 OPS) with 8 HR, 47 RBI and 39 stolen bases at the Class AAA level in 2018. He was named the best defensive outfielder in the Cardinals’ farm system heading into 2018.
6. Baseball America ranks Mercado as the Tribe’s No. 16 prospect. They like his chances to eventually fill the team’s need for a right-handed batting center fielder: “Mercado has wiry strength and produces good bat speed…his average raw power mostly plays as doubles…he uses his plus speed on the bases.”
7. He’s not going to make the team, but shortstop Ernie Clement has impressed the coaching staff in spring training. He was a fourth-round pick out of Virginia in 2017. He rose three levels, ending last season at Class AA Akron. In 594 career minor league at-bats, the 22-year-old hit .286 (.711 OPS) with 2 HR and 46 RBI. He stole 24 bases. His defense has been receiving good reviews. He’ll probably open 2019 at Akron.
8. Baseball America ranked Clement as the Tribe’s No. 18 prospect, mentioning he struck out only 31 times in three college seasons with Virginia. As a pro, he has 41 walks to 35 strikeouts: “He has minimal power and instead sprays the ball all over the field. He takes advantage of his speed to get on base…his future in Cleveland is still likely as a super-utility player.”
9. Not everything in Goodyear has been upbeat. Veteran Matt Joyce went into the weekend 0-for-10 with four strikeouts. It’s early in camp, too soon to write off the 34-year-old. But he’s on a minor league contract. He’s coming off a lousy season (.208, 7 HR, 15 RBI in 207 at bats) in 2018. The clock is ticking.