“[Jose Ramirez] is an All-Star baseman. If I were to have told you that four years ago, you’d have been scratching your head, ‘Wait. The guy who is playing second base and is known for his defense? He’s an All-Star third baseman?’”
Those words were spoken by Cleveland Indians team president Chris Antonetti, who went on to say that “development isn’t always a linear process; it’s difficult to predict where guys are going to end up.”
That’s certainly true for Ramirez, who will start at the hot corner for the American League in tonight’s midsummer classic. As Antonetti alluded to, the expectations for the Dominican native were quite different just a handful of years ago. The 2013 Baseball America Prospect Handbook opined that Ramirez has “little power and limited physical projection,” and that he “lacks a high ceiling.”
Feel free to put that scouting report in the shredder, because the 5-foot-9 Ramirez’s ceiling currently resembles that of the Sistine Chapel. The 24-year-old infielder heads into the break with a .332/.388/.601 slash line, and — drum roll, please — an eye-opening 17 home runs. Ramirez has, quite simply, developed into a star.
He isn’t exactly verbose when it comes to talking about his emergence as an offensive force. At least that was the case when I spoke to him — with the assistance of Indians translator extraordinaire Anna Bolton — prior to a recent game. But while Ramirez wasn’t particularly forthcoming, he did share a few a noteworthy nuggets.
Ramirez told me that he “started swinging from both sides” when he was 11 years old and that he “always wanted to be Jose Reyes.” Asked why, he explained that he simply liked his countryman’s style.
The parallels are plain to see — each is a switch-hitting infielder who plays with flair — but Ramirez is turning into something his idol has never been. Poised to eclipse Reyes’s career high in home runs (19) with nearly half a season to go, Ramirez is suddenly a bopper. It’s not by design. He claimed to have never talked to his coaches about launch angles, or even about hitting more balls in the air, only about “other things, like how long my swing is.”
His approach at the plate is simple. Ramirez reads reports and watches video, but at the same time, he “doesn’t like to overthink.” He just looks for a good pitch to hit, and if he sees something he likes, he swings. If the ball happens to leave the yard, so be it.
“I’ve never tried to be a power hitter,” Ramirez told me. “The more home runs are something that has happened with more experience and hard work. I’ve always tried to be the kind of hitter who puts the ball in play and get hits. I just try to do my job.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t embrace the dinger. When I asked Ramirez if he’d like to be a 30-home-run hitter someday, his response was, “Of course. I’ve never been like that, but anybody would like to be that person.”
Four years after being viewed as something completely different, he is well on his way to being exactly that. As Antonetti said, “It’s difficult to predict where guys are going to end up.” Jose Ramirez has become a beast with the bat — and an All-Star third baseman.
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.