.345/.402/.638/1.040; .442 wOBA; 191 wRC+; .293 ISO; unexpectedly solid defense at an extremely important defensive position (shortstop) where offense is secondary; and ~5.3 WAR. In any other season, we’d be taking about the likely MVP and certain Silver Slugger winner.
However, 2013 will largely go down as a “what could have been year” for Hanley Ramirez despite the amazing and awe-inspiring numbers you see above. Why? All due to the fact that he only played in 86 games, racked up 336 plate appearances, and suffered through at least four injuries (thumb, hamstring, irritated nerve in back, ribs) while hitting the disabled list three times.
After suffering a thumb injury in the World Baseball Classic and not being able to suit up until the end of April, Hanley soon thereafter suffered a hamstring injury that forced him out once again. Another month went down the drain, but then something amazing happened: the injury gods allowed Ramirez to remain healthy long enough to help lead the Dodgers on a spectacular 42-8 run out of the NL West doldrums.
Unfortunately, Hanley dealt with nagging injuries down the stretch and was put on a “postseason first” plan by the club that included more rest, but the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. After a scorching NLDS, one Joe Kelly fastball to the ribs ended Ramirez’s effectiveness in the NLCS and, in effect, the Dodgers’ offense and chances of advancing to the World Series.
Heading into 2014, the solid defense can’t exactly be counted on to repeat itself, as Hanley has been a terrible defensive shortstop throughout his career, costing his teams roughly 60 runs over his 10 years in The Show. He’ll also be a year older and is coming off of yet another lower-body injury that will further reduce his range. I don’t expect quite the same level of offensive output either, simply because a .363 BABIP (second-best ever for Hanley and 30 points higher than his career mark) can’t be assumed to occur once again.
That being said, a return to his consistently excellent offensive ways after a pair of down years and league-average seasons — especially if good health finds him and he keeps his strikeouts down — isn’t farfetched at all for Hanley.
Forced into more action than the super-sub role he was originally slated for, Nick Punto performed admirably in 2013 after being acquired late in 2012 as a throw-in in the Adrian Gonzalez deal. In 116 games — 71 of them starts, 33 of those at short — and 335 plate appearances (!), Punto hit .255/.328/.327/.655 with a .296 wOBA, 90 wRC+, and plus defense at two positions, as well as average glove work at a third spot.
Nick saved roughly five runs in the field in 2013 playing second, short, and third. He was at his best filling in at shortstop during HanRam’s multiple DL trips, with DRS and UZR both praising his work (5 and 6.4 runs saved, respectively). On a cheap one-year deal, he’s not a bad bench piece to have, especially considering the plus defense and Hanley’s recent propensity to suffer injuries.
Of course, a lot of fans were understandably not happy about how his season ended, which was him being picked off at second base in a key NLCS situation. Doesn’t sully his body of work, but I don’t even want to imagine if that was Yasiel Puig.
Dee Gordon is 25 years old and has amassed 669 plate appearances in the bigs over the last three years. His career slash line stands at .256/.301/.312/.613 with a .274 wOBA, 73 wRC+, 5.5 BB%, and .056 ISO. He can’t field at a defense-first position, doesn’t walk nearly enough even after career-best rates in both AAA and the majors in 2013, and doesn’t hit for power.
While I would absolutely love for him to learn all of these things during this winter playing in the Dominican, thus allowing him to be Hanley’s backup and a key bench piece in 2014, it’s just not going to happen. Whether Dee can ever consistently be a 25-man roster player with just speed alone isn’t even a certainty.
Unfortunately, you really can’t steal first base.