Players facing make-or-break seasons
January, 28, 2013
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
USA TODAY SportsHanley Ramirez, Jon Lester and Colby Rasmus must live up to their potential in 2013.Chris Davis had 1,005 plate appearances in his first four seasons in the big leagues, and so he was at a crossroads in his career in 2012. He had just turned 26 years old and had 441 strikeouts and 253 hits, and if he had struggled again, he may have cemented a reputation for being a not-quite-ready for prime time player.
But Davis stepped up and had a good season, posting an .827 OPS and hitting 33 homers among 53 extra-base hits; he had some big moments to help the Orioles make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
Every year, there are always players facing a similar challenge, of defining themselves -- or redefining.
Here are nine players in that position in 2013, among others:
Hanley Ramirez | SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Everybody remembers the days of Hanley Ramirez as one of the sport's most dynamic, well-rounded stars, because they weren't that long ago. In 2007, Ramirez -- then 23 years old -- hit .332, with a .386 on-base percentage, 29 homers and 51 stolen bases.
But his OPS has declined:
There are major questions about Ramirez on defense as well. Some talent evaluators -- including many within the Marlins' organization -- had determined two years ago that Ramirez was no longer suited to be a shortstop, so Miami signed Jose Reyes and shifted to Ramirez to third base. But that transition did not go well, as these FanGraphs numbers show. After being traded to the Dodgers, he eventually was shifted back to shortstop, but didn't really play the position that well, again.
So as spring training opens, there are myriad questions about Ramirez: Can he play shortstop for a playoff contender? Does he need to go back to third base? Does he need to find another position? Can he ever be a high-impact hitter again?
The uncertainty about Ramirez is part of the reason that preseason metrics being run by rival teams don't reflect well on the Dodgers. But Ramirez -- now 29 years old -- has time to change that, and he'll need to soon, because he has two years remaining on his current contract.