|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
I’m a bit more skeptical in Ramirez contributing to the Rangers and fantasy owners than I am on Rodriguez, but not so much that I’d simply dismiss the possibility of relevance. After all, I’m not really buying the awful numbers the previous time Ramirez played in the majors, for the 2011 Tampa Bay Rays. He hit one single in 17 at-bats in five games. It’s hardly a fair sample size, ended prematurely by a pending suspension for testing positive for elevated testosterone, and I’m not going to speculate about what was or currently is in the player’s body. I do know that the year before, Ramirez posted a .870 OPS -- for comparison, there are only 22 current qualified hitters with an OPS that strong -- with most of the good stuff for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then mainly singles and walks for the Chicago White Sox. I don’t care much what his numbers were for Taiwan’s EDA Rhinos, frankly, but they were good enough for the contending Rangers to be interested.
My first thought on the Ramirez signing was to praise the Rangers. While this move likely will bring a circus of attention, there’s precious little risk. It’s not as if it took a $10 million contract. If he hits, he can help. If he doesn’t, just move on. My second thought was about Lance Berkman, and for a longtime admirer of his, this just reinforced the notion that this isn't going to be his year. Berkman hit .319 in April, with more walks than strikeouts, and eight extra-base hits, but hasn’t done much since, with nine extra-base hits in two-plus months, more strikeouts than walks and a .237 batting average. Berkman, 37, historically has hit right-handed pitching far better than lefties. This year that’s not the case, but don’t read too much into 75 plate appearances against left-handers. He’s been periodically missing games lately due to what the team has called “general soreness,” and he has bad knees. Sadly, Berkman isn’t having the season I or the Rangers hoped for, and I’ve moved on in shallow leagues. Now the Rangers have brought in help, perhaps in a platoon, perhaps more.
If Ramirez, 41, hits for Triple-A Round Rock -- which is where he reported to duty Thursday with the goal of having him work out with the team and play in a game this weekend -- it shouldn’t be too long before the Rangers take a look at him for the DH spot, at the least against lefty pitchers. It also should be noted that for fantasy purposes, he is not outfield-eligible, but DH-only. If Ramirez and Berkman platoon, noting there are far more right-handed pitchers than lefties, it favors Berkman. Then again, he’s no lock to be healthy enough to play, and it’s possible he can play first base and Mitch Moreland sees time in the outfield. Regardless, let’s not assume Ramirez is simply the right-handed hitter in the DH platoon. It could be more. I have a bad feeling Berkman, on pace for roughly 450 at-bats, won’t approach that unless he hits better and somehow gets healthier. The Rangers, incidentally, are not in the top 10 in scoring runs, and they hit right-handers better. Versatile Jeff Baker, on the DL with a sprained right thumb, has been the team’s best option against lefties and leads the majors in home runs off them. He has eight of the club’s 21 home runs this season against lefties. Ramirez would give a lefty-heavy lineup a presence, in theory.
Add it up and I’d still be far more interested in signing Rodriguez to a fantasy roster, and would stash him in 10- and 12-team formats now. I don’t feel quite that optimistic about Ramirez, but in a deeper league, assuming you’ve got the space, as with the Rangers there’s little risk. We could see him with the Rangers later this month, adding to what has statistically been a Hall of Fame career.
Berkman went hitless with a walk in Thursday’s 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners, doing so from the No. 6 lineup spot. Most of his at-bats have come in the No. 3 role, but that ship seems to have sailed. What was interesting about the Texas lineup against right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma was shortstop Elvis Andrus being dropped to eighth in the order. Andrus is sputtering along with a .243 batting average and .298 OBP, warranting the demotion. In fact, I think Jurickson Profar would be an improvement, but the Rangers won’t be making that change. Andrus is stealing bases but offers no power and he’s lost 50 points of OBP. Good for the Rangers for noticing. Outfielder David Murphy, who generally is more productive than he has been in 2013, and bats left-handed -- was the No. 2 hitter Thursday and did nothing. Let’s see if it sticks. It’s not good news for Andrus, who ranks among the top 10 fantasy shortstops only because of the steals and runs scored. Why not have stealing machine Leonys Martin high in the lineup? He had stolen a base in six consecutive games before Thursday.
One last Rangers offense tidbit: While Berkman and Ramirez each could be factors, those in dynasty formats should not dismiss corner infield prospect Mike Olt. His overall numbers at Round Rock are hardly impressive, but vision problems hampered him and he hit seven home runs in June, with a strong walk rate. He’s still a young power bat with the potential to help the team in September, especially against lefty pitching, or he could be used as trade bait and play sooner.