March 6, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez (2) during spring training against the Miami Hurricanes at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Miami Marlins 2012 Season Preview: Third Base

We will continue today with our Miami Marlins Season Preview. Sorry for the delay on this one. I have been busy with school and work. I tried to make time yesterday, unfortunately, MLB 2K12, which is great, took up that time. I am back today to take a look at the Marlins third base situation in 2012.

Third base has been a black hole for the Marlins in the recent past. The Marlins tried to make Emilio Bonifacio stick there in 2009. We all know how well that worked out. The Marlins last season gave the job to Greg Dobbs. That did not go over too well either.

Mar 6, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Emilio Bonifacio (1) and Marlins shortstop Jose Reyes (7) almost collide while going for a fly ball hit by Detroit Tigers second baseman Eric Patterson (not pictured) at Roger Dean Stadium. The Tigers defeated the Marlins 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Marlins were intent on making a big splash this off-season. They promised fans something big and delivered. That big splash was short stop Jose Reyes. This signing shifted incumbent short stop Hanley Ramirez to third base. At first, the media reported that Hanley was upset and unwilling to move. Then Hanley reported to camp, happy and ready to make the move, yet we still have people who think they are analysts, mainly Harold Reynolds, who still believe Hanley will not end the season with the Marlins.

Depth Chart

1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Donnie Murphy
4. Emilio Bonifacio
3. Matt Dominguez

Not only will Ramirez be adapting to a new position in 2012, he will be dealing with making a comeback from two variables. Those are his off-season shoulder surgery and his worst season in the Major Leagues. A look at Ramirez’s 2009-2011 numbers tell you all you need to know about the Dominican’s struggles in 2011.

Ramirez PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR BABIP
2009 652 .342 .410 .543 .410 7.4 .379
2010 619 .300 .378 .475 .373 4.6 .327
2011 385 .243 .333 .379 .317 1.3 .275

Overall, Hanley’s numbers in 2011 fell from across the board. Even with the unspectacular 2011 season, this is what Ramirez’s three year averages look like:

Ramirez PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2009-2011 1656 .303 .380 .480 .373

Ramirez still boasts an above average bat with that line. If Ramirez can return to form, the Marlins are still getting one of the better hitters in all of baseball. Not quite what he was between 2007 and 2009 when he boasted a line of .326/.398/.545, but still a very capable bat.

Mar 5, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez (2) gets a broken bat single against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

A look at Ramirez’s peripherals shows that Ramirez is still has the same type of plate discipline that he has maintained over the course of his career.

Ramirez K% BB% ISO XB/H BABIP
2011 17.1 11.4 .136 0.561 .275
2010 15.0 10.3 .175 0.582 .327
2009-2011 15.7 10.2 .177 0.581 .336
Career 16.2 9.8 .200 0.653 .339

Ramirez has not struck out at any higher rate then his career norms and is actually walking more each of the past two seasons. A very good sign for his plate discipline. The most important number on that chart would be Ramirez’s BABIP. His career BABIP is .339, almost 60 points above what he posted in 2011. If that bounces back, it should definitely be expected for the rest of Ramirez’s line to bounce right back up.

The loss of power has to be very concerning. Ramirez in his 3 year average is well below his career levels of power. Since we do not know how the new park will play, we cannot say for sure how it will affect Ramirez’s power numbers in 2012. A concerning rate to look at though is Ramirez continuously has hit ground balls of 51 percent of his balls in play the past two seasons. His career high mark was at 46%.

I personally feel that Ramirez’s power struggles can be more attributed to his injuries and shoulder issues the past two seasons rather then something wrong mechanically. I am expecting a major bounce back for Ramirez and his power production in 2012. Michael Jong of Fishstripes is not in agreement with me, but I do not blame him. The trend is very alarming.

Still, until I see more evidence of the contrary, I would not bet strongly against this alarming ground ball rate trend.

All that is left is looking at Ramirez’s defense. I personally have no idea how Ramirez will play over there. I do not expect him somehow become a gold glover magically overnight. We will go with Michael’s prediction that he did earlier this offseason based on scouting data and some rough estimations. Michael predicted Ramirez to be four runs worse than average.

Feb 22, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez (2) during spring training drills at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Now let’s take a look at the projections for Hanley Ramirez:

Projection PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR HR
Bill James 584 .298 .379 .489 .377 4.2 21
Roto Champ 603 .289 .375 .458 .370 4.0 20
Fans 633 .298 .374 .470 .371 5.1 21

The projection systems all believe that Ramirez will bounce back to form. They are not optimistic that he will bounce back to the old Hanley that occupied third for the Marlins between 2007 and 2009.

Marlins fans should not feel too upset if Ramirez is able to put those numbers up in 2012. These numbers would qualify as a major comeback for Ramirez.

In fact, if Ramirez has a season as projected above, it is likely the Marlins might start talking extension with him. As Michael Jong pointed out over at Fishstripes, a fair place to look for what Ramirez could get would be with the division rival Washington Nationals. The Nationals just gave their third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman,  a 6-year extension worth $100 million. All that hinges though on a strong campaign from Hanley in 2012.

March 6, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (11) celebrates scoring a run in the third inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Here is a look at my projections for Ramirez in 2012:

Projection PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR HR
594 .309 .402 .513 .397 5.7 24

My projections are not too far off of the other projections, but they are a whole lot more optimistic. If Ramirez can post numbers better then this, I personally would not be shocked either. The Marlins season comes down to the health and production of Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez. If they can do well, the team can be as dangerous as any in baseball. If either, or both miss any time, the Marlins are in deep trouble.

 

Expect Donnie Murphy to be the backup for Hanley. He will get a lot of playing time around the infield. If he is healthy, he provides average defense and a decent bat off of the bench. Emilio Bonifacio would be expected to get a majority of playing time at third base if Hanley Ramirez were to go down with an injury. It is likely then either Aaron Rowand or Bryan Petersen then would see extensive time in center.

There is also a possibility of Matt Dominguez getting a chance to play in case of a Ramirez injury. That should depend on how he does in the minors. If he continues to show that he cannot handle Tripe-A pitching, it is less likely he will make it back to the show in 2012.

Stop by tomorrow for projections on the huge off-season catch, short stop Jose Reyes.

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Tags: Bryan Petersen Donnie Murphy Emilio Bonifacio Greg Dobbs Hanley Ramirez Jose Reyes Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins Ryan Zimmerman Washington Nationals

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