Benny Sieu- USA TODAY Sports
Coming off of the Brewers’ 2011 season, they needed help. Casey McGehee had melted down after a breakout 2010 season. Prince Fielder was an essential lock to sign outside of Milwaukee. Ryan Braun was facing a 50-game suspension that players rarely escaped unscathed.
Desperately in need of both a cleanup hitter and a third baseman, the Brewers brought in veteran Aramis Ramirez, who had just declined a $12 million mutual option with the Cubs and was coming off of a strong year in which he won the Silver Slugger Award.
That first year was Ramirez’s best to date with the Crew, and one of the best of his long career. He posted a career-high 5.6 WAR according to FanGraphs, largely due to the combination of both excellent offensive production and solid defense.
Ramirez’s offense and defense have each failed to live up to his inaugural performances with the Brewers, though, and last year he posted his lowest OPS (.757) since the 2010 season. In spite of this, Ramirez was worth 2 wins for the Brewers in 2014, which is not as easily obtainable as it may seem.
With no clear heir to third base, it was essential that the Brewers attempt to bring Ramirez back, and they did, on his $14 million mutual option.
It is worth noting that Ramirez turns 37 in June, and the Brewers may wish to pull him late in games and sit him more often as to keep him fresh should the Brewers play important games late in the season.
This means that he may leave games late in favor of bench options like Luis Jimenez, and see more off-days in which he is available as a pinch hitter. He could also see less pitches if he is bumped from the 4 hole to the 5, which I believe to be plausible.
Also noteworthy about 2014 were Ramirez’s huge splits. A-Ram posted a huge 1.024 OPS versus lefties, actually higher than his career average, while struggling noticeably against righties, posting a .687 OPS, well under his career line.
As usual, you can expect both of these numbers to regress toward career average, and since hitters face more righties than lefties, Ramirez’s total stat line can be expected to improve in 2015.
Ramirez also had a hugely disappointing year in terms of walk percentage, as he walked about half as often as he had from 2012-2013. I expect these numbers to increase near his career norms. With all that said, let’s get to the main event.
In 2015, I’m predicting:
125 G 480 PA 438 AB 55 R 120 H 25 2B 1 3B 15 HR 1 SB 0 CS .275 BA .333 OBP .441 SLG 30 BB 72 K
If we give Ramirez a rating of “bad” for baserunning, and split the difference on Ramirez’s defense between “average” and “weak” in a simple WAR calculator, he’d be worth 1.6 wins over the course of 2015.
If 1.6 wins seems low, remember that I am anticipating time off for Ramirez, and perhaps a slight dip in defensive value, given his age. If he were to make as many plate appearances as he did in 2014, his WAR would be closer to 1.8, and if he somehow appeared as many times as he did back in 2012, his WAR would be around 2.
In my projection, Ramirez’s batting average and slugging are both down from his career average, but I expect A-Ram to have more extra-base hits in 2015 than he did last season, even in fewer at-bats. His offensive value should not be taken for granted, and Ramirez will be a strong piece to the Brewers’ offensive puzzle, even if it’s not from the cleanup spot.
Check out all of our 2015 Brewers player projections: