By: Chris Larson
The American League MVP race is certainly made up of plenty of talented names, ranging from J.D. Martinez to Mookie Betts to Mike Trout, who is still the best player of this decade. No matter how you slice it, anyone would want those three players on their team, any day of the week and any team, would benefit tremendously from an offensive perspective with any of those three.
However, while all three of those names are certainly talented, there's another guy that deserves some serious recognition and should absolutely be in the forefront of the American League MVP conversation. No we're not talking about Alex Bregman, even though he has had a phenomenal season, with the Houston Astros. Instead, we're talking about Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, who is once again having quite a season with little to no fanfare or media attention.
Heading into play today, over the span of 605 plate appearances, Jose Ramirez is hitting: .286/.400/.586 with 144 hits, 34 doubles, 3 triples, 37 home runs, 96 RBI, 93 walks, and 67 strikeouts. Furthermore, so far this season, Ramirez has raked up 29 stolen bases, along with a Baserunning value of 8.7. There's a reason why Cleveland skipper, Terry Francona, hits Ramirez in the third spot because he know's that he is a prototypical three-hole hitter and someone who possesses plenty of power to get on base in front of other power threats such as Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso.
In addition to those numbers, Ramirez also has a Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) of .409 along with a Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) value of 158. Beyond those impressive offensive stats, Ramirez has also raked up a 7.9 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) value to date. WAR is something that is used to measure how many wins a particular player contributes to their team overall and is certainly a basis to use in the argument for determining who the MVP in either league should ultimately be. The higher the WAR value is, the more overall impact a player had on their team, during the regular season respectively.
Among qualified hitters in the American League, Jose Ramirez ranks fourth in On-Base Percentage (.400), fourth in slugging percentage (.586), has the third highest WAR behind only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, and has an overall Offensive grade value of (50.8), putting him third behind the two aforementioned names in the last category. Of course, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez will garner most of the attention in the AL MVP conversation because of where they rank and due to the market they play in, along with Mike Trout because of his popularity and greatness, but Jose Ramirez deserves some serious consideration and recognition as well, based on all of the information above.
Furthermore, this hasn't been a one-year thing for Jose Ramirez either, who started to take that next big step forward in his Offensive development about two years ago. Since the start of the 2016 season, among American League qualified hitters, Jose Ramirez ranks fifth in batting average (.306), sixth in on-base percentage (.379), fifth in slugging percentage (.543), sixth in wOBA (.387), and seventh in wRC+ (141). Beyond that, Jose Ramirez has accumulated a 19.1 WAR over that span, good enough for third on the list behind Mike Trout and Mookie Betts, and is tied for 10th in Isolated Power (ISO) with a value of .237, with Evan Gattis of the Houston Astros.
Based on those statistics alone, it would be a shame to see another season of Jose Ramirez go unrecognized and have him lose out to his other counterparts simply because of the team he plays for and the fact that the Cleveland Indians don't get enough national attention. In addition, Ramirez, who is in the midst of his prime right now at 25-years old, is an easy guy cheer for as well, because he is a home grown player with the Cleveland Indians and someone who really grew in the hitter that he is today, on his own. Sure, he got help from coaches along the way, but really started to turn the corner from a power and strength perspective prior to the 2016 regular season.
If you still aren't sold about Jose Ramirez needing to be a legitimate AL MVP candidate based on his offensive statistics or the amount of contribution that he makes in the Indians lineup on a daily basis, then take a look at his Gold Glove defense, which is superb. Among third baseman, who have played at least 600 innings at the position this season, Ramirez has 5 Defensive Runs Saved which ties him with Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier. Furthermore, Ramirez has the fourth best Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) at the position (4.6) along with an overall Defensive rating of (6.6), which puts him fourth on the list.
The best part is that Jose Ramirez natural position isn't even at third base. Ramirez natural position is second base, which is a big reason, why the Cleveland Indians traded for Josh Donaldson prior to the Waiver Trade Deadline a week ago. Come October, the Indians plan on putting Ramirez at second base, Francisco Lindor last shortstop, Josh Donaldson at third base, and having Jason Kipnis shift to the outfield. Having that depth and versatility among players is a reason why the Cleveland Indians should be taken seriously in their hunt for another World Series trip.
Even if you disagree about Jose Ramirez being the best player in the American League this season, there is no denying the fact that he is once again having a phenomenal year and doing it with little to no fanfare. Once again, Ramirez has proven that he is a legitimate offensive player and better yet, doing it all at 25-years old, which means that he will only continue to get better and develop more. That's a scary thought for the Cleveland Indians and the rest of baseball.