Fantasy Baseball – Aramis Ramirez

It’s time again for Fantasy Baseball CCO style. Hope everyone had a great holiday and long weekend….don’t forget to catch up on all the news from the weekend, including notes from an interview on Christmas Eve with Jim Hendry (scroll down). The Tejada and Prior rumors are still flying….remember to check back for updates….if anything happens….you will be able to read the news here!!

This week’s topic: My main man, Aramis Ramirez!

I am not sure why, but I immediately liked Aramis Ramirez after the big Pittsburgh trade of 2003.

Maybe it was because anything was an upgrade over Mark Bellhorn….maybe it was because we haven’t had anything decent on 3rd since Ron Cey (and even Cey wasn’t all that good, when you remove nostalgia from the facts)….or maybe it was that every time Aramis came to bat, he looked like he was baring his teeth at the pitcher in some sort of mocking/menacing look. Sometimes I think he looks like he has an itch he can’t scratch, but no matter what it is, he definitely has the talent to make me, and most of Cub Fandom, very, very, very happy he is our everyday 3rd baseman.

Is my happiness and enthusiasm regarding Aramis playing the hot corner for the Cubbies justified? Well, as always, let’s look at the numbers people!

I want power in my corner infielders, how about you?
With D.Lee at 1B, and Aramis at 3B, the Cubs seem to have that old baseball adage of power at the corners down pat. But Aramis wasn’t the only 3B hitting them out of the park last year, so here is a list of the top 5 in all the major leagues:

Alex Rodriguez 48 – Yankees
Troy Glaus 37 – Diamondbacks (rumored to be traded to Toronto shortly)
Morgan Ensberg 36 – Astros
Aramis Ramirez 31 – your 2006 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs
Eric Chavez 27 – Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s

It should be noted that Aramis missed about 20% of the season, and had only 463 at-bats, so finishing in the top five was a great achievement. The only surprise in this list is Ensberg, as he has a name like a girl (I can’t say anything nice about a Houston player, can I?) and his past 3 years give you inconsistent results. Ensberg hit 25 HRs in 385 at-bats in 2003, which is pretty darn good. He then followed with 10 HRs in 411 at-bats in 2004, and last year he hit his 36 HRs in 526 at-bats. So was 2004 a fluke, or was last year a career year? Time will tell, but I hope it was the latter.

Aramis is an RBI machine! At least that is what Santo said in ’03….was he right?
Aramis finished with 92 RBIs last year, but if you project another 20% of the season on all his numbers, he would have finished with 37 HRs and 110 RBIs….whooo! Still, with 92 RBIs, he almost finished in the top 5, but thanks to the Cubs inferior #1 and #2 hitters, the RBI opportunities were definitely limited, I believe. Here are the top five for RBIs in ’05:

Alex Rodriguez – 130 – NY Yankees
David Wright – 102 – NY Mets
Eric Chavez – 101 – Oakland A’s
Morgan (Fairchild) Ensberg – 101 – Houston Astros
Troy Glaus – 97 – Arizona Diamondbacks

A-Rod was the AL MVP, so it is not surprising to find him on the top of the last two lists. I love Aramis, but A-Rod is in a league of his own. Chavez is a consistent stud, and Glaus is a “Richie Sexson” type of slugger, with good HR and RBI numbers but a lower average than the other elite 3B in the league. Ok….what is odd about this list? Exactly! Who the heck is David Wright?!?! Don’t look now Ron Santo, but it sure looks like the Mets are putting together a heck of a team these days, although they need more starting pitching than Pedro Martinez. The Mets already have a great young SS in Jose Reyes, and it appears they have a budding star in David Wright, as last year was his first full season. Keep your eye on this guy for your Fantasy league this year, as he may slip under the radar of the team GMs….

These guys hit for Power….now who hits for Average?
So far, Wright has been the only surprise, and the leaders in batting average won’t reveal a lot of new names either:

Alex Rodriguez – .321
David Wright – .306
Aramis Ramirez – .302
Chipper Jones – .296 – Atlanta Braves
Bill Mueller – .295 – LA Dodgers (was with Boston last year)

The Cubs had a brief, injury-riddled, run with Bill Mueller, but I saw him hitting in Wrigley and I remember thinking he had a sweet swing, and I hoped he would be good….then he slid into the rolled-up tarp, or the brick wall, and messed up his knee. He had a great season for Boston in 2003, but he doesn’t bring any HRs or RBIs to a position that generally demands production in those categories. He does play good defense, though, but that doesn’t do you much good in Fantasy baseball leagues. A-Rod is unreal, having lead all 3 categories so far….wow! We see the newcomer Wright popping up again, as well as Aramis making his 2nd appearance. Chipper Jones is a stud, and I will have more about him later, in a comparison with Aramis and Eric Chavez.

What are some trends and other notable stats for 3B in 2005?
If you are looking for SBs in your league, don’t expect to find them in your 3B players. A-Rod finished first (of course) with 21 SBs, and the only other player worth mentioning was David Wright with 17 bases swiped in his impressive first full season.

If you want to keep your strikeouts down, stay away from Troy Glaus. He has a cool first name (it was a good movie, too!) but he lead the league in Ks at 145. A-Rod had 139 Ks, but he also led all 3B with 91 Walks, giving A-Rod an awesome .421 OBP.

Who disappeared? Adrian Beltre and Mike Lowell dropped off the planet, after impressive numbers in the past couple of years. There has been steroid whispers about Lowell….meaning the previous success was due to chemical enhancement and not skill. As far as Beltre….all I can say is last year (2004) was a contract year, and it also was, it appears, a career year as well. I would stay away from these guys until mid-season, and then reassess to see if either gets their game back together.

Who didn’t we mention? Hank Blalock was a darling of the All-star game a couple years ago, and seemed to be a future superstar, but his numbers have taken an “Austin Kearns” and he seems like a good player, but he doesn’t belong among the elite 3B in the league.

Who should I pick for my Fantasy team at 3B, then?
If you can get A-Rod, then take him….period. He is the best, and the sad thing is he isn’t even playing his natural position at SS. This is why I think the Yankees are bad for baseball, because their bloated payroll takes too much talent away from other teams, and also raises the average salaries for all players due to their overpaying tendencies.

If you want a sleeper pick, or maybe a more lesser known pick, then I would go after the Mets’ David Wright. He doesn’t have a proven track record yet, but if he can just duplicate his ’05 numbers, he will be a great addition to your fantasy team.

The guys I would also look at would be: Aramis Ramirez, Eric Chavez, and Chipper Jones.

Chipper played 2002-03 in the Outfield, but has mainly been a 3B in his career. I think these 3 players have been the most consistent, and excellent, the past 5 years. Here are their numbers over a 5 year period:

Aramis Ramirez
.285 BA
29 HRs
97 RBIs
.505 Slugging %
.336 OBP
547 At-bats
145 games

Eric Chavez
.278 BA
30 HRs
100 RBIs
.507 Slugging %
.352 OBP
565 at-bats
149 games

Chipper Jones
.301 BA
28 HRs
95 RBIs
.539 Slugging %
.407 OBP
501 at-bats
143 games

Pretty consistent numbers across the board. Chipper’s numbers would have been better, but age/injuries have limited him the past two years. Due to his age, take a little caution if he is on your team, and make sure you have a good backup in place, in case he goes down with another injury. Chavez and Aramis are almost the same player, although the trends seem to indicate that Aramis will hit more HRs going forward. Like any good Billy Beane player, Chavez has a better OBP, but Aramis has greatly reduced his Strikeouts the past two years, which has helped his OBP.

I want to point out that Aramis had a bad year in 2002, which dragged down all his numbers over 5 years. Some of you may remember hearing about a leg injury he had, which supposedly affected his defense and caused him trouble at the plate. To his credit, he played through the injury most of the year. If Ramirez stays healthy, he can definitely become the #2 ranked 3B, in my opinion, behind only Alex Rodriguez. I think it is realistic to expect a .310/40/115 season from Ramirez if he gets 575 at-bats or more.

Final Cubs thoughts for the week….
Prior for Tejada has been on the collective brain of the Cubs Faithful this past week. My thoughts are that we need more quality starting pitchers, not less. I agree Tejada is an upgrade at SS….just look at my first Fantasy Insider article to see how highly I think of him. However, our staff is already weak, and filled with injury questions, and pitching wins championships. I would rather we swing a trade for an upgrade at 2B, and possibly do a trade for Barry Zito and Jason Kendall (the A’s catcher). I am content to see what Cedeno can do at SS this year, and while I am not thrilled with Jones in RF, at least we have someone penciled in who is not named Hollandsworth or Macias.

I would like to see the Cubs take a flyer on Wade Miller, a free agent pitcher who had some success in the past for the Astros. I also want to see Rich Hill and Angel Guzman pitch in the majors this year….they are not getting any younger, and I am tired of hearing about the future when we have young studs in Prior and Zambrano already. Either we see what these kids can do, or trade them while their value is high, and get proven pitching (Zito) in return. That is all for me, folks….if nothing interesting happens this week, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see any Cubs trades until late January, so grab your Tums, and keep the faith!!

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax