Jan 13, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
We are now exactly one month away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Viera. So as the final countdown to spring training begins, we’re going to preview one member of the Nationals roster each day, looking both at how these players fared in 2013 and what to expect from them in 2014. We begin today with catcher Wilson Ramos…
Age on Opening Day 2014: 26
How acquired: Trade from Twins for RHP Matt Capps, July 2010
2014 salary: TBD (should make roughly $2 million in first season of arbitration eligibility)
2013 stats: 78 G, 303 PA, 29 R, 78 H, 9 2B, 0 3B, 16 HR, 59 RBI, 0 SB, 15 BB, 42 SO, .272 AVG, .307 OBP, .470 SLG, .777 OPS, 8 E, 29% CS rate, 1.8 WAR
2014 storyline: After two injury-plagued seasons, Ramos finally proved himself healthy and productive over a significant stretch late last year. In 64 games after returning from a hamstring injury, he hit .276 with 14 homers and 53 RBI. He also started 23 consecutive games, most by any major-league catcher in 2013.
Now Ramos returns for 2014 hoping to prove he can do that over a full season. The Nationals plan to give him every opportunity; new manager Matt Williams would like for the 26-year-old to catch roughly 125 games. Ramos must prove he’s durable enough to handle the heavy workload while also remaining a productive offensive player and quality catcher behind the plate.
Best-case scenario: The second half of last season truly was a sign of things to come. Ramos starts 130 games and avoids the DL altogether. He clubs 25 homers with 85 RBI, hits .290 and gets bumped up to the No. 6 spot in the Nationals’ lineup. With renewed confidence in his own health, he also improves defensively and becomes one of baseball’s toughest catchers to run on, throwing out 35 percent of would-be basestealers. The rest of the sport takes notice, and Ramos gets to tip his cap during player introductions at Target Field in Minnesota during his first career appearance in an All-Star Game.
Worst-case scenario: Ramos’ body simply can’t hold up to the grind. He reports to spring training overweight, tweaks a hamstring on a cold April night and lands on the DL yet again. He needs nearly two months to recover, and though there are moments in which he proves productive, he can’t sustain it and can’t keep himself on the field with enough regularity. The Nationals, in the middle of a pennant race, feel they have to acquire a more reliable catcher before the July 31 trade deadline, so Ramos spends most of August and September on the bench, unable to prove himself the way he always hoped.
Most-likely scenario: Ramos mostly stays healthy for the season, though he does require one brief stint on the DL due to a nagging muscle strain that won’t heal without rest. He continues to hit for power, finishing with 20 homers and 70 RBI in 450 plate appearances. He hits .270, but his walk rate remains low and his strikeout rate high. He is an above-average defensive catcher but still struggles at times throwing runners out, in part due to his pitchers’ slow delivery to the plate. He proves a good, if a tad inconsistent, player who still feels like he has more to prove in 2015.
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