One can make the argument that Wilson Ramos was the Mets’ third choice as catcher. There was a couple of tons of virtual ink spilled on the pursuit of J.T. Realmuto and there was also the 4/$60 contract offer to Yasmani Grandal. In a perfect world, you could understand why the Mets operated the way they did. But for me, if Ramos was willing to sign this contract five days after the World Series ended, that should have been their direction from the get go. Call catcher solved and move on.
Likely, Ramos’ price was probably noticeably higher in early November. But he and his camp read the tea leaves and figured out this was as good as it was going to get. Is it a good deal for Ramos? Not sure if anyone can say for sure. But it certainly feels like a good deal for the Mets, assuming Ramos can play in the neighborhood of 250 games the next two seasons.
And there’s the rub. Ramos made his MLB debut in 2010 and only four times in his career has he played more than 90 games in a season. As a catcher, no one expects him to play 150 games a year. But it would be nice if he regularly hit 130. He’s reached that total just once – 131 games in 2016 – and has topped 115 games only one other time.
Last year, splitting time with the Rays and the Phillies, Ramos played in 111 games and put up a 130 OPS+ which is a great mark for a catcher. For a comparison, Realmuto put up a 139 OPS+ and Grandal registered a 120 mark last season. Of course, Grandal played in 140 games and Realmuto, after missing the first three weeks of the season, ended up playing in 120 games.
So, the two big related questions are if Ramos can play in more games and if he can, will his offensive production keep pace? Let’s check in with what the computer models think. We finally have the ZiPS forecasts available, so we have a nice group of projections to pour over:
ATC – 420 PA, .273/.326/.441, 15 HR, 59 RBIs
Marcel – 430 PA, .282/.332/.457, 16 HR, 63 RBIs
Steamer – 415 PA, .261/.312/.439, 16 HR, 56 RBIs
THE BAT – 381 PA, .264/.315/.438, 15 HR, 48 RBIs
ZiPS – 420 PA, .259/.302/.419, 15 HR, 63 RBIs
The most interesting thing about these forecasts is that Marcel has the most bullish one of the group. Marcel is the most basic of the projection systems. It “uses 3 years of MLB data, with the most recent data weighted heavier. It regresses towards the mean. And it has an age factor.” Other systems incorporate many more variables and in Ramos’ case – all of those additional variables are dragging down his numbers.
In particular, the contrast between Marcel and ZiPS seems big. While they have very similar PA numbers, Marcel sees 23 additional points in AVG, 30 in OBP and 38 in SLG. The biggest difference between Marcel and the other projection systems is in playing time, with Marcel projecting around a dozen more games played than THE BAT.
Michael Conforto spent most of 2018 batting third, fourth or fifth and he finished with 153 games and 638 PA, for an average of nearly 4.2 PA per game. Assuming Ramos has a similar number of PA per game, none of the computer models see him playing 125 games. Marcel’s PA totals would have him around 102 games.
That seems too pessimistic to me. Here’s my completely biased forecast:
495 PA, .260/.309/.440, 16 HR, 70 RBIs
My expectation is that the club’s desire to play Travis d’Arnaud more than a typical backup catcher will be the biggest thing holding down Ramos’ playing time, rather than injuries. Ramos has been extremely consistent with his ISO the last three seasons and my forecast has him again in that tight range of what he’s done recently. He’s been much more unpredictable in his OBP and my guess here is that he ends up on the lower side of what he’s done recently.
You’ll have more credibility in the future if you chime in now with what you think Ramos will do this year. Next week, Steven Matz goes under the forecast microscope.