Catcher Wilson Ramos was one of the Mets’ big offseason acquisitions last year. Ramos arrived with the reputation of being a good hitter, but a subpar defender. Let’s take a look at some of his numbers from last season and see what we can determine.
Ramos played in 141 games last year, resulting in 524 PA. His slash line was .288/.351/.416, with 19 doubles and 14 homers. The BA and OBP figures were pretty good, but that SLG of .416 would have to be somewhat disappointing, especially considering he often batted fifth in the order, a spot usually filled by a power hitter.
Ramos checks in at about 245 pounds, and he is known as one of the stronger players on the team. Perhaps he needs to alter his launch angle at the plate to deliver more extra base
Looking at the list of presumed 2020 starting catchers in the NL East, that SLG figure was fourth out of the five. J. T. Realmuto of the Phils led the way with a .493 SLG, Travis d’Arnaud of Atlanta recorded a .459 mark (put up with Tampa Bay), Jorge Alfaro of the Marlins slugged .425, and only Yan Gomes of Washington posted a lower figure with .389. All those catchers except possibly d’Arnaud are better defenders than Ramos.
It is disturbing that Ramos’ production with the stick fell off as the season progressed. In the last month he played in 20 games and put up a dismal line of .219/.301/.344. That last month was important too, as the Mets were still in contention for a good chunk of that period.
Not to be totally negative on Ramos as a batter, he does hit left-handed pitching well. His line against lefties in 2019 was .346/.423/.523. Conversely, his splits against right-handed hurlers were a pedestrian .270/.329/.385. It would be nice to pair Ramos with a decent left-handed batting catcher, but no catcher in the Mets’ minor league system, either right-handed or left-handed, appears to be major-league ready yet.
Ramos also hits the ball harder than might have been expected. Statcast shows his average exit velocity of batted balls to be 90.0 mph for the 2019 season. As a point of reference slugger Pete Alonso averaged only a slightly higher exit velocity of 90.6. Of course, Alonso is also capable of smashing a ball at 118.3 mph as he did against the Braves last April, resulting in a 454 foot home run.
Nobody expects catchers to be burners on the base paths, but Ramos is particularly slow of foot. In fact many consider the man nicknamed “the Buffalo” to be the slowest position player in the majors. Ramos grounded into 16 double plays in 2019, tying him with Robinson Cano as the team leader in that dubious category.
Ramos is not particularly mobile behind the plate. In 2019 he allowed 10 passed balls, as well as 31 wild pitches. Throwing out runners is not his forte either. There were 94 steals against him last year, with only 17 prospective base stealers thrown out, resulting in a poor percentage of 15%.
The pitcher-catcher chemistry can be an important factor. Some pitchers like the way a certain catcher calls a game, the way he frames pitches, the way he blocks errant pitchers, etc. This does not appear to be Ramos’ strong suit, at least when it comes to working with Noah Syndergaard, who made it clear last year he preferred working with backup catcher Tomas Nido. Maybe that dynamic will change this year, as both players have expressed a willingness to try to improve their relationship.
2020 will be Ramos’ age 32 season, which is getting to be a bit long in the tooth for a catcher. His durability was good in 2019, his 141 games played was actually his best in MLB. He has had injuries in the past, notably in 2017 when he caught just 62 games.
The Mets have a long tradition of excellent catchers, dating back to the stellar Jerry Grote and the ‘69 world champs, Hall of Famer Gary Carter and the power house ‘86 World Series winners, and then the long stretch of Mike Piazza and the contending teams around the turn of the century. If the 2020 Mets are going to make some postseason noise, they will have to do it with a lesser backstop. They will have to win with an offense-first catcher whose bat has diminished, and could well diminish even more in 2020. Using baseball’s traditional five tool scale, Ramos is just a 1 tool player, for BA, with power, speed, defense and arm all falling short.