Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos had a tough few months prior to and during the early part of the 2012 season, as he survived a kidnapping in Venezuela in November 2011 and then suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in mid-May after playing just 25 games. For the season he hit .265 with three home runs and 10 RBI over 96 plate appearances.
All indications are Ramos is fully healthy heading into the season, and Nationals’ manager Davey Johnson has rewarded him by announcing he will start on Opening Day. Kurt Suzuki is also in the mix at catcher for Washington after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics last year, and it is expected that a virtual 50-50 split in playing time is coming.
Ramos was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in July of 2010, and was productive during his first full season in the big leagues in 2011 (.267, 15 home runs and 52 RBI over 389 at-bats). He was rated as a top-100 prospect by Baseball America for three years in a row (2009-2011), and at age 25 he should still be regarded as a top young catcher.
What can fantasy baseball owners expect from Ramos in 2013?
Due to the small sample size, not much can be taken from 2012 for Ramos. His elevated home run/fly ball rate (23 percent) compared to 2011 (13 percent) is unlikely to be repeated, and his peripheral batted ball percentages were otherwise not noteworthy. But Ramos did appear to have an improved approach at the plate, with improvements in on-base percentage (.354) and walk rate (12.5 percent), however briefly it came.
Suzuki’s veteran presence behind the plate will certainly still be valued by Johnson and the Nationals’ pitching staff, and his offensive production improved with the move to the National League (.267, five home runs and 25 RBI with Washington last season). But after being a suitable fantasy catcher for a few years Suzuki’s decline in production has been noteworthy, with a batting average in free fall (.242 in 2010; .237 in 2011; .235 last season) and declining power numbers. Entering his age 30 season in 2013, that overall trend is unlikely to suddenly reverse.
Ramos’ fantasy value is limited by Suzuki’s presence right now, but it may only be a matter of time before the playing time split favors him if he is healthy and productive offensively. I expect 2014 to be the year Ramos is regarded as a top-tier fantasy catcher entering the season, but at this point he is a No. 2 catcher with upside.
Here is my projection for Ramos this season.
Runs Scored- 55
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.