Heading into his sixth year with the Chicago White Sox, Alexei Ramirez has two crucial steps to make in order for the White Sox to compete for the AL Central crown. The first step the lengthy shortstop needs to make is to become a leader for the White Sox in 2013. The second step, and the more difficult step Ramirez will try and make is to be at Citi Field on July 16, 2013 representing the American League in the 84th MLB All-Star Game.
With the departure of A.J. Pierzynski this off-season, the White Sox are in need of another player to help lead them on and off the field. Obviously Paul Konerko is the unofficial captain of the South-Siders. But with the uncertainty of Konerko returning to Chicago, or even baseball, after this season, the Sox have an important role to fill. Ramirez is the perfect candidate to step into this open role and become a leader that Sox’s second-year manager, Robin Ventura, can relay on to help guide his club.
Now only a month till the White Sox report to Glendale, Az. for spring training, Ramirez has already begun his campaign as a new leader for the Sox in 2013. “The Cuban Missile”, a nickname given to Ramirez by White Sox announcer Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, is in Miami, Fl. training for the upcoming season. And as a true leader should, Ramirez brought along teammate Dayan Viciedo to train with him. Training six days a week, Ramirez is putting in the work it takes to lead a Major League Baseball Team.
Becoming a leader for the White Sox in 2013 is something I feel Ramirez will have very little trouble accomplishing. The tougher task for Ramirez this year will be proving himself as an All-Star to the rest of the league.
In his five years in the MLB, Ramirez has never been elected to the All-Star Game. Other than winning the American League Silver Slugger Award as a shortstop in 2010, Ramirez hasn’t quite yet made the noise that many Sox fans thought he would. While Ramirez’s numbers from last year (.265 AVG, 9 HR, 73 RBI, 20 SB) aren’t terrible, they definitely aren’t that of an All-Star.
So why do I feel like 2013 will finally be the year Alexei Ramirez makes the jump to an American League All-Star?
Two reasons: his defense and his clutch hitting.
Since making the switch from second base to shortstop in 2009, Ramirez has improved his Fielding Percentage each year (2009- .969, 2010- .974, 2011- .977, 2012- .982). Last year Ramirez finished fifth in Fielding Percentage among all shortstops. With Ramirez’s decision making at the shortstop position improving, along with his unbelievably strong arm and well above average range, there’s no reason to think his defense in 2013 will be anything less than outstanding.
At the plate, Ramirez can be impatient, inconsistent and from time to time down right awful. I’m not trying to argue that he’s the best hitting shortstop in the American League. But what Ramirez does bring to the table for the White Sox is something every team in the MLB is looking for, clutch at bats.
Last year, Ramirez led all other starting shortstops in the MLB with a .337 average with runners on base. He was second in hitting for the Sox with runners in scoring position with a .336 average. And what’s even more impressive of Ramirez is that he had an even better average (.339) last year with runners in scoring position and two outs. Basically what all these statistics sum up is that Ramirez did his best hitting last year when it mattered.
With the 2013 MLB season on the horizon, all signs point to Alexei Ramirez having a stand out year. If Ramirez flashes the leather as he has throughout his whole career, sustains his clutch hitting habits from last year and battles each and every game for the South Siders, it shouldn’t surprise you if he is one of the lucky 34 players selected to the 2013 American League All-Star roster.