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Wilson Ramos: Ready For A Breakout?

The baseball world celebrated the rescue of Wilson Ramos on Friday night after he had been kidnapped a few days before from his home by 3 gunmen. I own Ramos in an NL-only keeper league, and plan on keeping him for 2012 at $7 S1, which means i can keep him at $7 for 2012 and 2013.

I was looking at his Fangraph's page on Saturday morning and was pleasantly surprised at the growth he had shown at the plate in 2011. Ramos hit .267-.334-.405 with 15 HRs, 52 RBI and 48 runs scored in 389 at bats. He had a league average BABIP of .297 while striking out in 17.5% of his at bats, which isn't bad for a rookie. What really jumped out at me was his increase in walk rate in 2011. Ramos walked in 8.7% of his at bats, the highest of his career.

More on Ramos after the jump:

Ramos also hit for more power than he ever had in the past. His ISO of .177 was a career high, and I wonder if the power was for real. So, I decided to see what John Sickels and Baseball America had to say about him in their scouting reports.

There must be an issue with SB Nation's search functionality, as I had trouble finding John's preseason Top 20 Nationals prospects over at Minor League Ball.

But i did find Baseball America's scouting report for 2011 and here is an excerpt:

Scouting Report: Strong and physical, Ramos stands out for his defensive skills behind the plate and his power potential. He's a good receiver with soft hands, and his plus arm helped him throw out an International League-best 50 percent of basestealers in 2010. He's still learning to call games and manage pitchers. Ramos has good loft and leverage in his swing, giving him a chance to hit for solid-average or slightly better power in time. He does get pull-happy, and he must improve his contact rate and patience at the plate.

I watched several Nationals games in 2011 and I have to agree with BA's scouting report, that Ramos does have good loft in his swing, which should result in more power in the future as he continue to grow physically and as a major league hitter.

Since I couldn't find Sickels scouting report on Ramos, I decided to check out Kevin Goldstein's 2011 scouting report, and here is an excerpt:

The Good: Ramos has the ability to be an impact-level defender. He's an athletic receiver who moves well, has very good blocking skills, and a plus-plus arm that shuts down the running game. He has solid hitting skills with a projection for at least average power as a big-leaguer.
The Bad: Ramos' offensive skills are held back by a swing-at-anything approach that usually leads to bad counts and/or bad contact. Further complicating matters is a power-hungry swing that doesn't fit his potential. His offensive problems are especially visible against right-handers.

Goldstein's report was very similar to Baseball America's except that he mentions that Ramos' power hungry approach at the plate does not fit his potential and that he struggles against right handers. I decided to check to see how Ramos fared against right handers to prove whether Goldstein's report was accurate.

Here are Ramos' splits vs right handers and left handers, courtesy of Baseball-Reference, for 2011:

vs RHP as RHB 103 302 80 18 12 39 0 26 58 .265 .325 .450 .776 136 .291 98
vs LHP as RHB 47 87 24 4 3 13 0 12 18 .276 .364 .425 .789 37 .318 104
vs LH Starter 28 96 12 23 4 2 10 0 11 21 .240 .318 .344 .662 33 .288 72
vs RH Starter 85 293 36 81 18 13 42 0 27 55 .276 .340 .478 .817 140 .300 109
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/12/2011.

Ramos' splits were not as pronounced as Goldstein indicated in his scouting report as you can see in the B-R table above. He has 30 extra base hits in 302 at bats against right handed pitchers, or 1 XBH every 10 at bats.

Federal Baseball's Patrick Reddington from SB Nation's Nationals site wrote about Ramos yesterday afternoon, and mentions that Ramos was going to work on his swing in the Venezuelan Winter League before being kidnapped:
Ramos told reporters then that he planned to play in the VWL to work on his swing, something Johnson talked to the catcher about late this season. "I talked to him a little bit about his swing," Johnson said, "I thought he [has] just a little tendency to sometimes be a little too much upper cut. But he's worked on it a little bit here and I like his progress. I like where he's at, he's getting right to where he needs to be, fine-tuning it might [not] be a bad idea." As Ramos prepared to start playing games this week, however, he was kidnapped at gunpoint from his family's home in Venezuela and held for over fifty hours before a rescue operation freed him late last night.
It remains to be seen whether Ramos will play in the VZL this winter, after his kidnapping, but if he does, he could come back to Washington with an improved swing that could help his BA and his power in 2012.

Maybe I am being biased or too high on Ramos because I own him, but I can see him hitting for more power in 2012. I can see him approaching 20 home runs and 70 RBI next season with a BA around .270. He will have to maintain his strikeout and walk rates for this to come to fruition. One concern, though, is whether he can maintain a 13.4% HR/FB rate in 2012, but he could stand to hit more fly balls as his 35.6% fly ball rate indicates. If his scouting reports remain true, the loft in his swing could generate more fly balls, and as a result, a few more home runs in 2012.

With more at bats and an increase in fly ball rate, Ramos could approach 20 HRs and be a cheap source of power at the end of drafts in 2012.