The Washington Nationals finished with the second best record in 2014 with 96 wins and 66 losses, a whopping 17 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets in the non-competitive National League East. Along with a top-10 scoring offense, they did it with baseball's best pitching staff. Washington finished with a 3.03 ERA as a team, including a 3.04 ERA from the starting five and a 3.00 ERA from the bullpen. With the acquisition of Max Scherzer, Washington is once again the clear-cut favorite to take down the NL East, as well as a popular pick to represent the Senior Circuit in the World Series.
The man blessed with catching Washington's superstar rotation of Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister is Wilson Ramos, a 27-year-old backstop who was first signed by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent in 2014. In the Fake Teams consensus rankings released on Monday, Ramos checked in at No. 13, four points behind New York's Travis d'arnaud. I personally ranked Ramos tenth, while Ray had him highest at No. 6 and Jason lowest at No. 18.
Ramos' current draft position, according to NESN.com's NFBC ADP, is also 13th, one spot behind d'Arnaud. If you're not going to bite the bullet on Buster Posey or Jonathon Lucroy early in drafts, Ramos represents excellent upside as a potential top-five catcher. While Washington's starting rotation is its biggest strength, the Nationals lineup is no joke. Last year, the Nats scored the third most runs scored in the NL with 686, 36 runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And the projected lineup for Washington is almost as impressive as the starting five:
1. Denard Span, CF
2. Anthony Rendon, 3B
3. Bryce Harper, RF
4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
5. Ian Desmond, SS
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. Yunel Escobar, 2B
8. Michael Taylor, LF
I'm not a huge fan of the Yunel Escobar acquisition, and the lineup doesn't look as strong without Jayson Werth (slated to miss 2-3 months), but the top six could do some serious damage. Ramos is in a good position to drive in more runs than he has at any point of his career. Last season, the backstop slashed .267/.299/.399 with 11 home runs, 32 runs and 47 RBI across 361 plate appearances. Once again, Ramos couldn't stay on the field as he played in only 88 games. Sadly, that was his most playing time since 2011, when he blasted 15 home runs in 113 contests.
Ramos broke a bone in his hand on opening day, which cost him a month, and also suffered a strained hamstring in June that cost him additional time. Ramos' brittle reputation won't go away until he puts together a full, injury-free season, but the prospects of a big season are there.Over his last 664 plate appearances, Ramos has hit 27 home runs. His ISO was a career-worst .133 in 2014, but he was among the league leaders with a 300.19 batted ball distance, ranked 12th behind Evan Gattis (300.63).
Ramos had a HR/FB rate of 16.7 percent last year, which would have ranked in the top 20 if qualified. The year before, it was 27.6 percent. The year before that: 23.1 percent. If he can match up those HR/FB rates and up his fly-ball rate closer to his career rate of 28.4 percent, we could easily see Ramos' first 20-home run season in 2015 (assuming health and around 450 plate appearances).
What Ramos has been consistent in is his batting average. With a career .269 BA, Steamer projects Ramos to hit .269/.316/.438 with 16 home runs, 46 runs and 55 RBI across 428 PAs. I feel that, even with less than 450 PAS, Steamer is light in the counting stats. I think Ramos will get over the 20-home run hump and drive in closer to 70 runs in 2014. Because he hasn't put together a full season, Ramos' current ADP of 184.61 makes him a very strong value pick in the 15th round.