Has Alexei Ramirez' offense peaked?

667828.png

Has Alexei Ramirez' offense peaked?

At this time last year, those waiting for Alexei Ramirez to have a breakout offensive season kept repeating this mantra: If he can hit in April and May, he'll be awesome.

From 2008-2010, Ramirez was dreadful at the plate through mid-May. In 2008, Ramirez posted a .353 OPS (.163 OBP.190 SLG) from March 31-May 15. In 2009, Ramirez had a .509 OPS on May 17. And in 2010, his OPS was .556 on the morning of May 15.

But after the middle of May, Ramirez took off in each of those seasons. In 2008 -- his best offensive season in the majors -- Ramirez posted an .833 OPS in 118 games from May 16 through the end of the campaign. In 2009, that mid-May-to-end-of-season OPS was .779, and in 2010, it was .791.

So when Ramirez came out of the gate strong in 2011, it looked like he was on pace to have the big offensive season some had been projecting for years.

On May 15, 2011, Ramirez had a .739 OPS. Nothing extraordinary, but given his previous AprilMay struggles, the hope was that his usual JuneJuly surge, coupled with a non-abysmal OPS base, would lead his full-season production to new heights. That didn't happen.

Ramirez peaked in early June. His OPS was a cool .812 after going 2-4 against Justin Verlander on June 4, but it slipped below .800 a few days later and was well into the mid-.700 range by the middle of the month. By August, Ramirez' OPS was .730, and it remained remarkably consistent in that range through the end of the season -- which saw Ramirez finish with a .727 OPS.

That left him with a three-year OPS of .732. In other words, his 2011 was basically an average offensive year for Alexei Ramirez. His wOBAs (basically, a better version of OPS) from 2009-2011 go as follows: .319, .321, .319.

So when Hardball Talk's Matthew Pouliot projected Ramirez to have an OPS of .766 in 2012, I had to be skeptical. That would represent a pretty sharp deviation from the last three years, and at 30, it's hard for me to believe Ramirez will ever be more than a .730-OPS guy.

But here's the really, really good news: it doesn't matter. Ramirez is so skilled with the glove that all he needs is roughly average offensive seasons to make him an incredibly valuable asset to the White Sox. Thanks to his shoulda-been-Gold-Glove defense in the last two seasons, Ramirez has racked up 9.2 WAR.

That two-year WAR total is behind only Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki and is right in the same range as Jose Reyes. Ramirez has also provided significantly more WAR than Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, Starlin Castro and Derek Jeter since 2010.

Ramirez is one of baseball's elite shortstops. No lack of an offensive breakout will change that.

Yoan Moncada 'relieved' to get first White Sox hit out of way

Yoan Moncada 'relieved' to get first White Sox hit out of way

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Yoan Moncada can’t complain much about his first hit with the White Sox.

Given all the elements, it rates about a 9 1/ 2 out of 10. Only a homer would have been better.

Baseball’s top prospect continues to look comfortable at the plate and in the field. Two days after he made his team debut, Moncada earned his first hit when he ripped a two-out, bases-loaded triple early in Friday night’s 7-6 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Moncada finished 1-for-4 with four RBIs.

“Once I got that first hit, I felt relieved,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “First, because it was the first one. And second because of the situation. It was a three RBIs triple. It was a very big moment of the game. I think that from now on I’m going to feel more relaxed and comfortable.”

Moncada has put together a series of good plate appearances in his first two games. He’s looked at ease while in the box and hasn’t panicked even when he gets behind in the count. Moncada said he felt even more comfortable when he stepped in to face Royals starter Ian Kennedy in the third inning. Not only was it his second time facing Kennedy, but Moncada sat in the on-deck circle as Matt Davidson drew a 10-pitch walk to load the bases with two outs.

Hitting left-handed, Moncada fell behind 0-2 in the count but Kennedy hung a 78-mph knuckle curve and the rookie lined it deep into the left-center field gap to clear the bases. Moncada not only showed his power, he also showed off his wheels: his 11.24 seconds from home to third was the fastest time by a White Sox player this season, according to MLB Statcast.

“He's seeing the ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He seems pretty calm, composed out there. It's just a couple of days, but in terms of how he's carrying himself, his body language, he seems to be transitioning pretty well up to this point, first couple of days.”

Moncada said Friday was much calmer than his Wednesday debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he drew a walk and went 0-for-2. The switch-hitting second baseman had an RBI groundout in his first at-bat Friday to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Then he stood in and tracked Kennedy with Davidson at the plate.

All in all, Moncada’s happy with how he’s executed his plan at the plate thus far. He said he choked up on the 0-2 pitch and put a good swing on it.

“That at-bat gave me more time to see in real life his pitches,” Moncada said. “I’ve been feeling very comfortable. In Chicago, that first game, it was a little bit nervous. But overall I feel very comfortable hitting and with my defense.”

Is it time for the White Sox to call up Reynaldo Lopez?

lopez-721.jpg
USA TODAY

Is it time for the White Sox to call up Reynaldo Lopez?

With Yoan Moncada now with the White Sox and making an early impact, White Sox fans may be wondering which highly-touted prospect is next to join the big league roster.

Reynaldo Lopez is certainly making a strong case for himself in Triple-A Charlotte. Lopez, one of the pitchers the Sox received from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade, gave up one run in six innings for the Knights on Friday night. That was the latest in a string of five strong starts for the 23-year-old.

In Friday's 2-1 loss against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders, Lopez struck out six and allowed just two hits and one walk. That's five straight starts for Lopez in which he has allowed two or fewer runs while pitching six or more innings.

Here's his last five starts:

June 29 vs. Columbus: 6 2/3 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts, 1 walk, 6 hits

July 4 at Durham: 6 innings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 5 hits

July 9 at Louisville: 6 innings, 2 runs, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 7 hits

July 16 vs. Gwinnett: 7 innings, 1 run, 12 strikeouts, 2 walks, 2 hist

Tonight at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 6 innings, 1 run, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk, 2 hits

Loepz has a 3.65 ERA on the season with 107 strikeouts in 106 innings against 40 walks and 90 hits. In a short stint in the majors last season, Lopez had a 4.91 ERA in 44 innings in six starts and five relief appearances for the Nationals.

Does Guaranteed Rate Field await the Dominican right-hander?