Hanley Ramirez was once a stud shortstop (based solely on his bat, of course), a young player a franchise could build around. Fast forward to 2012 and Han-Ram was just a struggling player acquired by the Dodgers in an effort to upgrade at a position of need and make a run at 2012.
Acquired for Nate Eovaldi and Scott McGough, Hanley arrived as a third baseman swinging the lumber to the tune of a paltry .246/.322/.428/.750 slash line with a .326 wOBA. For the defense-first position of shortstop, that’s acceptable, but for a player of Ramirez’s offensive stature and talent, that’s a far cry from a franchise building block. Additionally, even though he plays a defense-first position, fielding prowess is the last thing anyone would ever note Hanley for.
While he hit better with the Dodgers, primarily as a shortstop, it wasn’t by much, and that came with a worse BB%, a higher K%, and a 48-point bump in BABIP from his 2012 Marlins stint. While his BABIP with the Dodgers moved closer to his career mark, he’s suffered a drop in that area the last couple of years, as it was once routinely north of .325. Factoring in a loss of speed with age, I wouldn’t bet on that BABIP magically leaping back to its earlier resting place. Why? Because with age, attrition, his injury history, and his loss of speed, he won’t exactly be beating them out in droves.
As I touched upon previously, Hanley is a terror with the glove, and it really shows when you take a look at the advanced metrics. Taking on that task reveals a mind-boggling 14 runs that Hanley cost his 2012 employers while manning both short and third. The eye test? Judging by Twitter reactions, I doubt there’s anybody who would argue with the metrics. It’s important, because that strikingly bad showing left Hanley with a paltry ~2.4 WAR, a slight bounce back from his 2011 WAR of ~1.1, but nothing to write home about after a previous string of five seasons in which his WAR never fell below 4.0 and reached as high as 7.5.
The Dodgers best bet moving forward is to have Hanley play third and an actual shortstop who can field the position play short. How Ned Colletti would go about acquiring that shortstop is a different question though, so for now, the best options would appear to be either Dee Gordon or Luis Cruz.
Dee Gordon began the 2012 season as the starting shortstop, spent much of the middle portion of the year on the DL with a thumb injury, and ended the year as a pinch-runner. While his offensive limitations were obvious, and his defense was in serious need of improvement, it was hoped that he could scrape by and get on enough to use his fantastic speed to wreak havoc on opposing pitchers and catchers.
Unfortunately for Dee, the Dodgers, and OBP-lovers everywhere, 2012 was a lost season for the 24-year-old. Prior to his injury, Dee was a mess at the plate, with a slash line of just .229/.280/.282/.562 due to his low walk rate (6.1 %), severe lack of power (.053 ISO in 330 PA), and a propensity to hit the ball weakly on the ground (58.9 GB%). Dee returned from injury and headed straight for the minors, and upon his return after rosters expanded, garnered just three plate appearances.
And yet, Don Mattingly allowed Dee to lead-off for much of his 2012 season. A.J. Ellis silently weeps.
Anyway, Dee was just as abominable in the field, costing the Dodgers ~10.5 runs with his glove. His range aside, Dee must work on his hands and accuracy, because becoming a defensive asset at short is his path to being an MLB regular. For now though, his weak bat and weak glove worked to produce a WAR right around -1.0.
The sole area where Dee did contribute was, not surprisingly, the basepaths, where he was worth around ~3.0 runs and stole 32 bases. However, he swiped bags at just an average rate (~76%), so there’s plenty of room for Dee to grow in that respect, unless he wants to be Juan Pierre and steal a lot of bags while not being a great basestealer.
Dee’s role in 2013 is not yet clear. While he could remain in the bigs as a bench player, pinch-runner, or spot-starter, it seems more likely that he would begin the season as the starting shortstop in AAA so the Dodgers can work with him on his offensive, defensive, and basestealing shortcomings.
The upside is still there, but 2012 clearly showed there was a long way to go.
As Cruz started 23 games at short — mostly after Gordon’s injury but before Ramirez’s acquisition — he’ll get a brief mention here, although his full write-up can be found in the Season Review for third base.
Despite his overall solid year, Cruz hit a mediocre .235/.267/.388/.655 while captaining the infield, though almost half of his 20 hits in his 85 plate appearances went for extra-bases (two homers and seven doubles). In the field, he was solid, clocking in at ~0.7 runs saved.
If the Dodgers start Cruz at short, he helps the club most there because his defense far surpasses Hanley’s.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of the site Plaschke Thy Sweater Is Argyle. Follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke.