Sunday, November 6, 2016

2016 Player Reviews: Jose Ramirez, Anthony Recker, Paco Rodriguez

This is the eleventh edition of the 2016 Player Reviews. My quick math tells me that I've done 33 little blurbs about players from last year's team who could return in 2017. A dozen remain. Hopefully, next year, the Braves don't use more players than the Falcons so I don't have to do this again.

Did you miss the last edition? I got your back. Want to catch up on all of the series? I have you covered as well.

*Ages reflect the player's age on opening day, 2017.

Jose Ramirez, RHP, 27 years-old

2016 Review: The major league season is long. From the point pitchers report to camp in February until a hopeful trip to postseason play in October, a lot can happen. For Ramirez, he was given a chance to right the ship and finished strong to keep him in Atlanta's plans for 2017. Out-of-options, Ramirez opened the year with the major league team, but after two appearances in which 9-of-15 batters faced reached base, the Braves decided they had already seen enough and banished Ramirez to the minors. It was a quick decision, but he had walked four over just two innings of work. He posted some big strikeout numbers upon his arrival in Gwinnett, but continued to walk a lot of batters as well. The Gwinnett and minor league coaches continued to work with him and over a two-month period, Ramirez walked just 8 over 25.1 innings. With the Braves' bullpen getting a trade deadline remodel, Ramirez returned to the majors near the tail-end of July. His control wasn't as pin-point as it had been in Gwinnett, but it was much improved and he logged an impressive 30.2 innings down the stretch.

2017 Projection: One change that was evident with Ramirez once he returned to the majors was that his release point was a little lower, giving him a bit more pronounced three-quarter's delivery. It also gave him better heat and the ability to throw first-pitch strikes. The Braves pushed Ramirez to nearly drop his changeup in favor of a bigger use of his hard slider. The results were solid and Ramirez will have a shot to win a spot in next year's pen. Now, there are some concerning issues with Ramirez. While he lowered his FIP to 3.94 by year's end, that was nearly a run lower than his expected FIP. Part of that was due to an unusually low amount of homeruns (5.4% per flyball). That is unlikely to continue and even though Ramirez's control was better, a 12.6% rate is still 4% above average. There are some things here to really like, but there are some problematic pitfalls to deal with as well. Ramirez will be 27 when the 2017 season opens. Power arms will always have a shot to turn the corner and Atlanta is hoping Chuck Hernandez and the new Braves pitching gurus can work some magic with Ramirez.

Anthony Recker, C, 33 years-old

2016 Review: BABIP is a fun stat. Heading into this season, Recker had a BABIP of .249. It was a testament to how bad of a hitter Recker had been. Then, over a 33-game run after getting the callup to Atlanta, Recker's BABIP jumped nearly hundred points and suddenly, he had a triple slash of .278/.394/.433. It was pretty surprising since his minor league numbers weren't nearly that impressive either. Also astounding was how he shaved 10% off his K% and re-purposed about 5% to his walk rate (not sure how one does that, but Recker's special).

2017 Projection: Okay, Recker didn't suddenly turn into a hitting God overnight. He simply did not have enough time for his numbers to regress to the mean. Expecting the now 33 year-old with a career 1.8 fWAR to have a 2016-like encore performance would be a bit much. Recker's not bad as far as depth goes, but the Braves will likely non-tender him rather than go through arbitration and offer him a return trip via a minor league contract. He may take his chances elsewhere and if he does, do not fret. If his numbers regress - and they will - you are left with an okayish backstop with poor pitch framing metrics, decent walk numbers, and a bit of pop. It's not the worst guy to stash at Triple-A, but the Braves should do better for their major league team.

By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Paco Rodriguez)
[CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Paco Rodriguez, LHP, 25 years-old

2016 Review: Acquired in the Alex Wood/Hector Olivera trade in July of 2015, the Braves had hoped that Rodriguez, who was rehabbing from bone spurs removal surgery at the time, would eventually play a role for the team by September that year. Instead, he would undergo Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2016 as he rehabbed from the operation.

2017 Projection: In Rodriguez, the Braves have a quality arm with already 124 games of major league experience since being picked in the second round of the 2012 draft. Righties struggle against him while lefties are a lost cause (a career split of .174/.245/.234 with 4.8 K/BB). Overall, Rodriguez had a career FIP/xFIP of 2.98/3.00 before injuries put him on the shelf. A rarity for a reliever, Rodriguez utilizes three pitches with regularity including a sinker that he can run in at about 90 mph if healthy and an 86-88 mph cutter along with an 80 mph slider. He even sprinkles in a four-seamer and circle change at times to keep righties off balance. If he's back, the Braves have a crafty lefty who can give the team more productivity than simply getting left-handed batters out. Atlanta might try to baby him, especially early on, and try to avoid back-to-back's, but provided he's good to go in 2017, he'll be an integral part to the revamped and improved 2017 Atlanta bullpen.

See Also
Transaction Tuesday: Recker, Adonis, Minter, Yepez
Reviewing Hart's Trades: The Hector Olivera Leap of Faith
What Can the Braves Learn from the Cubs?

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