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Hanley Ramirez: Is He the Best Shortstop in Baseball?
- Updated: May 29, 2009
Playing for the Florida Marlins is about as close as Major League Baseball can come to having a site in the witness protection program, but even toiling away in anonymity, shortstop Hanley Ramirez is turning heads and creating a name for himself as one of the best young players in the game.
A year after becoming only the fourth shortstop ever to join the 30-30 club, the 2006 National League Rookie of the Year has stepped his game up another run and now has to be considered among the top shortstops in the sport.
Primarily a leadoff hitter during his first three seasons, Ramirez moved into the number three spot in the lineup this season and immediately made some big noise with a grand slam home run on opening day.
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Ramirez ranks among the league leaders with a .348 battingwhile already slugging seven home runs, driving home 21 runs and swiping six bases.
He is well on his way to increasing his numbers from 2008, when he hit .301 with 33 home runs, 67 RBIs and 35 stolen bases to earn his first Silver Slugger Award.
The league leader in runs scored last season with 125, Ramirez has scored more than 100 runs in each of his three full seasons and despite moving down in the lineup is on his way to a fourth with 25 runs scored so far in 2009.
If Ramirez had a significant weakness during his first three seasons in the league, it was his propensity for committing errors from his spot at shortstop. He averaged 24 errors per season with an average fielding percentage of .965.
So far in 2009, Ramirez has showed a marked improvement with the glove having committed only two errors with a .984 fielding percentage through the first 35 games.
Given his offensive prowess, if Ramirez can continue his new found magic in the field, there will be little doubt that he is at or near the top of the list when discussing the best shortstops in baseball.
With perennial All-Star shortstops Derek Jeter, Miguel Tejada and Jimmy Rollins starting to show some age and all-time great Alex Rodriguez now playing at the hot corner, a new batch of talented shortstops are taking control of the position.
Ramirez was the starting shortstop on the National League All-Star team a year ago and is posting even better numbers in 2009. Jose Reyes, Jason Bartlett, Ryan Theriot and Christian Guzman are among the shortstops off to strong starts in 2009, but none have the combination of speed and power possessed by Ramirez.
The biggest problem for Ramirez is that he is on a Marlins team that rarely receives national attention.
For him to truly take his rightful place on the short list for the best players in the game, the Marlins must start winning and return to the national stage for the first time since they won the World Series in 2003.
Unfortunately for Ramirez, after their hot start to the 2009 the Marlins have cooled off and are in fourth place in a division that is surely to be competitive throughout the season.
It may be too much to ask for Ramirez to put the young Marlins on his back and lead them to the playoffs, though he certainly has the talent to try. If the Marlins truly want to be contenders in 2009, they will need to add some veterans to a squad that is one of the youngest in the game.
Bringing in a couple veterans who can help Ramirez and the other talented young Marlin players carry the day-by-day burdens would not only help lift the Marlins in the standings this season, but would also help teach the young players how to win and carry themselves during a playoff race.
Because, with the talent they are stockpiling, it will only be a matter of time before the Marlins are contenders and Hanley Ramirez is leading them out of anonymity and back to the top of the National League.
To read more from Dean, go to his sports blog: Sports Then and Now