News broke Tuesday night that the Detroit Tigers signed veteran catcher Wilson Ramos.
Our own Jacob Boes speculated about the Tigers potentially targeting Wilson Ramos way back in May, though for the last few weeks we’ve been wondering if the team was really content to head into spring training with Dustin Garneau as their only veteran catching option.
But the Tigers have their man now in Wilson Ramos, a 33-year-old two-time All-Star. So let’s learn a bit more about him.
Who is Wilson Ramos?
Wilson Ramos was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela in 2004, about one month before his 17th birthday. He moved through the minors one level at a time, with his first real breakout coming in the class Low-A Midwest League in 2007, when he hit .291 with 8 home runs while throwing out 41% of potential base stealers in 73 games.
Baseball America named him the #3 prospect in Minnesota’s system, and when he posted a nearly identical line in the class High-A Florida State League in 2008 they bumped him into their top 100 prospects. Injuries cost Ramos most of his 2009 season, but he still managed to hit .317 with 4 home runs in 54 Double-A games.
The Twins brought Ramos up to the big leagues in May of 2010 and he began his career by going 7-for-9 with 3 doubles in two games against Cleveland and Detroit.
But the Twins had a decent young catcher by the name of Joe Mauer, so they decided to trade Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps. Ramos played just 15 games for the Nats after the trade, but he was named their starting backstop for the 2011 season.
He ended up having a very strong first season, batting .267/.334/.445 with 15 home runs, which earned him a 4th place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting. And then he was kidnapped.
Seriously, in November of 2011 Wilson Ramos was abducted at gunpoint in front of his mother’s home in Venezuela. He was rescued by Venezuelan authorities 50 hours later in a harrowing raid that included exchanges of gunfire.
Ramos returned to baseball the next year, but he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and missed all but 25 games. Injuries continued to dog him over the next two seasons, with hamstring troubles in 2013, and a broken hand in 2014. He finally saw a full season of action in 2015, though he hit just .229 with 15 home runs in 128 games.
Wilson Ramos followed that up with the best season of his career, hitting .307 with 22 home runs over 131 games to earn his first All-Star bid and a Silver Slugger award. In all he spent parts of seven seasons with the Nationals, hitting .268 with 83 home runs, and being the catcher of record for three no hitters as well as Max Scherzer’s epic 20-strikeout performance against the Tigers.
Ramos suffered another torn ACL late in 2016, but the Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a 2-year, $12.5 million deal anyway. He was solid for the Rays in part-time duty, and he earned his second career All-Star appearance in 2018. He was then traded to Philadelphia.
He left the Phillies in free agency and signed a 2-year, $19-million deal with the rival Mets in 2019. He was good for New York in his first year, batting .288/.351/.416, but his batting average dipped to .239 in 2020, and he threw out just 16% of base stealers in his time with the Mets. They declined his option for 2021, and he was free to sign with the Tigers.
Wilson Ramos Scouting Report
Wilson Ramos has been a slightly above-average offensive player in the big leagues, with a career slash line of .274/.321/.434, which is good for a 103 wRC+. For reference, Alex Avila’s career wRC+ during the same time frame is also 103. Ramos is a better pure hitter than Avila, and the two both own a career .160 Isolated Power, but Ramos is very aggressive at the plate, with career walk and strikeout rates of 6.5% and 16.6%, respectively.
Ramos hits the ball hard fairly consistently, but he also happens to be baseball’s most prolific ground ball hitter over the past three seasons. That, combined with him ranking as the the 5th slowest runner in baseball last year, seems like a recipe for a hefty amount of double plays in 2021.
On defense Wilson Ramos is acceptable. His stolen base numbers allowed with the Mets look ugly, but he didn’t get much help from his pitchers, and both his pop times and raw arm strength are solidly average. He’s no Tyler Flowers when it comes to framing, but he’s been fine, with slightly negative marks over the past six seasons. He’s bulky and not terribly agile, but he does a decent job keeping balls in front of him.
How Wilson Ramos Affects the Tigers Roster
Ramos likely heads into the 2021 season as Detroit’s primary catcher. Despite his lengthy injury history, Ramos is something of a workhorse. He was behind the plate for 74% of New York’s games over the past two seasons, and only Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto, and Willson Contreras have caught more games over the past three years.
Grayson Greiner and Jake Rogers are the other two catchers on Detroit’s 40-man roster, and it seems likely they’ll be competing for backup duty. Eric Haase and Garneau will also be in the mix, but they both face long odds to break camp with Detroit.
The Tigers will also have to remove someone from their 40-man roster to make room for Ramos. There are no shortage of options, including Greiner, Sergio Alcántara, Beau Burrows, Harold Castro, Travis Demeritte, Rony García, Derek Hill, and John Schreiber.
Wilson Ramos isn’t a game-changing move for the Tigers by any means. ZiPS projects him to hit .258 with 12 home runs and produce about 0.8 WAR. But he should provide some stability and leadership at a position of need. That’s not bad at all for $2 million.