Everyone is aware of the elite tier of free agents this year like Bauer, LeMahieu, or Springer. Or the Top Trade targets of Lindor, Bryant, and Arenado.
But rarely do the biggest signings make the most impact. 1 man can not win for 24 others. Mookie may have been the final piece for a finally satisfied Dodger’s organization, but he had 39 guys behind him who were just as crucial. And lesser signings in Treinen and Alex Wood were indispensable this postseason.
The true winning happens with the under the radar signings. Last year it was Blake Treinen for the Dodgers. Marcell Ozuna and d’Arnaud for the Braves. Gausman for the Giants. DJ LeMahieu was under the radar a couple years ago. The list of lower tier/upside talent that produces at an elite level after a signing grows every year.
So we made a full roster, (40 guys) of under the radar Free agents to watch this winter. Join us as we break it down position by position starting today with a couple of catchers. We are calling our shots on next year’s under the radar producers and who they’ll sign with.
Today we start with catchers not named Realmuto or the most likely number 2, McCaan.
- Wilson Ramos
He will turn 34 during the next season which will be his 12th Major league season. In his career he’s a .274/.321/.434 hitter. He played 124 games in 2019 and 41 of 60 in 2020 as a catcher. 113 and 38 of those were as starts. So all in all, he’s been almost an iron man for his age and the position.
Most likely due to the small sample size, he had his worst year at the plate since 2015 with a slash line of .239/.297/.387 last year. Statcast did say he was unlucky and should’ve hit closer to .248/.303/.420, but that’s not much better.
But in the full season of 2018 and ’19 he OPS’d .845 and .768 respectively. 2018 being his second best season at the plate in his career. And his peripheral stats did not change much from 18-19 to 2020. He’s hitting the ball about the same.
The biggest difference was a decrease in sweet spot contact. He’s been down to 26-27% the past two years, compared to 33.6% in his 2018 campaign. This also showed up in a decrease in Zone Contact the same 5%. Granted, he also came with a rebound in barrel %. Basically all of this translates to less hits, but more power.
He may never be a .300/.375/.475 hitter like he was at his peak, but Ramos still has a lot of production in the tank. At least statcast views him favorably at the plate.
His downside comes with his league setting slowness on the bases, and he is almost the worst framer in the league. But we think Ramos can flourish in a backup catcher/ designated hitter role.
Prediction: Rays: 2 years: $7 million
- Kurt Suzuki
Suzuki is similar to Ramos. He’s older at 37 and going into his 15th MLB season. He hasn’t played a true starter’s workload as a catcher since 2015, so he is definitely a backup catcher now.
But he’s actually performed better at the plate since taking on less of a role. He has a career OPS of .708. However in his last 4 seasons as a backup catcher, he’s OPS’d .887, .776, .809, and .745. Those numbers are actually his second through 5th best year totals. (His best year was in 2013 with the A’s where he OPS’d a ridiculous for him .888)
He’s barely faster than Ramos, and barely worse at framing. He’s a bit smaller so he packs less punch, but is a much better contact hitter. Even in a very average 2020 he was in the 89th percentile in strikeout percentage, and 90th in whiff percentage.
A man who puts the ball in play makes productive outs. And productive outs will never show up on a player’s scorecard, but they can be priceless for a team that already has their key producers. And whether people give him credit or not, he was a huge part of the 2019 Championship Nationals squad.
Prediction: Reds, 1 year, $2.5 million
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