Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Hanley Ramirez

Aug 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) throws his bat aside after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez (13) throws his bat aside after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

The BoSox Injection staff reflects on the 2016 season by grading each member of the Boston Red Sox based on expectations for them entering the season.

What a difference a year makes! The Boston Red Sox brought Hanley Ramirez back to Boston in 2015 along with “The Panda” Pablo Sandoval in two of the bigger free agent acquisitions that offseason. Unfortunately for Ben Cherington, the plan to put Hanley in left field and Pablo at third base completely backfired, blew up in his face and probably cost him his job.

Ramirez was a complete disaster in left field and was no match for the Green Monster at Fenway. With the departure of Mike Napoli to Cleveland, an opportunity arose for John Farrell and company to move Hanley back to the infield at first base in 2016. The days of playing shortstop were long gone for Ramirez, but perhaps he could somehow play an adequate first base.

Still, Red Sox Nation braced themselves for another pathetic defensive season for Hanley that would lead to them pulling out their own hair and screaming at the television. Instead, what they got was a determined, re-energized and more focused player than they had seen the year prior. He wasn’t just covering first, he was actually playing a solid defensive role for Boston. That confidence that was gained in the field was then harnessed into a very good year for Hanley at the plate.

Though his season was cut short in 2015, the difference in his approach at the plate this season was obvious. He seemed to have a better understanding of the strike zone and the pitches he wanted to see. Hanley hit a solid .286 for the season while clobbering 30 home runs and knocking 111 runs.

Many thought the days of him hitting 30/100 plus were long gone, but as I mentioned earlier, he seemed to be more locked in than the last few seasons. Perhaps it was because he was trying to perform to the best of his ability for his friend David Ortiz’ final season. Or maybe, as his “letter” to Red Sox fans in the Players Tribune discussed, it was returning to the team where his heart always was. Whatever it was, it was working!

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Ramirez started off the season strong and had some quieter games in the middle of the summer, but he really caught fire toward the end of the season when the Red Sox needed him most in the midst of a wild divisional battle with Baltimore and Toronto. He hit .306 in August and .307 in September with a combined 17 home runs. The towering blast he hit to dead center at Fenway to cap off a huge comeback victory over the Yankees in the middle of September was one of the biggest hits of the season for Boston.

One of the other positives for Hanley this season was just simply being able to get on the field on a daily basis. He played in 147 games in 2016, the most since 2012 when he was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers.

He hit .361/.505/.866 – some of the best numbers in his career. His power game was back on point, and he showed off some of the skills at the plate that made the Sox want him to join them just a year prior. He offered some much needed protection in the order for Ortiz, made pitchers pay for mistake pitches and didn’t seem to be bothered by pressure situations.


What’s Next?

Good question. It’s difficult to know what to expect from Hanley Ramirez given the up-and-down trajectory of his career. He’ll be 33 years old when the 2017 season begins with two years left on his current deal. Let’s hope that the retirement of one Big Papi doesn’t provide him with an excuse to take it easy as his career winds down.

Then there’s the question of where he will play or what role he will fill going forward. Should Boston attempt to sign a free agent to fill the huge void at DH now that Ortiz is gone, or should they move Hanley to that role and use someone else at first base (or even third base if they choose to move Travis Shaw over to first)? BoSox Injection’s very own Brandon Nickel tackled that topic last week.

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I’d like to see Hanley continue to play at first because I think his success in the field actually helped his offense. I feel that limiting him to just a few at-bats per game will create an environment for him where he’ll become complacent or possibly even bored. It’s hard to quantify just how good Hanley was at first compared to how bad fans expected him to be, and the surprise factor certainly comes into play. Still, I had no complaints about his defense at all.

The only thing that is certain is that Boston will need Ramirez’ bat more than ever next year. Hopefully, he can finish his tenure in Boston on a high note.