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2021 Marlins Season Preview: Harold Ramirez

With such a crowded Marlins outfield, where will Ramirez’s playing time come from?

MLB: Miami Marlins at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

OF Harold Ramirez

Opening Day age: 26 | Bats: right | Throws: right | Listed at 5-10, 232 lbs.

Acquired by Marlins on a minor league free agent deal (November 25, 2018)

As some of you may have noticed, I’m very fond of Harold Ramirez. That isn’t to say I have any delusions about him blossoming into a star. I just root for unconventional, engaging people.

Ramirez does not look like an outfielder. He is in select company when it comes to all-time MLB players at that position who’ve been listed at under six feet tall and 230-plus pounds. Moreover, it’s hard to fathom how anybody with that physical frame could rate in the 92nd percentile in Sprint Speed as he did in 2019 (tied with chiseled now-teammate Starling Marte).

True to his nickname—as bestowed upon him by former Marlins beat reporter Joe Frisaro—“Hitting Harold” leads all Miami outfielders in hits over the last two seasons, and by a huge margin. Although his production has been a nice surprise, his place atop that category is largely a testament to the sheer awfulness of his peers.

Ramirez made an exciting adjustment toward the end of his 2019 rookie campaign, putting the ball in the air consistently (his ground ball rate had been hovering around 60% for most of the year). The Marlins scooped up quality veteran bats like Corey Dickerson, Jesús Aguilar and Jonathan Villar the ensuing winter yet felt confident enough in Ramirez’s slugging potential to slot him in the cleanup spot to open the 2020 regular season.

Baseball Savant

Unfortunately, that experiment ended abruptly when Ramirez tested positive for COVID-19 on Jul. 26 (after only two games). He waited weeks to be cleared to report to the Marlins alternate training site in Jupiter and several more for the club to create room for him on the active roster. It was all for naught: Ramirez suffered a severe, season-ending hamstring strain in his return from the injured list on Sept. 5.

Did you follow along with Offseason Fish? Then you’re aware that the 26-year-old has fully recovered. He made up for lost time by playing 42 winter ball games in his native Colombia, patrolling the outfield in the vast majority of those starts including a handful of appearances in center field. He posted a .331/.394/.463 slash line.

What’s next?

2021 ZiPS projection: .253/.296/.372, 77 wRC+, -0.9 fWAR

2021 PECOTA projection (50th percentile): .257/.308/.391, 92 DRC+, 0.3 WARP

The Miami Herald describes Ramirez as possibly being “the odd man out” of the Marlins outfield competition:

Miami’s plan heading into spring training would be to play Corey Dickerson in left field, Starling Marte in center field, and a platoon of Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra in right field, provided both players hit decently this spring. Brinson would play against left-handers, Sierra against right-handers.

Magneuris Sierra’s case for making the Opening Day roster is fairly straightforward. He’s a versatile defender and dynamic baserunner who has become more valuable as a batter thanks to improved plate discipline. Perhaps most importantly, he has used up his minor league options. Time for him to sink or swim.

The stage is set for a spring training battle to determine who will platoon with Sierra, a role that would include occasionally spelling Dickerson in left field as well. Lewis Brinson is reportedly the frontrunner, but Ramirez and Monte Harrison should also be under serious consideration.

One factor working against Ramirez is that the Marlins have so much more invested in Brinson’s and Harrison’s success—the top prospects received in the Christian Yelich trade get priority over a former minor league signee. Like Ramirez, they can be optioned to the minors in 2021, but don’t have anything else to prove down there.

The other factor is outfield defense.

Ramirez has struggled in the past with his route running and communication. Even more obvious to the casual viewer, he has a lousy arm. It’s been more than two years since he last earned a legitimate outfield assist (here are his “illegitimate” ones from April 2019 and January 2021).

The Marlins would happily overlook Harold’s deficiencies in the field if they could count on him for above-average offense. Despite a knack for delivering in the clutch and an aesthetically pleasing all-fields approach, he hasn’t quite reached that threshold as a big leaguer yet (career 92 wRC+). He’ll need to elevate the ball more often to increase the likelihood of extra-base hits. It also depends on how much ground Marte can cover as a 32-year-old. Center fielders usually transition to the outfield corners around that age. But if Marte defies that trend and avoids losing half a step, he can largely compensate for Ramirez’s individual issues.

The Marlins aren’t going to rush into a Harold Ramirez transaction right now. Injuries to any one of Dickerson/Marte/Brinson/Garrett Cooper would create an easy fit for him on the Opening Day active roster, plus the door is still open for MLB and the players’ union to reach an agreement to use the universal designated hitter. If none of those conditions are met, however, I would expect Miami to explore trading him.


Will Harold Ramirez be on the 2021 Marlins Opening Day roster?

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