It's hard to imagine anyone focusing after losing a close family member. Alexei Ramirez had to deal with that very situation last year when his father-in-law was murdered. 2013 had to have been a trying season for him, being away from his family during a time when they sorely needed each other.
Stoically addressing sensitive, real-world topics like this makes my work as an analyst seem callous, but my job is assessing and predicting performance via any possible clues.
Along those respectful yet inquisitive lines, it's logical to guess the improvement in both Ramirez's on-field approach and his family's emotional disposition (both confirmed by him here) have contributed to his hot start to 2014.
Ramirez focused on the field
Ramirez now can focus harder on doing his job. Typically a laggard in BB/K, he has protected the plate with authority so far. It's hard to say he's "figured things out" through 54 AB, but it's encouraging that his lumber is moving more quickly through the zone and, more importantly, using the whole field. To the naked eye, his swing trigger looks a bit quicker, too, which lets him wait a bit longer to see the pitch more before making a decision on whether to offer at it.
Unfortunately, that .420 BA and .409 BABIP combo is typical pipe-dream material. Also, despite his three home runs so far, he's not going to revisit the 21 he belted in his 2008 rookie campaign. He's still a grounder-first swatter who won't sustain the 23.1 HR/FB% he's produced in this miniscule sample size; he left the park just 15 times in 2012-2013, which sadly equaled his 2011 figure.
But part of that two-year disappointment came in his tragic year. And from a simple pace standpoint, a double-digit output looks probable, which adds an upgrade to the contact-friendly game he's provided over the previous few seasons.
He should at least continue to be the stable midrange mixed shortstop from draft season, with a few more home runs. Staying put won't hurt aside from the BABIP comedown (something you should be banking on, obviously, so early in the year). Naturally, if you can cash in on a much bigger and impactful name with Ramirez's scorching start, by all means, do it.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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