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Sweet or Sour: Is Alexei Ramirez the Real Deal?
Michael Ryan, FantasyJuice.com

SWEET:

Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez has been the subject of a lot of debate this draft season. After a nice rookie campaign in 2008 in which he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting and hit .290 with 21 home runs and 13 steals, many are projecting Ramirez to take the next step as an elite middle infielder while others are excepting a sophomore slump from the 27 year old Cuban defector.

Count me as one of those who see the free swinger as a legit top shortstop, even after his not so stellar beginning to 2009. Once he got comfortable as an everyday player in the lineup, Alexei finished strong boosting both his homers and stolen bases in the second half.

Naysayers will most likely point out his lack of a track record in the US, his low walk rate, and his spot in the batting order as signs of a regression but there are many reasons why this will not be the case for 2009 and beyond.

First of all, yes 2008 was Alexeiís first year in professional baseball in the US after years of playing in his native Cuba. However, Ramirez was quite consistent in Cuba, hitting for both power and average with a high contact percentage. Those all translated well to the majors last year, including a high 80s contact percentage that suggests the .290 average was not a fluke.

Alexeiís low walk rate is a large reason why he is not starting the season near the top of the order but he improved the rate as the year went on and also showed an ability to draw a walk in the Cuban league (10% and 12% in 2007-2008, respectively). If he can prove to opposing pitchers, as well as manager Ozzie Guillen, that he can take a pitch, Ramirezís OBP and spot in the lineup will go up before long. It also doesnít hurt that Chris Getz and Dewayne Wise are the two leading off for the White Sox right now.

Yes, he has struggled early so far this year but remember that itís week one of 26 and because of his free-swinging tendencies, Alexei is going to be a streaky player. Grab him now while his value may be at its lowest.

Michael Ryan, FantasyJuice.com

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SOUR:

I will agree that Alexei Ramirez had an impressive Cuban League career but let's face it, he wasn't in Major League Baseball. Do you remember they hype surrounding Kaz Matsui when he first arrived in the US? His 30+ home runs in Japan didn't translate to the MLB and I sense the same thing when it comes to Ramirez's average. They are different leagues with different styles.

Last season, Ramirez had a great contact rate and manged a .290 average. While this is a good sign, he walked 18 times over the course of the season. That means he hit more home runs (21) than taking the slow walk to first base. Pitchers are not respecting his eye just yet as he must prove himself worthy by laying off outside breaking balls.

We are 12 games into the 2009 season and Ramirez is batting 7th and 8th consistently in the Chicago White Sox lineup. Brian Anderson and A.J. Pierzynski have consistently surrounded Ramirez in the batting order, not exactly the greatest duo to increase Ramirez's production. If the White Sox ever move Ramirez up in the order then fantasy owners should take note. This day is still far off as Ramirez hasn't gotten on base at a consistent rate.

It is obviously difficult to predict the success of a player who has been on US soil for a little over a year but that's what fantasy pundits have to do. I advised against drafting Ramirez to start the year because I felt he was over-hyped. So far this season it appears to be the correct prediction. Obviously, the season is still young and Ramirez has a heap of upside. Owners should not panic just yet but he won't be worth where they drafted him in 2009.

Cody Crosby, FantasyJuice.com


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