Despite Being Underrated Nationally, Indians' Jose Ramirez May Still Win the 2020 AL MVP Award

Mark Warmuth

New Indians’ pitcher Cal Quantrill said it after Jose Ramirez’ game winning three run homer to put the Tribe back in the post-season. He said if there is such a thing as an underrated top five player in the game, Ramirez is one.

It is difficult to believe Ramirez is still underrated, perhaps it is the slump he suffered through at the beginning of the 2019 season, but we feel some fans, even those who follow the Indians, don’t remember that the switch-hitter has two top three American League MVP finishes (2017 and 2018).

Perhaps it is the presence of Francisco Lindor, who has become the face of the franchise, but even nationally, you don’t hear enough about Ramirez being one of the best players in the sport.

There is no doubt that he is though. Still, since he became a regular midway through the 2016 season, only Mike Trout, recognized by everyone as the best player in the sport, has more top three finishes in the most valuable player voting than the Tribe third baseman.

The other players who have two such placements are household names nationally: Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, and Christian Yelich.

Perhaps part of it was he was never regarded as a great prospect. Heck, he didn’t even appear on the Tribe’s Top 10 Prospect list until 2014, after he made his big league debut.

Cleveland got their first glimpse of Ramirez in the drive for a wild card spot in 2013, when the organization promoted him, primarily as a pinch runner after he hit .272 (674 OPS) with 38 stolen bases at Akron, playing mostly second base.

His keystone combination partner in ’12 at Lake County was Lindor, and they made for quite a duo up the middle.

Ramirez started the following season in AAA, hitting .302 (801 OPS) in 60 games at Columbus before being called up to play shortstop during the second half of the 2014 season with the big club, batting .262 with 2 HR, 17 RBI and 14 extra base hits in 266 plate appearances.

He started the ’15 season at shortstop (keeping the spot warm for top prospect Lindor), but was hitting just .180 (487 OPS) before being demoted to AAA. Lindor came up a few days later.

Upon getting recalled, he batted .259 with a 775 OPS, mixing in 16 extra base hits in 182 times at the dish. He played all over the diamond when he came back, playing some third base and leftfield. At that point, Jason Kipnis was fully ensconced at second base for the Tribe.

The switch-hitter started the following season in the same role, but with Juan Uribe not hitting at the hot corner, Ramirez started getting regular playing time there and started to hit with even more power, batting .312, with 11 homers, 76 runs batted in, 46 doubles, and an 825 OPS.

He probably would have won the MVP in 2017 if not for a terrible September (.174 average, 637 OPS) that some attributed to being home run happy. He entered the month with 38 dingers.

Even with the increase in power, Ramirez was still an excellent base runner, stealing 17, 34, and 24 bases in the last three full baseball seasons, and he is an great defensive third baseman too.

There has been speculation he will eventually move back to second base to make room for prospect Nolan Jones, but we believe he’s not moving, his body type now makes him more suited for the corner spot.

He has a engaging personality too. Fox Sports’ Andre Knott calls him the heartbeat of the team, and his comments about “home run pitches” have caught on throughout the fanbase, and so, of course, are the “Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose” chants that resonate at Progressive Field when he comes up with a big hit.

People around the game know how good Ramirez is. He’s one of the 10-15 best players in the game, a great combination of power and speed, and a very good batting eye. He really doesn’t have a weakness.

As for the lack of national recognition? 

Who cares! Fans in northeast Ohio know how good Ramirez is. And he could be the AL MVP in 2020.