Apr 14, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Ramiro Pena (14) during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Player Projection – Ramiro Pena



 

A Pleasant Surprise

When the Atlanta Braves acquired Ramiro Pena, not many were excited about the addition to the Braves’ bench.  After all, Pena had done little with the New York Yankees to warrant any excitement from fans.  Ramiro Pena was signed by the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 2005, and struggled for nearly 4 years in their minor league systems before getting a shot with the big show in 2009.

Pena performed pretty well out of the gate for the Yankees in 2009, hitting on a line of .287/.317/.383/.699 in 121 plate appearances.  Not overly impressive, but not terrible either.  For the Yankees though, it was all pretty much downhill from that point on.  In 2010, Pena hit on a line of just .227/.258/.247/.504 in 167 PA’s, and then was given very little playing time after that season, going back-and-forth from the majors to the minors.  He was DFA’d twice during the 2012 season with the Yankees, and his days were numbered.

Essentially, the Yankees had seen enough, but the Braves, who often see talent and potential where other teams do not, decided to give Pena a chance for depth on their bench in 2013.  As I said, not many fans who know baseball and follow player stats were all that excited about the acquisition of Pena, but Pena proved a pleasant surprise in his first season with the Braves.

In just 50 games for the Braves during the 2013 season, Pena performed better than he had in any of the four years spent with the Yankees.  Perhaps he didn’t enjoy playing for the Yankees.  Perhaps he needed a change of scenery.  Perhaps he was simply getting a touch older and maturing as a player.  Perhaps it was just that drive many players have as a first year player for a new team (remember that Pena’s best year with the Yankees was his first year – 2009).  Whatever the reason, before Pena was placed on the DL for shoulder pain  by the Braves on June 20, 2013, and later had to have season-ending shoulder surgery, as a utility in-fielder he was playing exceptionally well for the Braves.  A look at the chart below shows how well Pena played for the Braves in those 50 games, compared to his performances with the Yankees.
 

A Look At The Numbers

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 23 NYY 69 121 115 17 33 6 1 1 10 4 5 20 .287 .317 .383 .699
2010 24 NYY 85 167 154 18 35 1 1 0 18 7 6 27 .227 .258 .247 .504
2011 25 NYY 23 46 40 5 4 0 0 1 4 0 2 11 .100 .159 .175 .334
2012 26 NYY 3 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .250 .250 .250 .500
2013 27 ATL 50 107 97 14 27 5 1 3 12 0 8 18 .278 .330 .443 .773
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/22/2014.

 

Pivotal Role in 2014?

At a price of just $555,000 for a one year contract in 2013, Pena was typical of many players the Braves sign and find value in, when other teams shy away.  After the 2013 season, the Braves signed Pena to another one year contract for 2014 at an undisclosed figure.  In my opinion, that’s great news for Atlanta and Braves’ fans, particularly in view of the fact that the Braves non-tendered Paul Janish and Elliot Johnson, two other utility infielders the Braves used considerably last year when Pena became injured.

Pena is no longer listed on the Braves’ injury reports, and by all accounts is considered to be healthy, and will be fully ready for Spring Training next month.  It remains to be seen whether or not Pena can perform for the Braves as he did in his 50 games in the 2013 season, but if he can remain healthy and perform well this spring, his role could be pivotal.

A third baseman by trade, Pena can play 2nd base and shortstop as well.  If Dan Uggla struggles again, the Braves may well look to Pena to fill that gap again.  Additionally, he can adequately fill that 3rd base role when Chris Johnson needs rest or is injured, and in a pinch sub for Andrelton Simmons.  While defensively he’d be a step down if having to play short, he is at least as good if not better than Johnson or Uggla, who themselves are about average defensively.

 

Final Take

I think there is still that new feeling with Ramiro.  I think he’ll be pumped to be playing on what to him is still a relatively new team, and I think that Ramiro’s fit with the Braves’ clubhouse is simply better for him than it was for the Yankees.  Because his 2013 season was cut short, I think he’ll still have the drive and maturity to put together a similar season to what he did in his short 50 for the Braves last year.

All that said, I’ll go out on a limb and project that as a utility player (who could see significantly more playing time in 2014), Ramiro will hit on a line of around .265/.325/.435/.760.  That’s an arbitrary numerical line of course, but in short I think that if Ramiro stays healthy and plays well this spring, he’ll see good utility time and will perform at least as well as last year, with little regression.  I don’t expect that kind of performance to last much beyond 2014 (assuming the Braves re-sign him to another year for 2015), but I think that new feeling for Ramiro will still serve him well this coming year.  What’s your take?

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  • Matthew Jones

    WIth Janish and Johnson both non-tendered, does this mean that the Braves are looking still for a glove-only kind of player for the middle infield, or just sticking with Pena? Personally, I’d like to see us get one more guy who they can at least stash in the minors who is that kind of player.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      Not sure the Braves are willing to do much at all! They will see La Stella in the spring, and he may play in the mix, but infield utility is a touch short-handed, but just a touch, at least on the talent front. I have pretty good faith in Pena, and I still think Uggla figures something out.

      • fireboss

        Actually those guys are out there and they will likely sign some 4A players before ST to flesh out rosters and make folks at the lower levels work. Heck Johnson and Janish are still out there and could yet take a minor league deal

  • Lee Trocinski

    We’re talking about a guy who had a SLG of .328 in AAA 2 years ago (in 400 PA). He never had a .400 SLG in the minors, so I don’t see how one could project a MLB mark above that.

    • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

      Pure optimism, and the fact that in limited time, he slugged over that last year. I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t quite hit that, and does regress back to his normal levels, but my projection is based, as I said in the article, on pure optimism and what I suspect will be a drive by Pena to extend his stay w/ Atlanta beyond 2014.

  • fireboss

    If Pena hits 265 in any meaningful number of at bats it will be a miracle. He is not and will not be an everyday player. His 2010 numbers are what he is a utility bench player.

    • Lee Trocinski

      He can hit .265, but it will be a .310 OBP and .345 SLG to go with it.

      • fireboss

        and that would not be a meaningful .265

        • http://www.tomahawktake.com/ Chris Headrick

          Yes, and neither of you guys projected he would do what he did in 2013 either. Yes, 50 games, but what might it have been with more? Your optimism is refreshing ;-) lol

          • Sealift67

            A problem with ‘lifetime’ statistics is performance change. There
            are always players who make mid-career adjustments. Matty Alou
            and Lee Lacey come to mind. Smart players make adjustments
            (Chris Johnson). Is Ramiro in this category? Will he regress to the
            mean or has there been a performance change. Watching players,
            old school like Bobby did adds predictive value to stats just as intuition
            and ratiomorphic thought are complementary.

          • Lee Trocinski

            I think you’re a little quick on the Chris Johnson transformation talk. Let’s wait until at least 2 years of changed performance before declaring him changed. Jose Bautista is a more recent example of this idea, which is clearly possible to occur. Pena did have an increase of batted ball distance last year, but I highly doubt it was more than an aberration of 20 flyballs.

          • Sealift67

            Not to split hairs yet there were visible changes in CJ’s batting
            mechanics and swing slope. I do not view this as having been
            a ‘transformation’ rather performance change adjustments.
            Chris himself said he was swinging for the fences too much
            trying to be a power 3B.
            Some players have years way out of their stat range, ie temporary
            abberrations. Some players get better , some get worse eg M Giles,
            Ron Gant.