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
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.
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?