Boston Red Sox player preview 2018: Hanley Ramirez key in team’s success

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Hanley Ramirez
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Hanley Ramirez /

The 2018 regular season is on the horizon and for the Boston Red Sox, a healthy and productive Hanley Ramirez will be a key element in the team’s success or failure.

For a team coming off back-to-back A.L. East titles, the Boston Red Sox sure have a lot of players seeking a bounce-back year.

Hanley Ramirez might be near the top of that list.

Ramirez, entering his fourth year in Boston since returning to the organization, is on a mission to recapture some of the success of his youth.

Yep. At the exotic old age of 34, Ramirez is on a search for his glory days; an era of time known as the 2016 season.

2017 was a year of transition for Ramirez. Handed the designated hitter position, Ramirez was expected to pick up some of the slack for the retired David Ortiz. Big shoes to fill, yes, but the drop-off wasn’t expected to be huge. Throw in being able to concentrate mostly on hitting, another all-star level year was expected.

Mission fail

Injuries plagued Ramirez for much of 2017. Dealing with a lingering left shoulder injury (since operated on), Ramirez managed to hit 23 home runs but only drove in 62 runs while hitting .242. He played in 133 games, hitting 24 doubles with a .429 slugging percentage.

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Not exactly the numbers needed from the man expected to carry his share of the offensive load.

With the arrival of J.D. Martinez and the expected (continued) improvement of Mookie Betts, some of the pressure might be off of Ramirez. Hopefully, that means a return to form in 2018.

What to expect in 2018

The arrival of Martinez likely means more of Ramirez at first base in 2018. Between Martinez, Ramirez and Mitch Moreland, we’ll likely see Ramirez playing mostly against lefties while splitting time between first and designated hitter.

In 106 at-bats against lefties in 2017, though, Ramirez only hit .179. Is this truly the answer?

I believe many of the struggles for Ramirez were due to the injury. Uncertainty in the lineup around him also didn’t help and Ramirez should get back to 2016 numbers.

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Remember those days?

Ramirez knocked 30 home runs and drove in 111 runs that season while hitting .286. He played 147 games — primarily at first base — and slugged .505.

Getting Ramirez in the field more will ultimately benefit the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps he’s a player who needs constant engagement with the game to stay focused. At designated hitter, there are long stretches of bench-sitting. Being in the field might help Ramirez and the Red Sox in the long run.

Encouraging was also the postseason play of Ramirez, showing he can still step up when needed. In the division series against the Houston Astros, Ramirez went 8-14 (.571) and drove in three runs.

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It is still a little early to tell how the lineup will all fit together this year. A season like 2016 would be nice and I see him getting close to that. A season with Ramirez hitting 25-30 home runs and driving in 90. And if he can hit over .275, the Red Sox will be all the better.

Getting back to all-star form is primary objective number one. If Ramirez does that, he can once again prove to all naysayers that age is simply a number.