I really don’t know if you have forgotten about this heralded young talent behind the dish, but Wilson Ramos had a strong rookie season with a 3.1 WAR. That’s pretty good for a rookie catcher who has gotten lost amidst names such as Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, and even Michael Morse. However, Ramos has already proven that he is a more than capable starting catcher in the Majors. If you’re a Nats fan, then you’ll at least feel happy knowing that you don’t have to watch Ivan Rodriguez trot out there every day.
The only position players on the Nats to have higher WARs this season than Ramos are Espinosa and Morse, and the only pitcher who had a higher WAR than him was Jordan Zimmerman. Which obviously means that the former Twins prospect was their fourth best player for the 2011 season. When the trade went down, I wrote that the Nationals completely ripped off the Twins, as they got a top catching prospect for a mediocre closer in Matt Capps. A year later, we can see that the Nationals indeed got the better of the deal by some margin. It wasn’t quite like Doug Melvin’s rip-off of the Nats, that’s irony, but it was a move deserving of high praise.
In fact, among all rookie position players this season, only Espinosa had a higher Wins Above Replacement mark than Ramos. Of course Alexi Ogando, Michael Pineda, and Craig Kimbrel bettered that 3.1 total; but that still means that he was the 5th best rookie last year. That may sound a little strange at first, and it may be true that he is closer to ten than five. But you also have to account for positional adjustment, as no sane person would expect a catcher to hit as well as a first baseman like Mark Trumbo. When you account for that, it’s easy to see why Ramos is rated so highly.
My only big worry with Wilson Ramos is his low batting average due to a rather pedestrian line-drive rate, but he does have the potential to be a very good power-hitting catcher when you look at the raw data. He has become more patient at the plate, and thus has improved his contact rate. There is potential for the player who was tied with Russell Martin for the tenth best catcher in the Majors last year, but it really seems like his realistic peak WAR is around 4. Still, that’s not a bad place to be, and he should continue to put up 3 WAR seasons for quite some time. What this means is that he will consistently be a useful player who is worth anywhere from 12-15 million per year. I am certain, however, that he will be much more effective than Matt Capps.