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KBO Slugger a Missed Opportunity for the Rockies

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With the MLBPA and the MLB owners still at a standstill when it comes to getting the season underway here in the states, the KBO remains the main source of live baseball in America. The biggest standout hitter in the league to come over from the states this year is former Colorado Rockies prospect turned LG Twins slugger Roberto Ramos.

Ramos is mashing for the Twins slashing a ridiculous .349/.446./.794 with a 1.240 OPS. He is also hitting a league-leading eight home runs through 18 games. He is a big part of the LG Twins hot start to the season with his partner in Hyun-Soo Kim; another former big league player. The way Ramos is swinging the bat to start the season is at least somewhat reminiscent of Eric Thames’ dominant seasons with NC Dinos.

The big question here is why the Rockies were so willing to let Ramos take his talents to Korea. Colorado has not had much success with the first base position in recent years. The last productive season they’ve gotten out of a primary first baseman was back in 2014 with Justin Morneau. Even then, it was near the slugger’s twilight of his career and his power numbers were still on the decline, putting up 49 extra base hits in a season playing his home games in the cavernous Coors Field.

Even bringing it back to the most recent season, the Rockies didn’t get the production they will have been looking for from their primary first baseman in Daniel Murphy. He signed a two-year, $24 million pact with Colorado before the season and went on to put up a season worth -0.2 WAR and a below average wRC+ of 86 with 49 extra base hits. Murphy also hit for the second-worst season average of his career at .279 and posted his lowest slugging percentage since 2015.

Ramos hadn’t even received as much as a cup of coffee in the majors with the Rockies. He has had a couple of solid seasons in the minors, but really seemed to break out in 2019 with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes. He finished the season with a .309/.400/.580 with a .980 OPS and a 135 wRC+. Ramos also hit 30 home runs and 105 RBI. His power would have been a natural fit for a ballpark like Coors Field. Ramos could have provided value to the Rockies at first base and could have even been a top candidate for the event the universal designated hitter is adopted. Even going further beyond 2020, the Rockies could have opted to keep Ramos for after Murphy’s contract runs out, as they would have plenty of MLB service time with Ramos under control.

The big knocks against Ramos for his career have been his high strikeout rate and less than stellar defense at first base. In Triple-A, Ramos struck out at a 28% clip and collected 141 K’s to go along with it. Ramos has seen that decrease in the KBO, as he’s dropped his K% to right around 20%. This is still an area of his game that needs ironing out, but plenty of other budding stars in the MLB also carry this same wart in their game. Ramos isn’t a strikeout machine like a Miguel Sano or a Joey Gallo. He is more akin to that of a Matt Olson type at the plate, even though Ramos walked at a higher percentage in 2019.

Ramos isn’t ever going to be a Gold Glover defensively, but he put up a .988 fielding percentage in Albuquerque. This leaves room for improvement, but Daniel Murphy has never proved to be the most reliable defender in his own right as a career .978 defender in the field.

Ramos, 25, has time on his side to improve in these key areas of his game. A prospect once profiling as a three true outcome kind of hitter build for the modern MLB, he’s becoming a feared hitter for LG Twins and could find his way back in the States soon if he keeps terrorizing KBO pitchers at the pace he’s started on this season.

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