When he returned from a long DL stint last July, Ramos was determined to show that he was healthy and capable of producing on an everyday basis. The now-26-year-old catcher posted a .276/.307/.477 line over the final 64 games of the season, hitting six doubles and 14 HRs in 251 plate appearances from mid-August through September in what ended up being a +1.8 fWAR campaign.
In Grapefruit League action this spring it was more of the same from the former Minnesota Twins' prospect acquired by the Nationals in a July 2010 trade for Matt Capps, who hit in 15 of 39 at bats (.385/.390/.538) with three doubles, a home run and 13 RBIs in 14 games.
Given a chance to get a close look this spring, Matt Williams came away even more impressed.
"I just see a guy that understands how to hit," Williams told reporters a few weeks back. "One, he's got power, but he also understands how to drive a run in. There's an art to that. He's got the innate ability to bounce the ball back through the middle. That's how your RBI totals go way up. His best power is the other way which gives him an advantage of staying on the baseball and he's one of our main cogs to this team and he's going to be a guy that's presented with a lot of situations to drive those runs in."
When the Nationals' first-year manager wrote out his first lineup card this morning, he placed his catcher in the cleanup spot:
Ramos was apparently surprised by his new skipper's decision:
.@WRamosC3 on batting cleanup on Opening Day: "Matt has confidence in me & it makes me feel good... I was surprised... but I'm excited."— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 31, 2014
Ramos has been in the seventh or eighth spot for the majority (644 of 916) of his major league plate appearances so far in his four-year MLB career. As a cleanup hitter, the hard-hitting backstop has just 24 PAs in the majors, over which he's posted a .300/.375/.350 line.
The Nationals' catcher is also a notorious Mets killer.
In 28 games and 100 career PAs vs the Nats' NL East rivals, Ramos is 37 for 94 (.394/.420/.723) with 10 doubles and seven home runs.
What do you think of Matt Williams' first lineup as the Nats' skipper? Why isn't Anthony Rendon hitting second. (This is a joke, relax, but really he should be second. #morewalksthanKsincollege Ryan Zimmerman batting second? No problem with that, really? Bryce Harper 5th?