Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flowers all have been fantastic through the first 30 games of the season, but can they keep it up? I seriously doubt that any of them will be batting around .350 much longer, but any .300 averages from that group would have been a reach before the season started.
Alexei Ramirez leads the American League with a .356 average and has four homers, 19 RBI, four steals, and 18 runs scored. If you do the math, that means Ramirez would be on-pace for a 20/20 season with about 100 runs and 100 RBI. Can he reach those numbers? Let’s start with the batting average. Ramirez is a career .280 hitter and will have a hard time keeping his average over .300 as the season progresses. Ramirez’s high average is due in large part to an inflated .365 batting average with balls in play (BABIP). With a career .297 BABIP, I would expect Ramirez’s average to decrease as his BABIP decreases during the season. Expect Ramirez’s average to be between .280 and .300 at the end of the year. While I don’t think the average is sustainable, I certainly believe that Ramirez can reach 20 home runs and 20 steals. Ramirez stole 30 bases last year and he shows no signs of slowing down. After only hitting a combined 15 home runs the last two seasons, 20 homers is definitely a stretch, but he’s done it before. Ramirez hit 21 homers in 2008 and 69 over his first four seasons, so I think it is doable. If not, he should finish the year with at least 15 home runs. Finally, both the RBI and runs scored totals likely won’t be approaching 100 at year’s end. With Ramirez’s batting average severely inflated, his RBI and runs scored pace will likely fall off when his average does as well. So, Alexei Ramirez won’t finish the season with a .356/100/20/100/20 stat line, but a .290/80/15/80/25 stat line is probably more realistic.
Dayan Viciedo has had a unique start to the season because White Sox fans have always seen Viciedo as a hitter with a mediocre average and good power. So far this season, Viciedo has been the complete opposite with just one home run, a .337 average, and a surprising .404 OBP. The low home run total is fluky to me, so it should rise with more at-bats and as the weather heats up. But, what about the batting average and on-base percentage? Viciedo owns a career batting average of .269 and a .314 on-base percentage. Like Ramirez, Viciedo’s high average is a result of an inflated BABIP of .390, and his average will fall once that BABIP normalizes to his career .312 clip. However, the biggest difference in Viciedo’s game is his improved patience at the dish. Viciedo has got on base via the walk eleven times and has only struck out fifteen times in 104 plate appearances. Those numbers equate to a 10.6% walk rate and a 14.4% strikeout rate, with both numbers being huge improvements over his career marks of 5.5% and 21.0% respectively. Since Viciedo has nearly doubled his walk rate and cut down on his strikeout rate by nearly one-third, that suggests he could be in store for a career year in batting average and on-base percentage. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Viciedo hit near .300 with a OBP around .340 if he can continue to walk more and cut down on his strikeouts. If he does that, the homers should also skyrocket to his 20-plus potential throughout the next five months.
Tyler Flowers’ hot start is the least likely one to continue out of the trio. Flower’s is hitting .354 and his BABIP is .560. Simply put, both of those numbers will start to plummet very soon. Flowers’ walk rate of 6.8% and strikeout rate of 35.2% are right in-line with his career percentages of 7.8% and 34.1% respectively. In other words, Flowers’ hot start is really fluky and is very unsustainable. While I don’t expect Flowers to hit .195 like he did last year, expecting anything over .250 is unrealistic. The one thing that Flowers does have going for him is that he has yet to hit for power and extra base hits by netting singles on 26 out of 29 hits. If he starts to drive the ball in the gaps and over the fence, then that should help neutralize his regression a little bit. Based on that, I think a .230 to .250 average with 15-plus home runs is a more reasonable expectation.