Ramirez still best option for White Sox
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There wasn't much middle ground for Alexei Ramirez last season.
On the plus side, the White Sox' veteran shortstop established career highs with 181 hits, 39 doubles and 30 stolen bases. Ramirez also continued his workhorse ways; among American League shortstops, only the Orioles' J.J. Hardy played more innings.
On the minus side, the list was much longer.
During his sixth full season with the Sox, the 32-year-old Ramirez established another career high with 22 errors. In the major leagues, only Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez (27) committed more fielding miscues.
Ramirez also hit career lows with 6 home runs and 48 RBI while drawing 26 walks in 637 at-bats.
It was an uneven showing, to say the least.
"You can have a season where you're just not as good as other ones," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "He'll come back and make a play that nobody else in the league can make. You don't know exactly what it is.
"He has a lot of other stuff going on that, it's tough to deal with at times. That's stuff that's off the field. It's hard to have him separate those two at times."
Since Ramirez doesn't speak English, it can be difficult to gauge his emotions through a translator. But clearly, Ramirez understandably appeared distracted throughout the 2013 season after his father-in-law was killed during spring training.
While his name popped up in trade rumors from time to time when general manager Rick Hahn started dismantling an eventual 99-loss Sox team in July, Ramirez stayed put, for two reasons.
• First, both the player and organization view last season as more a blip than a barometer of more bad baseball to come.
Offensively, Ramirez bounced all over the lineup, which produced the franchise's fewest runs (598) in a non-strike season since 1980. Ideally suited in the No. 7 or No. 8 hole, Ramirez had 21 at-bats out of the leadoff spot last year, 351 at-bats hitting second, 150 hitting third, 27 hitting sixth, 73 hitting seventh and 15 hitting eighth.
Defensively, Ramirez still covers more ground than most major-league shortstops, so the error total is a bit deceiving. But returning to the focus issue, Ramirez seemed to make the difficult plays look routine last season while committing most of his errors on much easier chances.
• Second, the reason Ramirez wasn't traded to a team in need of a shortstop such as the Cardinals, Pirates or Yankees was the White Sox' lack of depth at the position.
Leury Garcia, acquired in an Aug. 11 trade that sent Alex Rios to the Rangers, is a solid defensive shortstop, but his bat remains suspect. Marcus Semien is an emerging talent, and he plays all three infield positions but appears more suited to third base or second base.
Ramirez remains the top shortstop in the organization, but his contract is up after the 2015 season. That sets the stage for Tim Anderson to replace Ramirez at some point down the road.
Drafted on the first round (No. 17 overall) last June out of East Central (Miss.) Community College, Anderson already is rated the Sox' No. 3 prospect by Baseball America.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder played 68 games with low Class A Kannapolis after signing with the White Sox and put up a solid .277/.348/.363 hitting line while adding 5 triples and stealing 24 bases in 28 attempts.
Anderson, 20, needs a full minor-league season this year, and it will be interesting to watch his progression. The guess is he opens the season with high Class A Winston-Salem and ends up with AA Birmingham.
At some point in 2015, Anderson has a chance to make his White Sox debut at shortstop.
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