KBO DFS: The Argument for Roberto Ramos

Do you know what South Koreans call South Korea? Korea. They call it “Korea,” in an armistice with the north, they don’t recognize two Koreas, only two factions at war over the same Korea. That has nothing to do with anything other than answering the question some have had as to why the Korean Baseball Organization isn’t called the “South Korean Baseball Organization.” Because there is only one Korea to them.

Anyway, I don’t care if it’s de facto Quad-A. I’m just excited for baseball. I’m excited for my guys Byung-Ho Park and Aaron Altherr, who got raw deals in MLB. I’m excited for the genuine Quad-A guys who lived in the minors and hit a ceiling in Triple-A. The guy who’s most intriguing to me his Roberto Ramos of the LG Twins for his raw, booming power.

Ramos is 25 and has spent his entire minor league career in the Rockies system. Eric Longenhagen is one of the top prospect evaluators in the business and he predicted this international route for Ramos.

“Ramos has Quad-A hitter written all over him and his Fall League trial and winter ball performance haven’t helped,” Logenhagen wrote in December. “But he has gigantic raw power.”

As for his grades:

What does 70-grade raw power look like? Aaron Judge had 70-grade raw power. Ramos doesn’t have Judge’s game power or he’d an MLB superstar, but 70-grade raw power makes us wonder why he isn’t in the majors.

Ramos got stuck in Colorado’s lower system, bouncing between rookie ball, A-ball, and A+ league for four years. in 2018, Ramos got his Double-A shot and straight mashed. He slugged .503 and hit 15 HR in only 228 PAs. As a reward, he was promoted to Triple-A for a full season, where he had a .300/.400/.500 season, slugging .580 with 30 HR in 503 PAs. But the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Rockies Triple-A affiliate, play in one of the hottest, dryest places where baseball is played in America with an elevation over 100 feet higher than Coors Field, so the game power was inflated.

And that showed, struggling in the Arizona Fall League and Mexican Winter League, hitting only seven HRs in 228 PAs.

What’s the Achilles’ Heel? Like any raw power guy, it’s the strikeouts.

Ramos struck out 68 times in the fall and winter after 141 times in 2019 Triple-A, combining for a 28.6% K rate. Something we don’t worry about in MLB DFS with guys who’ve legitimately made it to The Show with raw power, but this low contact and low walks tell us he’s a free swinger, so maybe too boom-bust to lock and load every night. But, on FanDuel, he’s basically free on at $11.

“How is this going to work?” Ben Clemens wrote in his KBO preview at Fangraphs. “The Twins hope he’s the next Mel Rojas Jr.; a minor league slugger whose strikeout issues were solved by a pitch-to-contact league. If he can get the strikeouts down towards 20%, he could easily be a .300/.400/.500 guy; he’s always had a good batting eye, and major-league-caliber bats in Korea often put up high BABIP’s.

“But there’s plenty of risk here. His power certainly looks real, but if the power doesn’t translate and the strikeouts remain, the Twins could be on the market for another foreign-born hitter soon. That’s a perpetual risk for KBO teams, but one that looks worthwhile when it comes to Ramos. The star potential is certainly there.”

How much of a liability is he where he figures to make contact? 70-grade raw power pretty much still means, no matter where the ballpark, that a sweet spot is getting crushed. And Ramos faces an easy pitcher to put the bat on the ball against: Raúl Alcántara.

Ramos is a left-handed hitter and Alcántara is right-handed. Already, a huge advantage for Ramos, who hit for a 1.041 OPS and a .293 ISO versus righties in Triple-A last year.

Especially an advantage against Alcántara, who gives up a ton of contact, even by KBO standards. In the KBO, hitters struck out 6.75 times per nine innings, compared to the 8.82 K/9 of MLB. Alcántara only had a 5.2 K/9 in his first full season of KBO play with only 1.4 BB/9, making for all of that contact. The KBO average HR per team per game was 0.7; Alcántara gave up 0.8 HR/9.

The ownership should be low on Ramos in a high-contact, high-power because it’s too easy to stack elsewhere and Ramos’ LG Twins aren’t really in a stack spot, according to Vegas. The game only has an 8.0 total and the Twins are +115 dogs, according to Bovada. And the only other Twin listed in Dave Potts’ excellent preview (which should direct a lot of ownership) was Hyun-soo Kim, a guy without “a lot of power and speed.” We can find the on-base guys preceding Ramos to create a stack that gets there against Alcántara; or we can just use Ramos as a one-off.

Despite his strikeout past, we can most definitely play him at $11 as a one-off for cash against Alcántara.

There are just so many groundball pitchers in this league that a guy with a massive 40.9% flyball rate should get a lot of line drives to maintain a strong batting average, so Ramos has doubles power every night. Against a high-contact, high-ERA guy like Alcántara, a double dong is in the cards.

Oh, yeah, Alcántara had a 4.01 ERA in the low-power Quad-frickin-A Korean league in 2019.

A great site that is having problems today is My KBO Stats and, of course, Baseball-Reference has some goods. MyKBO is overloaded by fantasy players, I presume, along with standard Opening Day local hype on the peninsula. I’m not an expert on Korean baseball. I read Potts’ preview, the great two-part Fangraphs preview (parts one and two), and combed through a lot of the Triple-A stats of former MLB players with the Korean stats of those in the league for some time.

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