Daily Jolt: Diverging Paths for Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes

The Daily Jolt is a dose of baseball reality every weekday morning.

They have been almost inextricably linked for years now. The Mets' Jose Reyes and the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez are both shortstops, both 25 years old and both Dominican. Both play for NL East teams and both have taken the mantle at their position from the Jeter-A-Rod-Nomar troika that dominated the beginning of the decade.

It seems fitting then that Ramirez and Reyes could both be bumped from the leadoff spot this season. Hey, they've done plenty else in tandem.

In reality, the similarities only work up to a point. They share many things, but when they step on the diamond they are very different players. Ramirez has much more power, with 18 more career home runs than Reyes in almost 300 fewer games. He also has much more plate discipline, with only 41 fewer walks despite the gap in service time. Reyes on the other hand is a true speedster. He has swiped at least 56 bases in each of the last four seasons. Ramirez has never racked up that many steals in a season, and his stolen base total fell by 16 last year.

Reyes and Ramirez -- two players with much in common -- seem like they are about stroll down even more wildly different career paths.

Yes, New York manager Jerry Manuel is thinking of moving Reyes down in the order, either to the No. 2 or No. 3 hole. Manuel has mused about leading off with second baseman Luis Castillo instead. Castillo takes a few more walks than Reyes, but he's struggled to stay on the field. In reality, this seems like nothing more than idle talk from Manuel -- something the genial and colorful skipper often engages in with the press.

The improved plate discipline Reyes has shown the last two seasons makes him a more than adequate leadoff man. It might all be a moot point anyway if Castillo can't stay healthy, but even if he does, Reyes' game won't change much in the two or three hole. He'll still be a big-time speed threat and top-of-the-order hitter with well above average power at his position.

Ramirez could be bound for the No. 3 spot in Florida's order, a move manager Fredi Gonzalez tried briefly last year with poor results (Ramirez hit .268 in 70 plate appearances). Ramirez doesn't simply have good power for a shortstop, he is blossoming into one of baseball's most terrifying sluggers. He hit 33 home runs last year and added 24 pounds to his frame this winter, though he is expected to drop about 10 pounds between now and Opening Day.

A 40-homer season is well within the realm of possibility as Ramirez enters his prime, and with his stolen base numbers tailing off, he's looking more and more like a prototypical No. 3 hitter, the type who steals less and is focused on driving in runs.

Before long, there might be another difference between the two countrymen. Ramirez has been a lousy defender at short over the last three seasons (though according to Ultimate Zone Rating, he was only slightly below average in 2008). He was already large for a shortstop (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and now he's added significant bulk. As he continues to fill out, he's probably going to lose even more range, necessitating a move to third base or center field.

Reyes is shorter and skinnier and has been much more reliable defensively over the last few seasons. It's hard to see him having to switch positions anytime soon.

Ramirez and Reyes are both prolific stars -- the type of superlative player you can build a championship club around. For all they have in common, from heritage to age to division, it's looking more and more like their futures will be very different.

Daily Jolt: Diverging Paths for Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Mon, 16 Feb 2009 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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