Ramirez went unsigned at 16, when the bulk of the international talent is scooped up.
In November 2009, he was invited to a three-game showcase, along with some other unsigned players, at the Indians' facility in Boca Chica. Ramon Pena, who used to head the Indians' Latin American operations, got a look at Ramirez, negotiated with his trainer, and completed a handshake deal to sign the scrawny infielder for $50,000. That deal was fine by Ramirez. Surprising people was his specialty.
In 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Jose as the 23rd-best prospect in the Indians organization.
Managers love Ramirez because he plays so hard.
Jose is pretty fearless too. "Since he’s been with the Major League club (as part of the Tribe’s wave of September 2013 callups), he’s done nothing to indicate that any of this is too big for him,” Indians vice president of player development Ross Atkins said.
"There's a lot of variables at play there, a lot of things to factor in,” Atkins said. “There’s alternatives and how the Major League team is currently made up. But if you just isolate him and what has separated him from others has been the fact that he gives you a lot of confidence. He is going to face a challenge head on and not be distracted by the environment, expectations, or the setting.”
April 28, 2017: "Jose is generating more power, but it's not just because of his strength," Indians' manager Terry Francona said. "He can pretty much do everything you want from a player and he can do a lot of damage at the plate. He can bunt, hit and run, hit in play, and hit the ball out of the ballpark. And he's still getting better."
The skipper added that many baseball experts pegged Ramirez as a utility player after he failed to permanently stick with the Indians in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Their assessments changed when he filled in for an injured Michael Brantley in 2016 and hit .312 with 11 homers and 76 RBIs.
"If Brantley doesn't get hurt, who knows what happens with him?" Francona admitted. "Jose took that opportunity to play the outfield and ran with it. Now, it's going to be fun to watch him continue to grow." (Dulik - mlb.com)
Jose Ramirez on himself: "My name is Jose Ramirez, and I love baseball. I mean, I really love it."
Growing up, in Bani, a beautiful city in the Dominican Republic, the number one thing on my mind was baseball. We were always playing "Vitilla" and another game called "La Plaquita" with the kids from my neighborhood all day long. We used water jug caps as baseballs and sticks for bats in Vitilla. La Plaquita is another baseball-type game we played in the streets.
I was always one of the shortest and skinniest kids in every game I played. I was always one of the youngest, too. I remember playing in this league in my neighborhood with a bunch of older kids and how much pressure that put on me, and how I was able to deal with it. I learned early not be intimidated by baseball, and that's helped me. I held my head high and I walked with pride even as a kid. Imagine seeing this short little kid strutting with confidence. That was me. That's still me.
I have always believed in myself. My parents believed in me first. My father had a motorcycle, and he would take me to the field every day. We would always work hard even though a lot of people didn't have faith in me because of my size. Believe me, someone's height in baseball is an obstacle in Latin American countries. That's not what scouts are looking for and everyone would always say that my height was an issue. I remember going to these baseball programs or tryouts and the first thing people would talk about was how small I was, and immediately write me off.
I can still hear my father saying, "You have to continue working hard and don't pay attention to those that say that you're short. You have to show that you can do it because you have the same heart as they all do. Never give up." I've always appreciated that advice, and it still drives me. My heart is the same size as everyone else's. My parents have been together for 32 years, and they have taught me a lot of lessons about life and baseball, but that's one of the biggest lessons.
Remember, I came up as a utility player and didn't have a set position. But I always had faith in myself, worked hard, and never gave up. I took advantage of the opportunity to win an everyday job. Now, here I am being mentioned with the best players in the American League.
I have to give credit to my baseball family, my coaches and my teammates. They have all been very supportive, and we have a good time. They have all these nicknames for me. Last year, it was George Jefferson because of the way I walked, and now it's Mini Me because they say I look just like a small Juan Uribe. Uribe is a great person. We spent a lot of time together when he was with our team last year, and he helped me out a lot at third base. I'm very grateful for his guidance. Everyone makes fun of me and say that he's my father. It's funny. I'm thankful for guys like Uribe and Jose Reyes, who remains an important part of my life.
On a personal level, it's really an honor to be considered an MVP candidate, but that's not the goal. We are here to win games and a World Series. That's what is most important. It was a wonderful experience participating in the World Series last year. Being there gave me even more confidence, if you can believe that. I'm more relaxed now, and now we have a different goal and that's to win it all.
We want to win for Cleveland and the fans. Everyone remembers the good times, but the fans also supported me and us during the bad times. We have all persevered to get to this point and now we have another chance to bring a title home. That is what it is all about, what we've been working for our entire lives. We want to win. (Ramirez - mlb.com - 9/29/17)
In 2017, Ramirez finished third in the AL MVP voting, by the BBWAA. Jose Altuve was MVP with Aaron Judge as runner-up.
In 2018, he again finished third in in the AL MVP voting, this time behind Mookie Betts and Mike Trout.
- In 2020, Ramírez finished second in the AL MVP voting, behind the White Sox José Abreu. DJ LeMahieu placed third.
Jose was an unknown when he arrived at the Indians' academy in the Dominican Republic for a tryout in 2009. He was considered too small and too old by most evaluators, but Cleveland's scouts saw enough heart in the infielder to extend a modest offer.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Ramirez is now one of baseball's premier stars, playing a dynamic third base while slugging home runs at a rapid rate. He has developed into an All-Star and MVP contender. Naturally, the Indians did not want to pass on reeling in another Jose Ramirez.
On August 31, 2018, Cleveland signed shortstop prospect Jose Baez Ramirez, the younger brother of Jose. Standing at his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse prior to a game against the Rays, Ramirez praised the playing ability of his brother, who also hails from Bani, D.R.
"He's a good player," Ramirez said through team interpreter Will Clements. "He's a big kid, and he's going to be strong. He's got a ton of ability to be able to have success in this game. He'll get as far as his bat takes him."
Cleveland's new signee goes by Jose Baez and turned 16 years old on August 30. He is listed at 5-foot-9 and 146 pounds and switch-hits, like his older brother. One international evaluator described Baez as having good hands, a good approach at the plate and an athletic build, but noted that he needs to continue to build up his strength.
Ramirez is thrilled to know that his brother will be in the same organization. "I'm super happy that he signed here," Ramirez said. "I know that they're going to treat him really well. We're really like a family here, so I know they're going to treat him well. I'm really happy that he signed here." (Bastian - mlb.com - 8/31/18)
- July 2018: Jose was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game.
September 9, 2018: With Jose Ramirez's first-inning steal of second in a loss to the Blue Jays, he became the 39th player in MLB history to reach 30 stolen bases and 30 home runs in the same season, joining Grady Sizemore (2008) and Joe Carter (1987) as the only Indians players to reach the mark.
Stretched across Jose's right forearm is a tattoo with his mother's name, Xiomara.
Jose helps make for a winning Indians clubhouse. Ramirez makes for good comic fodder when he walks into the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, banters with his teammates in Spanish at warp speed and ambulates from place to place with a chest-puffing, arm-swinging gait that his teammates call the “George Jefferson swagger.” But he’s all business with a bat or a glove in his hand. And his synergy with teammate Francisco Lindor is like nothing baseball has seen in years—if ever.
Dec 14, 2018: There's no Hall of Fame specifically for the backyard structures built by professional athletes, but if one existed, Jose Ramirez would no doubt hold a spot in its hallowed halls with his infield-shaped pool located near a mini-infield he also has in the backyard. Ramirez proudly shared it all with the world.
Here's his social media post: "Just finished building an infield in my backyard #NoExcuses #NoDaysOff #StriveForGreatness." (A Garro - MLB.com - Dec 14, 2018)
Players with back-to-back seasons of 80+ extra-base hits and 15+ steals: Jeff Bagwell (1996-97), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997-98), Alfonso Soriano (2005-07), Franciso Lindor (2017-18), Jose Ramirez (2017-18).
Indians biggest trash talker: Indians center fielder Oscar Mercado was in the middle of explaining why he believes that Ramírez is the biggest trash talker in the clubhouse when his former teammate Andrew Velazquez walked over to his locker and asked what he was talking about. When Mercado replied he was talking about “the biggest trash talker on the team,” Velasquez simply shot back: “Oh, so Josey."
Whether it’s playing cards before the game or on the field, Ramírez is known to pick on every person in the room in Spanish, even if they don’t speak the language. (MLB.com - Apr. 29, 2020)
2020 Season: A fun game with José is to go to Baseball Reference’s game logs and just randomly select stretches of 10 games to just see how good he was this year. For example, from Sept. 13 to 23, he posted a .400/.455/.950 line. From Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, when he was in a bit of a lull, he still popped .250/.348/.500. Even just the first ten games of the year, he was incredible with a .333/.429/.556, and we should have known something was coming. Cleveland needed someone to do some heavy lifting on offense this year. It came as only a bit of a surprise that the smallest among them turned into a goliath on the field.
There are few things more amazing and fun to watch in all of baseball than Ramírez on a sustained hot streak. It’s mind-bending how good he can be when it all falls into place. Players get hot all the time, and good players beat up on bad pitching because it’s their job, but it’s a rare thing to see a player so completely and utterly dominate the opposition, no matter who they face. Like few others, at his best Ramírez has the ability to go nuclear and put a team on his back, dragging them kicking and screaming into wins. The Indians were dreadful offensively in 2020, ranking 27th in wRC+ and OPS. And with just 248 runs scored all year, they ranked behind cellar dwellers and rebuild projects like the Tigers, Royals, or Orioles. Ramírez would have stood out among his teammates if he were merely alright at the plate. Fortunately for Cleveland, he was so much more.
Ramírez had a disappointing, miserable 2019, simple as that. For half the season he seemed like a different person, posting a .652 OPS before the break. it took a Herculean effort in the final months eked that OPS over .800 and gave him at least a decent 105 wRC+ to go home with. That needed forgetting, and the way he just blitzed out of the gate was a wonderful mind wipe. It may have been just 60 games, but he took full advantage of it and made sure Cleveland had the opportunity to at least try for something in the postseason.
Thanks to wins above replacement, we have an idea of where Ramírez actually dragged this team. At 3.4 fWAR, he was a main reason they had home field advantage in the playoffs since they tied with the White Sox but had the tiebreaker. His hitting .324/.419/.595 against those same White Sox is a reason they won the tiebreaker.
It was an ebb and flow kind of a season for the third baseman. After that big burst to open the year, his OPS was a mere .700 in August. He was strong to open September, but barely even thought of as a fringe candidate. Something happened though, whether luck, something clicking, or him just deciding to become some sort of demigod, but in the middle of September, he erupted. Remember when we were all worried about Cleveland losing eight games in a row? It seemed impossible to come back from. They were still a playoff team, but basically on a technicality, and who knows how much further they could fall? Over that same stretch, Ramírez hit .348/.400/.652, which evidently wasn’t enough. “Enough”, evidently, is something more like .436/.522/1.103, which Ramírez hit from September 17 through the end of the season. That is a slugging percentage, not an OPS.
When a team has roughly five and a half decent major league hitters, when your second best hitter would barely crack the top seven in the lineup of your eventual Wild Card Series opponent, sometimes a player has to do the work of two men. It can’t go on forever, even Barry Bonds “only” slugged .863 at his very best, but for a few games or weeks, a good player can transcend. This is what Ramírez is capable of, more so than any Cleveland player I can rightly remember. For that stretch to end the year, like he has so many times before, Ramírez was impossible to get out. Superstars make themselves known. He was shouting from the mountaintops, and hopefully people noticed.
FanGraphs’ 60-game split tool they built for this puts this into great context. Ramirez posted a 163 wRC+ this year. He was worth 3.4 fWAR. Prorated to a whole season, that’s nearly a Mike Trout kind of run, something near-impossible for mere mortals. Ramírez is so electrifying when he clicks, this year ranks as his 110th best 60-game stretch. His very best? A block of games from mid-May to mid-July of 2018, when he posted a 193 wRC+, earned himself 4.6 fWAR, hit .320/.429/.680, and swiped 15 bases to boot.
Ramírez might not be the “face of baseball” type of player like Francisco Lindor. The camera isn’t naturally drawn to him. I just know that this year, when the team was struggling, he refused to accept it, grabbed them all by the collar, and dragged them to within spitting distance of a division crown. He drove in four runs in the postseason, going 3-for-7 with three doubles, and did all he could to help the team survive and advance. The results, the captivating nature of his entire game, he was everything for the Indians this year. Marvelous, otherworldly, transcendent, heroic, there’s a million words you could use to describe what Jose Ramirez is at his best, and in 2020, we have to use each and every one. (Merritt Rohlfing - Oct 19, 2020)
July 2021: Ramirez was chosen as a reserve third baseman for the All-Star Game.
November 2009: The Indians signed Ramirez for $50,000, out of the D.R.
March 24, 2017: Jose reached an agreement with the Indians on a five-year, $26 million contract extension. It includes team options for 2022 and 2023. The deal has a maximum value of $50 million.