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Inbox: Can Ramirez replicate strong first half?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian fields Indians fans' questions
MLB.com @MLBastian

Is it reasonable to hope that Jose Ramirez has as good a second half as his first half?
-- Simon, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

That is obviously an incredibly hard thing to predict. What I can tell you is that Ramirez possesses a hitting approach that can help avoid prolonged slumps.

Is it reasonable to hope that Jose Ramirez has as good a second half as his first half?
-- Simon, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

That is obviously an incredibly hard thing to predict. What I can tell you is that Ramirez possesses a hitting approach that can help avoid prolonged slumps.

Ramirez is one of the hardest players in baseball to strike out (11.6-percent strike rate and 5.6-percent swinging-strike rate). He is one of the best in the game at putting the ball in play (87.1-percent contact rate with a 93.2-percent contact rate on pitches in the strike zone). On top of that, Ramirez switch-hits with relatively even splits (Last two years: .315/.267/.493 vs. LHP and .321/.375/.522 vs. RHP).

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Combine that with Ramirez's growing confidence and experience, and you've got a player that should be able to pull himself free from any hitting funks that might come up down the stretch.

What you probably should not expect is for Ramirez to hit at a .400 clip for the final two-plus months. Over his past 40 games, Ramirez hit .405 with 1.203 OPS in 171 plate appearances. That's over .400 for essentially a quarter of the regular season. That's insane. His slugging percentage (.601) is well above his breakout showing last year (.462) and career rate (.448), so it seems fair to expect some regression on that front.

What do you think about the idea of hitting Michael Brantley in the leadoff spot while Jason Kipnis is out with his hamstring injury? Ramirez could slide into the three-hole. I love the idea of Brantley, Francisco Lindor and Ramirez hitting in that order in the first inning.
-- Ryan S.

I'd take it a step further and say that Ramirez needs to be within the first three even when Kipnis returns. Personally, I'd love to see Ramirez in the No. 2 spot, which is where he batted for the American League in the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. Maybe Lindor-Ramirez-Brantley atop the order. I understand why manager Terry Francona loves having Ramirez in the five-hole. Francona likes having the high-contact, switch-hitting approach behind cleanup hitter Edwin Encarnacion. With how scalding hot Ramirez has been offensively, though, I'd like to see him in the second spot.

What are pitching coach Mickey Callaway and Francona doing to turn Trevor Bauer around?
-- Tim L.

While it hasn't been perfect, Bauer's production dating back to late May has been much improved. Going back to his May 30 outing, in which he struck out 14, Bauer has really narrowed his approach to a fastball-curve approach, while mixing in his other pitches when necessary. The right-hander has posted a 4.01 ERA in that eight-start sample and had a 3.82 ERA in June. Following a rough first two months, Bauer looks like he's on the right track.

Tweet from @jackpowers22: @MLBastian have the Indians started extension talks with Lonnie yet? If not, would they start soon?

Lonnie Chisenhall is an interesting case. His production has been incredible (.953 OPS in the first half), but he's also never done this over a full season. This coming winter, he will be eligible for arbitration again. While a short-term extension doesn't seem like a radical idea, it's probably more likely that the Indians go year-to-year with him. In the long-term picture, the hope might be that Tyler Naquin can develop into a similar style of player.

Video: DET@CLE: Ramirez skies a two-run homer to right

Tweet from @dvermilya15: Any chance Salazar is optioned to AAA after his rehab stint? Would an extended stay in the minors help at this point? Dan, Frederick MD

Danny Salazar does not have any Minor League options left. That's one reason why you saw the Indians put him in the bullpen briefly prior to the trip to the disabled list with the right shoulder issue. As of now, Cleveland is building up Salazar's innings on a Minor League rehab assignment with the goal of getting him back in the rotation.

Tweet from @Hunter_Miles28: @MLBastian I meant to ask you this yesterday, but when is the last time an Indians player was in the HR derby?

Grady Sizemore was the most recent Indians player to participate, hitting six in the first round of the 2008 Derby. Jim Thome appeared in two (1997 and '98) and Albert Belle swung for the fences in three ('93-95). In the '95 Derby, Belle actually hit the most homers overall (16), but lost to Frank Thomas in the finals.

Tweet from @SethGoTribe: Could the HR surge be attributed to the new Axe handle bat fad that is across the league? Also do any Indians players use one? #IndiansInbox

My 7-year-old son uses an Axe bat in Little League, but he doesn't have any home runs, yet. He does, however, call it his "lucky bat" and recently declared that Chisenhall (Cleveland's lone Axe-handle user) is his new favorite player. As for the home run spike in the big leagues, there aren't enough players using this bat model yet to even make a blip on that radar.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians