Ramos shows power; Peterson's velocity up

February 24th, 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Among qualified Major League hitters last season, produced the highest ground-ball-to-fly-ball rate in baseball. And it wasn’t particularly close. For every ball Ramos lofted in the air, he hit 3.26 of them into the ground. Next on the list was Eric Hosmer, at a rate 26 percent lower than Ramos’.

Compare that to superstar sluggers like Mike Trout and Alex Bregman, who hit roughly twice as many balls in the air as on the ground, and it becomes clear why Ramos finished with only 14 home runs and 19 doubles last season despite massive natural power. Working with an independent hitting coach this offseason, Ramos made significant mechanical changes in an effort to increase his launch angle, working on avoiding “cutting” his swing.

“That made me go around the ball and hit a lot of ground balls,” Ramos said of his old style. “This offseason, I was working on trying to stay through the ball and not cut my swing. That helped me to keep the ball in the air and not hit too many ground balls to the left side.”

If the early results are any indication, Ramos may be onto something. After putting on a show during batting practice Monday in Port St. Lucie, he cranked his first spring homer at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- over the fence, over the Mets’ bullpen, over another fence and onto a pedestrian concourse beyond that to highlight a 2-1 win over the Nationals.

“That was a good swing,” said Ramos, who hit a deep foul ball earlier in the at-bat against right-hander Wil Crowe. “It made me feel happy.”

From the Mets’ perspective, Ramos’ mechanical changes were not completely necessary. Despite all his ground balls last season, Ramos still hit .288 with a .768 OPS, rating around MLB’s 70th percentile in both exit velocity and hard-hit percentage. Still, the Mets won’t say no to more power if Ramos is able to provide it.

“Coming off a good offensive year, and he’s working to get better,” manager Luis Rojas said. “It says a lot about him.”

A few ticks up

Ask 2017 first-round Draft pick , and he’ll credit his second-half surge last summer to an increased reliance on his slider. But there may be another factor at play. Making his first Grapefruit League start on Monday, Peterson regularly hit 94 mph with his fastball. That’s “higher than what we expected just from previous history,” according to Rojas, “and I think that made everything play.”

Also working in his slider, curveball and changeup, Peterson held the Nationals to nothing more than a single in two scoreless innings.

“It’s just using my lower half more, honestly,” Peterson said. “That’s one of the biggest things we’ve worked on this spring with all the pitching coaches. I work my legs during the offseason. Might as well use them during the season, just really trying to tap into getting the most out of my lower half that I can.”

From one manager to another

Rojas spent significant time Monday morning chatting with ex-manager Terry Collins, who is now a special advisor in Brodie Van Wagenen’s front office.

“A lot of advice,” was how Rojas described the conversation. “He tells me different things from his past experience, which matches up with my own experience. He’s had a lot of the players that are on the team, so there have been situations that he’s going through with the players. … It’s good to have Terry around with all his experience. A lot of knowledge of the game, a lot of knowledge of the organization.”

Up next

will make his Mets debut when he travels to Lakeland, Fla., on Tuesday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Tigers. Wacha is battling Steven Matz and Rick Porcello for one of two open spots in the Mets’ rotation.