Name: Neil Ramirez
Notable 2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA, 0.00 FIP, 0 HRA, 1 BB, 9 K, and 29% GB% in 4 2/3 IP with Myrtle Beach (High-A);
1.89 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 1 HR, 8 BB, 24 K, and 30% GB% in 19 IP with Frisco (AA);
3.63 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 6 HRA, 35 BB, 86 K, and 35% GB% in 74 1/3 IP with Round Rock (AAA) ;
3.12 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 7 HRA, 44 BB, 119 K, and 34% GB% in 98 IP total
Why He’s This High: Ramirez entered 2011 as a sleeper coming off a good year in Low-A, but after just one (dominant) start in High-A, he was immediately jumped to Triple-A in one of the oddest promotion decisions of the year. Unfazed by basically skipping two levels, Ramirez punched out 10.41 batters per nine innings. In fact, both his ERA and FIP in Triple-A this year were lower than his marks in Low-A the year before!
Resilience is not the only thing Ramirez brings to the table, as he’s got some nice stuff. His fastball sits in the low 90′s and occasionally touches 94-95, and he also throws a solid-average curveball and workable changeup. His two offspeed offerings both flash plus; it’s consistency that’s the major hurdle.
Ramirez gets good leverage on hitters with his delivery, which is somewhat deceptive and allows all of his pitches to play up. He uses a short, quick arm action which makes the ball jump out of his hand and get on hitters quickly.
Why He’s This Low: Ramirez still is quite rough around the edges. He walked 4.24 batters per nine innings in Triple-A this year, and 2010 is the only year of his career that he hasn’t had control problems. Furthermore, his low groundball rates mean Ramirez is likely to run into some issues with the home run ball. He’s going to have to do a better job of getting downward plane to the plate, and more consistency with his offspeed stuff to lefties is going to be vital; if they can sit on the high fastball, he’ll have a lot of trouble with them in the majors.
He’s only gone over 100 innings in a season once (140 1/3 in 2010), and with a delivery that features an “Inverted W,” Ramirez will have to prove he can hold up over a full season. With his durability and efficiency both in question, he’s got many refinements to make before he can be given the ball 30 times in a season without worry.
Conclusions: Ramirez is a good bet to miss a lot of bats in the majors, as his Triple-A performance shows he doesn’t have too much left to prove in the minors (even in the high-offense PCL). Still, though, his stuff isn’t quite at ace level, and he isn’t so polished that he’s definitely a sure thing. While he got good results this year, there’s still a lot of his game that shows he’s but 98 innings out of Low-A.
At his age, there’s plenty of time to correct his flaws, and his performance even with those issues speaks well. Still, there are many ways his career path could go–he could be a great #2 starter, a Gavin Floyd-esque middle-of-the-rotation guy (the most likely option, I’d say), an inconsistent back-of-the-rotation arm a la Felipe Paulino or Jonathan Sanchez. Ramirez could also slide to relief and become a power closer or setup guy if his arm can’t take the starting workload.
There’s a lot to like about Ramirez, and his proximity to the majors is a plus; still, most prospects ahead of him on this list have higher upside, and many of them have more polish as well.
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