The Miami Marlins, once again, are being lampooned as a sinister or clueless ball club on the verge of going 0-162. However, there are several obvious reasons to be positive about the team’s relatively near future, namely Giancarlo Stanton (23), Jose Fernandez (20), Christian Yelich (21), and Justin Nicolino (21). This organization has rebuilt before, so having a little faith in their ability to do it again might not be completely foolish. Another somewhat less heralded prospect that could emerge in the Miami bullpen this year is twenty-six year-old righty A.J. Ramos. Ramos made a nice splash with his debut in September and could continue to make waves in 2013.
Coming out of Lubbock, Texas, Ramos attended Texas Tech for four years where he pitched mostly as a starter for the Red Raiders until he was drafted 638thoverall in 2009 by the Marlins. Ramos, listed at 5’10”, was immediately converted into a reliever upon his professional debut with the Jamestown Jammers in the New York Penn League (NYPL). At each of his four stops in the minors, Ramos has served well as a closer. Between his stops in the NYPL, the Sally, the Florida State League, and the Southern League, Ramos has struck out 12.3 per nine innings while limiting the opposition to a .181 batting average. His minor league career ERA and WHIP were 2.26 and 1.05 respectively. Before his promotion to Miami, Ramos had dominated double A with a 1.44 ERA and 89 strikeouts over 69 innings pitched with only 36 hits allowed. Between his last three stops in the minors, Ramos had accumulated 74 saves.
A.J. made his debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 4 in Miami. Although the game was not close when he entered it, Ramos was faced with the task of pitching to Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, and Aramis Ramirez. Ramos proceeded to strike out Weeks looking with a 95 mph fastball on the inside edge. He then got Braun to go down with a swing and a miss at a tight 84 mph slider before getting Ramirez to do the same on another 95 mph fastball on the inside part of the zone. This alone certainly does not make Ramos a closer entering the 2013 season, but it certainly gives him a great story to tell his grandkids. On back-to-back nights, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse made sure that Ramos was properly welcomed to the big leagues with home runs off his fastball just a few days later. But in his games after getting bombed by the Nationals, Ramos seemed to make some adjustments by mixing in a slower curve. Indeed, Ramos displayed a rather impressive portfolio of secondary pitches in September including a slider, curve, and a change-up. The latter two pitches were used to great effect when he again struck out the side against Atlanta on September 17.
Both MLB Depth Charts and Yahoo! Sports have A.J. Ramos on the outside looking into the Marlins bullpen. But when he looks in, he should feel fairly confident that he will get a lot of career development opportunities in Miami. Between Jon Rauch, Alex Sanabia, and Chris Hatcher, the Marlins bullpen is not particularly daunting. Given the shortage of prominent relievers in Miami, and Ramos’ strong repertoire, it would not surprise me to see A.J. accumulate some holds and possibly even saves, to go along with a plethora of a strikeouts, over the next two seasons.