Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pitching Prosect #8: J.C. Ramirez

The eighth pitching prospect slot goes to newly acquired Juan Ramirez. Ramirez was one of the prospects that the Phillies received in the Cliff Lee deal. Ramirez is the worst prospect of the three but is still a good prospect. I will admit that I am not as high on Ramirez as most. He was signed in 2005 out of Nicaragua, he was 16 years old at the time. Ramirez is a 6'3" righthanded starting pitcher that can only be defined as a power pitcher.

Ramirez looks like a thrower more than a pitcher at this point in his career but still is young, 21, and has time to learn. He throws a hard fastball that reaches 96 mph, a hard slider, and an improving changeup. Ramirez can be erratic at times, but he is only 21 years old, most 21 year old pitchers are erratic. He hasn’t quite put it all together as a pitcher because he is still very raw. In his 4 years in the minors, Ramirez has posted a 4.12 era in 406 innings. Even though Ramirez is a bit erratic, batters still have a difficult time hitting him as he has only given up 369 hits in those 406 innings. Ramirez is currently a starter in advanced single-A, but with his power fastball he projects as a good reliever down the road.

Ramirez reminds me a lot of Ryan Madson as they are both very tall, lanky, right handers. They also have a very similar repertoire, as they both have good overpowering fastballs, changeups, and a breaking pitch. Ramirez differs a bit from Madson because his breaking pitch is a slider compared to Madson's curveball, and Ramirez's slider is his #2 pitch where Madson's changeup was his #2 pitch. In the first 4 seasons of both pitchers' careers, Ramirez has posted a 4.1 era in 406 innings compared to Madson's 3.77 era in 394 innings. Madson pitched his entire minorleague career as a starter and wasn't converted to a reliever until he was promoted to Philadelphia. I believe the Phillies will take a similar approach to Ramirez based on how his pitches develop.

Ramirez has definitely pitched below his abilities to this point in his career but this is mainly due to having to pitch in a hitter friendly park in 2009 and being younger than his competition. Many Hispanic born pitchers take longer to develop than American pitchers due to signing at such a young age. Many Hispanic born prospects are signed at 16 years old. Personally, I was just studying for my permit test. Not quite as much pressure as playing professional baseball against 21-22 year olds.

I do believe that Ramirez is better suited for a reliever role but if he can improve both of his offspeed pitches, he can easily project into an elite starting pitching prospect. Keith Law, who works for ESPN, has stated that he projects Ramirez as a potential #2 starter in the majors. This is very high praise for a Ramirez and makes me think that his offspeed pitches are better than advertised. 2010 will be a big year for Ramirez as he will be 21 years old and pitching in AA Reading. Ramirez is another prospect that could make a serious jump in the prospect rankings or fade a bit if he repeats his 2009 numbers.

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