Jose Ramirez is often remembered as the reason the Yankees were so willing to part ways with Arodys Vizcaino in the trade for Javier Vazquez (still bitter about that one). In 2010 it looked like the Yankees gave the Braves the wrong prospect, as Ramirez hit a wall and Vizcaino shot up the prospect rankings. Then the Braves made Vizcaino a reliever, where he proceeded to blow out his elbow this season. Meanwhile Jose Ramirez was busy hitting 100 mph with his fastball at instructs, poised to make this his true breakout year.
Jose Ramirez is a right-handed pitcher originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Not considered a big time signing at the time, he quickly started to open some eyes once coaches had a chance to work with him. Two thing have always been consistent with Ramirez; his huge arm and knockout changeup.
As a 19 year old he tore through short season ball and low-A with a combined ERA of 1.44 and striking out 108 while walking only 32 in 103 innings. Coming into the 2010 season he looked to be the next big time Yankee pitching prospect. He was getting positive reviews from both scouts and talent evaluators. Then the injury bug bit, limiting him to 11 appearances in 2010. When he came back in 2011 it wasn’t pretty, and by the end of the year he had a 5-12 record with a ERA of 5.66. His prospect status had fallen so far that the Yankees organization was considering making him exclusively a reliever for the rest of his career.
Coming into instucts last winter Ramirez was almost an after thought as a prospect. He started to make some changes and the results have been nothing short of impressive. Ramirez had always struggled with a third pitch. He originally threw a slurve, then scrapped that in favor of a true curve ball, both of which he struggled immensely with. He showed up at instucts this winter armed with a new slider he had been working on since the season ended. Ramirez quickly made his new found slider an above average pitch with plus potential. He commands it very well and is comfortable throwing it in any count. Now armed with three above average to plus pitches he has started to show his impressive potential as a starter again.
Ramirez has always had a power arm, but he has even taken that to a new level this season. He has consistently been sitting 93-96 and has touched 98 with his fastball. He continues to have good movement and strong tailing action. He also has great command of his fastball for a power pitcher.
Ramirez’s best pitch has always been his power change up, and he keeps his delivery exactly the same as his fastball. Hitters have a hard time tracking the difference before its too late. He throws a true power change up, with excellent command in the 80-85 mph range. It has great depth and fade to it and he is comfortable throwing it in any count. His changeup rivals Banuelos’s as one of the best in the Yankee system.
His slider shows flashes of being a plus pitch that he can throw for strikes. He throws his slider in the 85-88 range with good late movement. It’s turning into a solid strikeout pitch for him getting both swing and miss strikes and called strikes. He is still working on his arm angle and matching his delivery to his other two pitches but it has come along way in a short period of time. Another thing scouts really like about him is composure, even under pressure he doesn’t let anything get to him.
He has shown massive improvements so far this year. He was the first Yankee prospect with a double digit strikeout game this season and was also named the FSL pitcher of the week earlier this month. He has also been on Baseball America’s Helium list and John Sickels recently named him a pitcher to watch. Still only 22, he has a lot of projection left, but his real test will be when he is called up to Double-A where he’ll faced more advanced hitters.
Ramirez is now armed with three above average pitches. He has an elite ceiling and the results so far this year have been positive. He is a pitcher that has been through adversity, at one point being demoted to Charleston last season. The key to his development is to continue to work on that slider. If he is able to turn that into a legitimate third pitch, then there is a chance he will remain a starter. His ceiling at this point is a front end starter. There is still a good chance that he ends up in the bullpen though. With his power fastball and changeup combination, he would be a perfect candidate for late inning work. If Ramirez goes back to his old struggles with starting then this will be his future. This is likely his floor, as anyone who can throw with that type of power and control will hopefully at least get a shot at late inning relief.
His estimated time of arrival is approximately 2015. That would put him at 25 years old, a bit old in terms of prospect years. If he suddenly becomes lights out, which he is certainly capable of, then he will most certainly move faster. With his stuff, it is just a matter of when he can learn to harness it, and if/when that slider becomes a reliable third pitch.