In order to make room on the 40-man roster for newly-signed reliever Chan Ho Park, the New York Yankees designated Edwar Ramirez for assignment. Ramirez has his flaws, but in a marketplace where decent middle men snag three-year contracts, Ramirez could be a shrewd acquisition for the right team.
Twenty-nine later this month, Ramirez has endured an atypical career path. The rail-thin right-hander signed with the Angels out of the Dominican Republic back in 2001, but the Halos cut him loose during spring training in 2004. He posted Playstation numbers with Pensacola of the Independent Central League in 2005, and Los Angeles briefly purchased his contract. Granted free agency after the season, the 6-3, 165 pound Ramirez toiled for another Indy club in ’06 (Edinburg, of United League Baseball lore).
A Yankees scout took a gander at Ramirez while he was carving up UNLB batters and noted a nasty, tumbling changeup. The Bombers purchased Edwar’s contract from Edinburg, and he has made a mockery of minor leaguer batters ever since.
In the High-A Florida State League in 2006, Ramirez posted a 47/6 K/BB ratio, with a 0.82 FIP. He whiffed 33 and walked one in 16.2 frames in the Double-A Eastern League the next year, before earning a promotion to the Triple-A International League. Ramirez tossed 100 innings in Triple-A from 2007-2009, with the following line: 12.96 K/9, 2.79 BB/9 and a 1.76 FIP.
That’s not to say that Ramirez doesn’t have some drawbacks. In its 2008 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America praised Ramirez’s “top-of-the-scale changeup.” However, the publication also noted that the rest of his repertoire was “fringy.” His low-90’s fastball lacked life, and his slider wasn’t big league-caliber. BA said improvement was needed if Ramirez was to become “anything more than a sixth-inning long man- and a great story.”
True to the scouting reports, Ramirez’s heater has been battered during major league stints over the past three years. According to the Pitch Type Values on Fangraphs, Edwar’s high-80’s fastball, thrown 53 percent of the time, has been -1.7 runs below average per 100 pitches thrown. That’s the second-worst mark among relievers with at least 90 innings pitched over the past three seasons (slider specialist Mike Wuertz is first..er, last?) His seldom-used low-80’s slider (nine percent) has a -0.55 run value per 100 pitches. Ramirez’s high-70’s changeup (thrown 38 percent) has been a dandy, at +1.20 runs/100 pitches.
In 98.1 combined big league innings, Ramirez has a 5.22 ERA and a 4.46 expected FIP (XFIP). The discord between those two numbers can be tied to an inflated .314 BABIP, as well as a 14.8 home run per fly ball rate. The changeup artist has little trouble making batters come up empty, striking out 10.62 per nine innings, but he has struggled to find the strike zone (5.13 BB/9). Ramirez has been an extreme fly ball pitcher, getting a ground ball just 34.2 percent of the time and surrendering a whopping 1.74 home runs per nine innings. That HR/9 figure is higher than one would anticipate because his near 15 percent HR/FB rate. But even so, dingers are going to be a problem when opposing hitters loft the ball so frequently.
CHONE projects Ramirez to post a 4.37 FIP in 2010, with 9.29 K/9, 4.06 BB/9 and 1.31 HR/9. Those aren’t spectacular numbers, but teams could do worse at the back of the bullpen. In the right environment, where Ramirez’s fly ball-inducing style could be masked (say, San Diego or Seattle), he could be a nice free-talent pickup.