One pitcher who is currently in Double-A whom the Blue Jays might be tempted to put on the 40-man roster come September is righty Carlos Ramirez. You might ask who Carlos Ramirez is. You might also ask why the Blue Jays might decide to call up a 26-year-old righty who only has part of a season in Double-A up to the major leagues for September when there are other more “prospecty” pitchers at the same level with more upside.
2017 is Ramirez’s ninth minor league season. Think about that. He’s been slogging things out in the Blue Jays’ system for nine years. He’s been a minor league free agent before and has re-signed. You might ask, “Isn’t nine years a lot for a minor leaguer who’s only tasted Double-A ball this year?” The answer would be yes, and no.
Ramirez spent the first six years of his minor league career as an outfielder with a cannon of an arm, a lot of raw power but the inability to put things together. Signing out of the Dominican Republic and beginning his pro career in the DSL at the age of 18, Ramirez spent 2009 to 2014 working his way up the ladder as an outfielder. Ramirez-the-Hitter reached his peak in 2013 and 2014, playing for the Lansing Lugnuts, hitting a grand total of .218/.288/.350 in 486 at bats.
During the 2014 season, Ramirez decided, along with the Blue Jays’ staff, to put hitting aside and to try to harness his powerful right arm on the pitcher’s mound. He went back to Bluefield for the remainder of the 2014 season (starting in late June) and proved to be up to the task of pitching, despite some obvious growing pains (walking 19 and striking out only 24 in 34 1/3 innings).
In 2015, Ramirez struggled a bit more, posting a 4.73 ERA and 1.61 WHIP over 32 1/3 innings in Lansing but succeeded in lowering his walk rate (despite walking 10 in 7 1/3 innings in Dunedin later that year). In 2016, his walk rate was still high at 4.6 B/9 but he struck out a batter per inning with Dunedin.
Although he hasn’t thrown as many innings this year thanks to a two-month stretch on the DL, Ramirez, who throws in the mid-90s, has really blossomed and has 26 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings with only seven walks, a huge reduction in free passes and a nice increase in strikeouts. He’s also only given up eight hits and two runs, both unearned, to give him a 0.69 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.
While I haven’t seen him pitch this year, I did see him in spring training in 2016 and noted that he was throwing in the 92-93 mph range. I’ve heard that he can be up to 95 and has developed a solid slider to go with his fastball. I’m hoping to see Ramirez throw when I visit the Fisher Cats in about a week and a half.
So why might we see Ramirez with the Blue Jays in September? The primary reason would be for retention. Ramirez may be eligible for minor league free agency at the end of the season and bringing him up to the majors would start a new clock and he wouldn’t even use an option unless he was sent down before the year ended (not really necessary in September). If his contract doesn’t expire this year, he’ll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Looking at his arm, his stuff and his results at the Double-A level, Ramirez could be very attractive for a team looking for a power arm in the bullpen. The most impressive thing about his results this year have been his low hit total (just eight in 21 2/3 innings). That, combined with his ability to lower his walk rate this year (at a higher level of ball than he’s pitched at before), maintaining his composure, gives me the impression that Ramirez is ready to contribute at a higher level and has become a “real pitcher” rather than a converted one.
By calling Ramirez up to the majors in September, the Blue Jays preempt two possibilities. The first is that he becomes a free agent, and the second is that he gets selected in the Rule 5 draft. It’s just a hunch, but Ramirez could be on the Blue Jays’ radar sooner than you might think.
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Check out the Handbook page for more information!
Now is a great time to subscribe to the Blue Jays from Away Premium Content Section!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2017) and may not be used without permission.