Name: Jose Ramirez
Position: Starter (RHP)
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 23 (born on 1/21/1990)
Height: 6'1" Weight: 155 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Under team control. Three years of minor league service time.
2012 Statistics: (High-A) 21 games, 18 starts, 98.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 8.57 K/9, 2.74 BB/9
Showing off the ability that makes him one of the Yankees' top pitching prospects, Jose Ramirez impressed during his time in big league camp this spring. Baseball America considers Ramirez's mid-90s fastball to be the best within the entire Yankee farm system, and he gets his opponents to swing-and-miss with his strong changeup. Joe Girardi, among others, has recognized that if Ramirez wants to make it to the majors as a starting pitcher, he'll need to be able to command some kind of a third pitch that he hasn't currently mastered. Ramirez and the Yankees hope that his slider will eventually be that pitch, but it's a work in progress at the moment. Still, despite all that, scouts have fallen in love with all the potential Ramirez possesses.
Injuries are a big reason Ramirez hasn't been able to progress through the system more than he has to this point. He made only eleven appearances during the 2010 season and his first stint with Tampa went so badly that he was sent back down to Charleston after only 24.1 innings. When the Yankees traded Melky Cabrera and Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez, Ramirez was said to be the prospect that made Vizcaino expendable. It looked, for a while, that the Yankees had made the wrong decision on which prospect to keep; but Vizcaino was converted to a reliever and needed surgery on his UCL while Ramirez has continued to climb the Yankees' prospect lists. At 23-years-old, he's a bit old for a prospect that hasn't ever pitched above A-ball; but if he can stay on the field and avoid any more injuries that cost him precious development time, the Yankees could potentially move him along quickly through Double-A and Triple-A, making his expected arrival in the majors in either 2014 or 2015, depending on how it goes for him against the better hitters in the upper levels of the minors..
In 9.1 innings this spring, Ramirez only allowed runs (six) in his disastrous outing against the Blue Jays in which he didn't make it out of the first inning. Those forgettable moments are inevitable when a kid faces a lineup like the Blue Jays' after being used to pitching against Florida State League batters. The important part is that Ramirez made a positive impression on the coaching staff in the rest of his time in big league camp and he should fall right in behind Adam Warren and Brett Marshall on the minor league starter depth chart, as far as actual prospects go. It would be a surprise for him to see time in the Bronx this season, but you can never really predict the series of events that will occur over a 162 game season that may require the unexpected to make an appearance.
Ramirez seems to have turned a corner after encountering some bumps in his minor league journey; and if he continues to progress as he has, he will have very much earned the right to be considered one of the Yankees' best pitching prospects. When you have Mariano Rivera'sstamp of approval, you can't be doing too badly for yourself.
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