2014 MLB Statistics: 8 G, 10 IP, 10 K, 7 BB, 5.40 ERA, 6.43 FIP, 1.80 WHIP
2014 AAA Statistics: 9 G, 12 1/3 IP, 16 K, 10 BB, 1.46 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 1.86 WHIP
2015 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration
Over the past decade, there have been few arms in the Yankees' minor league system that are as electric as the right on 24-year-old Jose Ramirez. Since being signed as an amateur in 2007, he's flashed brilliance across multiple levels, even if his hard statistics didn't always back up his potential. Even going into this year, Baseball Prospectus prospect writer Jason Parks (since hired by the Cubs) ranked him the second-best player in the Yankees' system, behind only Gary Sanchez. Pitch sequences like the one below are why people like him so much:
Nasty. Unfortunately, Ramirez's downfall has always been his complete inability to stay healthy. In his six years prior to 2014, he never topped the 115 innings or 21 starts he made in 2011 with Low-A Charleston, and while he finally made it past A-ball in 2013, he was limited to just 16 starts and 73 2/3 innings between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. Thus, even though Ramirez had the potential for greatness in the rotation, the Yankees felt that they could no longer wait for Ramirez to have a full, healthy season in the minor league rotation. In spring training of 2014, they said that they would shift the righty to the bullpen in an effort to maximize his potential and hopefully decrease his risk of injury.
While it was an understandable effort, the move did not pay off at all in 2014. Ramirez was one of the first cuts in camp because his back locked up during February work-outs, and the setback was revealed to be an oblique problem. (This was not the first time Ramirez's oblique wreaked havoc on his season.) He made his 2014 debut with the Scranton bullpen on May 7th, and he demonstrated why he could still be an intriguing option. Although he demonstrated some control problems, he did fan quite his share of batters in Triple-A, striking out 16 men in just 12 1/3 innings, a stretch highlighted by three innings of shutout ball with four strikeouts on June 1st against the Pirates' Triple-A club.
With the Yankees seeking some bullpen help, they called Ramirez up for him major league debut just a few days later. He had a tough assignment trying to hold the red-hot Athletics at bay, so while he pitched two innings of one-run ball in his debut, he was tagged with the loss. Of Ramirez's eight games in the pros though, he pitched well in about five of them. There were some games where his inexperience showed, but despite the overall ugly numbers in the small sample size, he seemed like he could be a fit if he could ever stop walking people. His control was his downfall, as a 6.3 BB/9 just isn't going to cut it, and he was sent back down to the minors after a two-out walk led to an extra-innings loss to the Rays on June 30th. He only made two more appearances there before going down with an undisclosed injury that ended his season. Surprise, surprise.
If he somehow manages to get through spring training next year completely healthy, Ramirez might have a shot at a bullpen spot, although it seems more likely that the Yankees would send him back to Scranton to work on his control a little bit more. He's still new to the bullpen, and a little more experience there couldn't hurt. Moreover, he has to figure out a way to stay healthy. The story's the same as it's always been for Ramirez. Until he can actually keep the injuries to a minimum over the course of a full season, I can't be too excited by him.