2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Neil Ramirez

neil-ramirezNeil Ramirez was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2007 Draft (44th overall). He turned 24 at the end of May so he's not exactly young. He's 6-4 and weighs 190 pounds and is a right-handed starting pitcher. The Cubs acquired him, along with Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and CJ Edwards for Matt Garza on July 22nd of this year. He was the player to be named later in the trade and the Cubs acquired him just before the end of the minor league season.

Performance

Neil Ramirez has not set the world on fire in the minor leagues. He's struckout quite a few batters and that's what makes him so interesting to me. His minor league strikeout rate is 24.6%. His walk rate is a more than solid 9.7%. In 2013, over 107.2 innings in AA, he struckout 30.6% and walked 10.2% of the batters faced. His FIP was right at about 3.10, which is impressive. He was 24 years old this year so that has to be taken into consideration.

He's also become somewhat prone to injury since 2011. He suffered through sorness in the shoulder at one point that year, as well as sorness in the right forearm. There was question about his shoulder before the Cubs acquired him this season, but it's safe to say the Cubs would have checked his medical history and felt comfortable with what they were getting. That does not mean that it's alright or that there is nothing to worry about. It just means in the end the Cubs preferred Neil Ramirez over the two players they could have had otherwise.

The most innings he's pitched in the minor leagues was 140.1 and that was in 2010. The injuries have prevented him from racking up a larger total and it's certainly a concern going forward.

Scouting

Since there is so much information on Neil Ramirez, it's best to just quote the experts here.

Texas League managers deemed Ramirez to have the best changeup in the league this season. He hides the ball well and sells the mid-80s change with deceptive arm speed, and the pitch is made all the more effective because Ramirez tops out at 96 mph. His power slider also acts as a plus pitch at times, with the only thing holding him back is a lack of control. That and a hard-to-repeat arm swing might spell a career in the bullpen, but he could excel in a relief role. — Baseball America (time of trade)

He was ranked 23rd in the Rangers organization entering the 2013 season by Baseball America.

Ramirez has made halting progress after signing for $1 million as the 2007 draft’s 44th pick. He took two cracks at low Class A before rocketing up the minor league ladder and this list (all the way to No. 5) following a 2011 season that he finished in the Round Rock rotation. His success vanished as quickly as it had arrived during a rocky 2012 campaign, during which he dealt with shoulder fatigue and earned a late-June demotion to Double-A. He made his final appearance of the season out of the bullpen and showed a consistent 95-97 mph fastball after settling in at 90-94 as a starter. The Rangers believe relieving better suits his personality because Ramirez tends to overthink things as a starter. He has cleaned up his arm circle in recent years, reducing the severity of a high-elbow backswing, but an inconsistent release point still affects the quality of his secondary pitches when he doesn’t stay on top of them. He sells a high-80s changeup with natural deception, and it’s a plus pitch at times. He started throwing a slider in 2012, and it flashes promising tilt. He hangs his curveball too much for it to be viable at higher levels. If he stays in the bullpen, Ramirez could vie with fellow 40-man roster members Wilmer Font and Roman Mendez for relief innings in Arlington this year.

mlb.com ranks him 12th in the Cubs organization (following his acquisition).

Ramirez's feel-good breakout of 2011, when he pitched at three levels effectively, ending at Triple-A, was followed up by a bit of a return to reality in 2012. The right-hander was acquired by the Cubs in August, via the Matt Garza trade, during a big 2013 season in which he is trying to prove that 2011 wasn't a mirage, but who he truly is as a pitcher. He has an intriguing combination of stuff and command, and he has all it takes to be a mid-rotation starter. He commands his fastball very well and throws a deceptive changeup with it. Both of his breaking pitches are effective, with the slider having the chance to be above-average.

Sickels prior to the season:

18) Neil Ramirez, RHP, Grade C+: Tough to get a handle on after wildly erratic season, failed in Triple-A and was spotty after going down to Double-A though sometimes effective. I have been very high on him in the past but he might do better with a change of scenery. Trade bait?

Outlook

It's not out of the question, but probably unlikely that Neil Ramirez could make the Cubs Opening Day roster. It's probably out of the question that he'd do so as a starter and I'm sure the Cubs want to see if there's a starter there. As I said, he's not young and will get to go up to AAA (did so in 2011 also) and see if he can put together back to back quality seasons for the first time in his career. If he stumbles early I expect we'll begin to hear talk about him as a possible late-inning reliever. If he does well the Cubs will probably leave him there to prove it and then call him up when they need to.

I don't believe the Cubs are in a hurry, but at 25 next year Ramirez may feel like time is beginning to run out.

Ramirez has potential, but most minor leaguers have that. He has the ability to blow batters away, which most minor leaguers can't do. His changeup is a plus pitch and as a reliever he'd probably become very effective. If either of the slider or curve can develop further he could easily have 3 plus pitches with a chance for a fourth.

In all likelihoos he's a reliever at some point, but he has the upside of a number 2 or 3 starter.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

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About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.

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