Pitching prospect Jose Ramirez made his big league debut for the Yankees Wednesday night, throwing two innings in relief. Overall, his command looked a little shaky. He walked Nick Punto and also yielded a homer by Josh Donaldson. Still, Ramirez featured very good stuff, including a mid-90′s fastball, complimented with a slider and changeup. It’s not hard to see why Ramirez was such a highly-regarded prospect.
Ramirez has been on the prospect radar for a few years now, but due to a combination of injuries and spotty command, his overall minor league numbers were more good than great. The Yankees moved him to the bullpen this season, hoping that this switch will mute his command issues. Many failed starters with poor control end up developing into dominant late-inning relievers — as we’ve seen from fellow rookie Dellin Betances.
To find comps for Ramirez, I looked for reliever seasons (200 pitch minimum) since 2008 where at least 95% of pitches thrown were either a fourseam fastball, slider, or changeup. I turned to PITCHF/x to find out how often these pitcher’s pitches fell within the minimum and maximum values for Ramirez’s velocity, break angle, and spin from Wednesday’s game. These are the ones who threw the highest ratio of pitches (>55%) comparable to what Ramirez threw in his MLB debut.
|2012 – Cody Allen||63%||21%||12%||2.81||4.11|
|2013 – Nick Hagadone||63%||23%||16%||5.46||4.43|
|2010- Wil Ledezma||61%||24%||7%||6.86||2.99|
|2012 – Jason Grilli||61%||37%||9%||2.91||4.00|
|2011- David Carpenter||61%||23%||10%||2.93||3.43|
|2009 – Joel Hanrahan||58%||24%||12%||4.78||2.13|
|2008 – Grant Balfour||57%||37%||11%||1.53||2.30|
|2012 – Elvin Ramirez||56%||22%||20%||5.48||5.29|
|2009 – Chris Perez||56%||24%||11%||5.48||3.57|
|2010 – Chris Perez||56%||15%||11%||4.26||4.64|
|2012 – Mark Lowe||55%||17%||8%||3.43||4.23|
|2011 – Mike Dunn||55%||26%||12%||3.43||3.36|
|MLB Bullpen Average||N/A||21%||9%||3.83||3.70|
If there’s one thing that stands about this group, it’s the walks, which have also been a bit of an issue for Ramirez. Nine out of 12 had walk rates above 10% . For the most part, though, these guys still managed to do alright by striking out a fare share of hitters — not surprising given their raw stuff.
Ramirez’ command is worth worrying about, but based on the players listed above, there’s reason to think he can still be effective. Most of the guys on that list were top-notch relievers at one time or another. Ramirez’ pitches are very hard to hit, even if he doesn’t always know exactly where they’re going, and a pitcher with good stuff can get away with erratic command when he’s only throwing an inning at a time. With Betances, David Robertson, and Adam Warren holding down the late innings, the Yankees’ bullpen is in good shape at the moment. But due to weaknesses elsewhere on the pitching staff, these guys have been pitching almost nightly – often for multiple innings at a time. The Yankees could certainly use another serviceable bullpen arm to share the load and Jose Ramirez might be that guy.