The Atlanta Braves acquired what seems like a minor bullpen piece today when they received right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later and cash considerations.
Atlanta was attracted by the power arm of Ramirez, whose fastball sits in the mid-90s, and even tickles 100 mph at times. He compliments that with a plus changeup that can act like a split. He also throws a slider, but has not had consistent success with that pitch, and it’s lack of development is what pushed Ramirez from the rotation to the bullpen.
While he has a great fastball/changeup combination that profiles him as a dominant late innings reliever, his control has been suspect due to a long whip-like arm action that can be difficult to repeat. Guys like this sometimes take a long time to develop (if they ever develop), so clearly the Braves are hoping that they can somehow jump-start his seemingly stunted ascent to a permanent bullpen role in the majors. They must believe that he has either figured out his control problems, or that they can correct those problems once he begins working with their coaches.
He was originally a Yankees prospect, and as such was very familiar to some members of the Braves front office who used to work in that organization. He was dealt to the Mariners at this year’s trade deadline for Dustin Ackley. In today’s trade, the Braves now owe Seattle a player to be named, so far there are no rumors as to who that might be.
Some media outlets are reporting that Ramirez is out of minor league options, meaning he would need to make the team this spring or risk being lost. But because he’s had several injuries the past few years (including an oblique injury), an option may have been saved.
Ramirez has appeared on Yankees prospect lists for Baseball America dating back to 2009, soaring as high as No. 13 last year. He was also said to have the best fastball in the Yankees system for several of those years. He has some major league experience, though those numbers in limited innings look terrible due to nearly a walk per inning. His free pass numbers in the minors in recent years also don’t paint a pretty picture. At 25-years-old he still seems to be a work in progress, which is not always a good sign for a prospect.
In considering where to rank him on my Braves 2016 top-35 prospects list, my gut tells me to put him close to Mauricio Cabrera, another hard-throwing reliever with control problems who used to be a starter. While Ramirez is at a higher level than Cabrera, he’s also three years older, though he’s been better than Cabrera at every level, so I’m inclined to rank him higher. Therefore, I’m going to insert Ramirez at No. 26 on the top prospect list, moving Cabrera (and everyone below him) down a spot.
The Braves bullpen is starting to fill out for 2016, here’s what it looks like so far:
There’s no guarantee Grilli or Simmons will be ready by opening day. This list also doesn’t take into account any pitchers that might drop from the starting rotation into the bullpen like Manny Banuelos or Mike Foltynewicz.
The baseball Winter Meetings start Sunday night, so we’ll see if the Braves make any more moves to add to this bullpen mix.
I’ll have to see who the player to be named later is that the Braves will give up for Ramirez to pass final judgement on this trade, but at this time it looks like a solid low-cost, low-risk deal for a live arm with decent upside.