Scouting Jays Prospect #14: Ismael Ramirez

Ismael Ramirez was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as an undrafted free agent on July 30, 1998. The right-hander struggled in his first several years in the Jays system, however, began to turn it around in 2003, had a career year in 2004, maintained his performance in 2005, and was superb last season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Ismael Ramirez
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: March 3, 1981
Height: 6'2
Weight: 175
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Ramirez was signed in 1998 out of Venezuela as a seventeen year old, and spent the following two seasons pitching in Latin America. In 1999, Ramirez spent the year in Venezuela, pitching for the Chico Canonico, the Jays summer league team. He started three games, picking up one win and posted a 4.20 ERA. In fifteen innings, he allowed sixteen hits, one walk, and eight strikeouts.

Ramirez remained in Venezuela for the 2000 season, and pitched for Chico Canonico once again. He started four games, and went 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA. In twenty innings pitched, he allowed twenty hits, two walks and thirteen strikeouts.

Ramirez also spent time in the Dominican Republic, and pitched for the Dominican Blue Jays in the summer of 2000. For them, he appeared in eleven games, going 3-1 with a 3.72 ERA. In forty-six innings, he allowed fifty-one hits, six walks, and twenty-six strikeouts.

In 2001, the right-handed pitcher made his first appearance in the States, and pitched for Jays rookie league team Medicine Hat. At just age twenty, Ramirez was expected to dominate, however, struggled pitching to a 5.35 ERA. Ramirez showed that he was not a power pitching, and could not overpower hitters, however he began to show his incredible control, something that Ramirez would eventually build his success upon.

In 2002, Ramirez repeated the rookie league level, and was clearly much better this time out. As a result the Venezuelan native was rewarded with a rapid increase in the system. After pitching fifty-four innings for Medicine Hat, he pitched twenty-eight innings for Auburn and Charleston.

After holding his own in Charleston during the 2002 season, Ramirez began 2003 with Charleston again. He started twenty-two of the twenty-four games he appeared in, and pitched to a 3.02 ERA. More impressively he posted a 2.53 BB/9 innings ratio, and kept on showing his tremendous pitch-ability.

In 2004 Ramirez dominated the Florida State League, having a career season, while earning the League's Most Valuable Pitcher Award. He showed his durability by starting a league high twenty-seven games, and logged a league high 165 innings, while leading the Florida State League with fifteen victories.

Ramirez needed to accelerate himself up the system of the Blue Jays. He spent too much time in Latin-America, and in the short-season leagues. He posted outstanding numbers in 2004 while pitching for the Dunedin Blue Jays, however, many critics would note his performance came in a pitchers league, and at age twenty-three, he was facing much younger hitters.

Many talent evaluators would note the biggest jump in the minor leagues to make is from High-A ball to Double-AA, and in 2005 Ramirez made that jump at age twenty-four.

The right-hander did not have a good first month of the season going 1-3 over his first four starts, with opponents batting .280 off him. His next six starts went about the same. Ramirez continued suffering loss after loss and went 1-4 with a 5.46 ERA during the month of May. However, opponents batter .261 off Ramirez during May. The 24-year-old got rolling as the weather became warmer. Ramirez went 3-1 in five starts during the month of June while holding opponents to a .220 batting average. Ramirez finished the season off on a mediocre note, and left some talent evaluators disappointed with his season performance.

"He showed command of all his pitches and did show the ability to overpower hitters, but not on a consistent basis," one scout that is responsible for Double-A and Triple-A scouting told InsideTheDome. "When I made my reports on him I noted his inability to pitch to left-handed hitters and that hurt him a lot. He purely dominates right-handers, but struggles against left-handed batters."

The talent evaluator went on to say another negative in Ramirez' game that he noted;

"He is a fly ball pitcher and is prone to giving up the home run ball."

Ramirez gave up 19 home runs this season, however, 12 of them came with the bases empty.

Ramirez dominated Double-A when he repeated it this past season going 7-5 with a 2.08 ERA in 108 1/3 innings. He received a promotion to Triple-A late in the season and went 2-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts.

Repertoire: Fastball, changeup, slider, curveball

Fastball: Ramirez throws a four seam fastball that sits in the 90-93 range. He occasionally can rare back and throw it harder, however, he is not as effective.

Secondary Pitches: Ramirez features an above average changeup, and a slider that could eventually develop into a solid third pitch. Ramirez does not throw hard enough for his changeup to be effective in his repertoire, however, the development of his slider, giving him another hard pitch, could raise his game another level.

Projection: Ramirez does have the potential though to be a middle-back of the rotation starter, however, because of his inability to pitch to left-handed batters, many scouts believe his role will likely be as a reliever. Unless Ramirez shows he can get left-handers out, his career as a starter could be winding down.

2007 Outlook: Ramirez will begin the 2007 season in Triple-A with Syracuse.

ETA- 2008: Ramirez is expected to pitch the entire year in the minor leagues before making his case for a spot in the big leagues next season.

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