Cardinals Add Ronald Ramirez for Minors Depth

25-year-old Colombian is the third middle infielder to be brought in on a minor league deal by the St. Louis Cardinals this off-season.

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to focus on middle infielders in their minor league free agent signings. The latest addition is Ronald Ramirez, who has agreed to terms on a minor league contract for 2011 and has been assigned to Double-A Springfield.

The Colombian native, who turns 25 years of age on Sunday, was originally signed by the Houston Astros in January 2003. Ramirez played in the Venezuelan Summer League for his first three seasons, batting .202, .277 and .267 in 2003-05 respectively and swiped a career-high 16 bases in 2004.

Moving up to the US in 2006, Ramirez enjoyed his best season as he was named the team MVP for the Appalachian's League Greeneville Astros. The Appy League All-Star ranked seventh in the circuit in batting (.314), second in doubles (20) and tied for third in hits (72).

Heading into 2007, Ramirez was ranked the 28th-best prospect in the Astros system by Baseball America. His season was ruined however by a collarbone injury which limited him to 21 games and may have contributed to an ongoing decline in his productivity.

Ramirez remained a Houston farmhand through 2009, but only reached the A-Advanced level before becoming a free agent. The right-handed hitter's career average is .248 in 1,546 at bats over 445 games from 2003-09.

Cardinals Farm Director John Vuch credits his catching coordinator and Batavia manager for having brought Ramirez to the organization's attention.

"Dann Bilardello has seen Ramirez play the last two seasons during winter ball in Colombia, and was impressed with his ability to handle all three infield positions, and made the recommendation to sign him to help provide Double-A infield depth," Vuch said.

Ramirez is a veteran of international ball, in which he competed in 2010. Last March, he was a member of the Colombian national team that won the Silver medal at the South American Games held in his homeland. His teammates included former Cardinals farmhands Juan Lucena and Jonathan Sivira.

Ramirez also participated in the Pan American Games Qualifying Tournament in October 2010, where one of his coaches was Cardinals scout and VSL coach Neder Horta and Memphis infielder Donovan Solano was a teammate.

Though he has experience at second and third base, Ramirez has primarily been a shortstop, appearing there in 192 of his 282 games from 2006 through 2009. With the Cardinals, he isn't expected to be a star or maybe even a starter. It all depends on the rate of flow of the organization's prospect pipeline.

"Ramirez gives us a little insurance for Springfield in the event of injuries, and could help us avoid having to rush a player to Double-A prematurely if there's a need at that level for an utility infielder," explained the farm director.

Three of the last four Cardinals minor league signees and three of seven total added this off-season are primarily middle infielders. Earlier, Ramon Vazquez and Freddie Bynum inked deals with only Vazquez having been given an invitation to major league camp.

To view the entire St. Louis Cardinals system from top to bottom by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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