Name: Cesar Ramos
DOB: June 22, 1984
A sandwich pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, Cesar Ramos has steadily rose through the San Diego Padres system on the basis of control and mixing in his off-speed pitches.
He doesn't chalk up many strikeouts but prides himself on command and his ability to go deep into games – something that hasn't been part of his minor league career.
One reason was control issues that crept in sporadically – he walked three or more in six games while issuing a free pass to one or less in 13 contests.
His other problem has been fatigue. After being overused at Long Beach State, the Padres have been careful with his pitch count and have shut him down each of the last two seasons.
He will have to strengthen his endurance so he can become the workhorse he and the Padres envision. He did pitch 141 innings in 2006.
"It is hard to evaluate kids coming in through the draft," Lake Elsinore pitching coach Steve Webber explained. "They have gone through the grind mentally and physically. Then they go through another grind, which is different, from pitching once a week to once every five days and then comes the full-season grind to challenge them again. They have the in-between stuff to do and all that weighs into it and makes it hard to evaluate."
Ramos keeps things in focus throughout the days leading up to his starts and maintaining the daily routine that leads him to success. He is a hard worker but can be thrown off by the unexpected.
After sporting a 2.93 ERA through the first four months of the season, Ramos was crushed in August, allowing 19 earned runs in 20.2 innings for a 8.27 ERA. His season ERA spiked to 3.70 as a result. Before that four-game stretch, all losses, Ramos was 7-4 with a decent .275 average against. By year's end the opposition was hitting .292 off him.
"He is a very consistent worker," Webber said. "It wasn't by accident that he had success because he goes about it the right way."
The portsider mixes together four pitches: a fastball, slider, curveball and cutter/changeup.
He does have some deception in his delivery and hides the ball well before it is released from his hand.
Ramos is clean mechanically and has been touted as being a polished pitcher. But his fastball is erratic at times and needs to stick at the 87-90 MPH range for him to continue his success. It will, at times, flutter and dip to 83-86 MPH in games. Oftentimes, a pitcher's fastball dips the year after being drafted from the innings put on an arm and that could be the case with Ramos.
A slow starter, it often took the southpaw time to get comfortable on the mound. The majority of his earned runs, 41-of-58, came over the first three innings of a game. The early problems often come from his inability to net a first pitch strike in the early going, forcing him to pitch behind in the count. Without a plus fastball, Ramos has a tendency to get hammered when that first pitch strike eludes him, leaving balls up in the zone.
He often works backwards, playing off the success of his cutter and off-speed repertoire to setup the fastball. He has tight spin on his curveball and the cutter has become his out pitch because of its tailing action that dips to the ground.
As such, he is ground ball pitcher and was tied for second in the California League with 19 double play grounders induced.
The lefty attacks both lefties and righties the same, using his full repertoire of pitches. It can be a blessing when he can offer a pitch that a lineup has yet to see and a negative when he feels he has to be too fine with his next offering.
"He had a couple of outstanding performances for us," Webber said. "His game is command of the fastball and pitching with his secondary stuff. He has two distinctly different breaking balls, a curveball and a slider, a cutter and a changeup. He has the equipment. It is a matter of getting it in the strike zone, keeping the ball down and changing speeds."
One thing that will be interesting to watch is how he progresses mentally. He didn't do well in minimizing damage and when he was wild it often came in spurts. Cutting both of those down will go a long way towards eliminating the big innings.
ETA: Even last year, stamina was a concern and he enters 2007 with that same question to answer. There is no question that Ramos has the ability to hit his spots and work down in the zone. His inability to keep his fastball at average quality will also be a detriment to his future prospect status. But, Ramos is a safe bet to reach his potential because of his work ethic, understanding of the game and ability to put learned lessons into action on the field. He will begin the year in San Antonio and will likely stay there throughout the year. An end of 2008 look is the likely destination for his big league debut.