This is a special case. Yordany Ramirez has been touted as a five-tool prospect for years but has never seemed to live up to the hype. This year, however, things were slightly different. He showed glimpses of brilliance with the bat where he had only shown the shining light in the field.
"When you are getting kids out of college who are 22 or 23 – he could jump ahead of the game in a short time but those are expectations, aspects of potential," Portland Beavers manager Rick Renteria said. "The reality is you have to look at actual performance."
Ramirez is the best centerfielder the organization has ever seen in its minor leagues. In fact, it is arguable that he is a better defensive centerfielder than any to ever play in San Diego.
He has range, first-step quickness, an ability to read the ball off the bat, and a cannon arm. The only knock is the occasional appearance that he is lazy on the field. Rarely does that outward appearance cause him harm. If a big play is needed, his glove is there. No outfielder has saved as many runs.
"He can defend with the best of them – if not the top," Renteria said. "Just turned 23 but truly played a phenomenal centerfield."
"This kid can play centerfield with the best in the world," Lake Elsinore Storm manager Carlos Lezcano said. "I doubt there is anyone in the big leagues that are much better than him. He is in that league. He can play defense with the best of them."
One thing to remember is Ramirez played in just 98 games over his first three minor league seasons due in large part to injury. It is only the last three years that he has seen more than 45 games in any given year – eclipsing that mark significantly.
His hitting, therefore, has been stunted by lack of at bats. This year was the first time professionally that he has collected over 400 in a single season. Since hitting .222 with Fort Wayne in 2005, he has progressed each subsequent season.
Ramirez combined to hit .283 over two leagues in 2007, reaching career-highs in hits, RBIs, runs scored, extra base hits and stolen bases.
The Dominican Republic native still doesn't walk a whole lot, but he put balls in play more consistently than he ever has previously.
"I like Yordany; I like the way he plays," Storm hitting coach Max Venable said. "I think this year he was able to understand what he needed to do as far as hitting. This is a guy that when he gets to the plate he wants to swing the bat. Well, with the Padres hitting philosophy – ‘Why don't you take some pitches? Be selective and see some pitches.' That approach has really helped him out a lot."
"He has never hit – but the ball jumps off his bat and he has some quickness," Portland Beavers hitting coach Jose Castro said. "He needs to learn the strike zone and cut down his swing a little bit."
Which begs the question, are there people who will lobby for his return to the system? Are there people saying, ‘we have to see this kid for one more year to see if he puts it altogether, especially since he is just 23.'
"I think everybody does," Renteria said. "Absolutely. You are seeing someone who is starting to show light at the end of the tunnel.
"At the same time, everyone is looking for consistency. They are looking for a basis to determine whether it is worth the risk. He is a five-tool guy. There are not many like him. Maybe that speaks for itself. It just depends. It depends on how it fits into the system and whether there are enough people willing to fight."
Is that enough and how do you weigh whether he has done enough to warrant another look from the team that he has grown up with?
He hit over .300 with the Beavers and had a decent first half with Lake Elsinore. He still doesn't take nearly enough pitches and will overswing – but the talent remains undeniable.
Can you let that kind of talent go?
"Once the Padres sit down and evaluate Yordany I think they will come to the conclusion, ‘Give him another chance. We see his progress here. We see what he did in Triple-A,'" offered Venable. "That is going to be a tough decision. It is kind of hard to give up on a guy that has a lot of tools. The hitting has come along the last couple of years.
"You look and say he has been around but 23 – 23 is not old. It is time for him to make some type of surge where they say as an organization, ‘This guy is starting to make progress.' Has he gotten there yet? I am not really sure if he is lighting up the chart, but he has made progress."
"He put the ball in (San Diego's) court," Castro added. "‘This is what I have and what are you going to do with me now?'"
Whether the Padres will return serve is yet to be decided. One thing is certain – there are several people in the Yordany Ramirez camp willing to say their part.