Position: Third Baseman/Outfielder
The Tigers outbid several teams for Ramirez' services prior to the 2003 season. At the tender age of 17, Ramirez impressed scouts and management with his solid debut in the Gulf Coast League. In his first taste of professional ball, Ramirez posted a .275/.321/.450 line that had the Tiger brass and fans buzzing. Heading into the 2004 season, Wilkin was slated to take "The Leap" towards stardom. That hope was shot down when Ramirez tore the labrum in his right shoulder, requiring surgery, and sidelining him for the entire campaign.
Wilkin made it back in time to participate in the Fall Instructional League, where he displayed his offensive skills, announcing that he would be back in 2005. Despite some struggles in the field and some inconsistency from extensive time away from game action, Ramirez had a solid season in his first full season of professional ball. Playing third base and DH for the West Michigan Whitecaps, he showed flashes of brilliance off-set by bouts with inconsistency like most young players.
With a promotion to the Florida State League in hand, big things were expected of Ramirez in 2006. Unfortunately, nagging injuries and maddening inconsistency prevented him from getting anything going. A .225/.259/.394 line over the season's first three months was not what anybody had in mind; nor was missing the remainder of the season with a painful ankle/foot injury. Ramirez was healthy enough to attend the Fall Instructional League, where he began the long-awaited move to the outfield.
Ramirez is an outstanding natural athlete, with the work ethic to get the most out of his gift. Despite the potential to become an excellent defender at third, progress has been slow, and he will move to the outfield at least part-time in 2007. His athleticism and arm strength should play well in either outfield corner. Ramirez has surprising speed and good instincts on the bases, which should translate to solid defensive ability in the outfield.
In the batter's box, Wilkin has one of the highest ceilings of anyone in the entire organization. For a young player, Ramirez has a very advanced approach at the plate, knowing what he wants to accomplish before he steps in the box. He has a sound swing mechanically, with few holes, and the ability to adjust to breaking balls. He struggles a bit with pitch recognition and will chase balls out of the zone as he often gets over-anxious. Ramirez is never likely to be a walk machine, but toning back his aggressive approach would serve him well. Ramirez has tremendous raw power, and that power should begin to translate to games as he matures mentally and physically over the next couple of years.
There is little doubt that Wilkin has an incredible set of tools, and the potential to develop into an astounding five-tool player. If he takes to the outfield, he should be able to focus more on developing his offensive skills, and could make significant progress in short order.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Wilkin missed the entire 2004 season with a torn labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder. Ramirez's arm strength has returned, and he should be able to make all throws from the outfield with ease. The ankle and foot injury that ended his 2006 campaign shouldn't have any lingering effects.
Wilkin's move to the outfield should lead to a repeat tour through the Florida State League in 2007, but a crowded outfield that is likely to include Cameron Maybin, Justin Justice, Michael Hernandez, and Matt Joyce could mean a tough battle for playing time. The organization could place Ramirez with a multitude of teams, ranging from West Michigan to Erie, or even keep him in extended spring training until Maybin's expected promotion takes place.
Either way, Ramirez needs plenty of at-bats in 2007 to catch up for missed time last season. He still has incredible potential, but he must start making progress before he is passed by new entrants into the system. I expect Ramirez to struggle early on this season, only to start turning it on as he gets back in the groove of game action. His tools are too plentiful to give up at this point, and he should get plenty of opportunities to play.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.