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/.255/.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.
In his first season working in the outfield, Ramirez returned to Lakeland at the age of 21. In his second tour through the Florida State League, Wilkin spent the bulk of the season posting a solid .273/.316/.414 line that included 28 steals that were good enough for 5th in the FSL. Ramirez's performance in June raised plenty of eyebrows, including those of the TigsTown staff as he took home the Lakeland Player of the Month award on the back of his amazing .387/.452/.653 line. The Tigers promoted Ramirez to Double-A Erie in July and though his numbers are less than inspiring, some good impressions were made.
Ramirez is an outstanding natural athlete, with the work ethic to get the most out of his gift. Ramirez made slow progress at third base and was moved to the outfield prior to the start of the 2007 season. In the outfield, his above-average speed, strong arm, and solid baseball instincts played well; including praise from several Florida State League managers as Lakeland's best defensive outfielder. With additional experience, Ramirez should become an excellent defender in left field.
In the batter's box, Wilkin has one of the highest ceilings of anyone in the entire organization. While is strikeout and walk numbers suggest that he has major issues with plate discipline, scouts and managers suggest just the opposite. He is prone to chasing good breaking balls, but he has also demonstrated an ability to adjust from one at-bat to another. Some small strides in his ability to stay back on breaking balls, shooting them the other way and allowing his raw strength to drive the ball to right field, would dramatically increase his offensive output.
There is little doubt that Wilkin has an incredible set of tools, and the potential to develop into an astounding five-tool player. His all-around game has come a long ways in the last three years, and while there is still plenty of growth remaining, Ramirez is starting to put things together and could be primed for a huge season in 2008.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
There are no lingering effects from the 2004 labrum surgery, or the 2006 ankle/foot injury. Ramirez played a strong and more importantly, healthy season in 2007, and will look to build off that success in 2008.
Ramirez is set to return to Erie for the 2008 season, and he will see plenty of action in the outfield as a result. With a burgeoning power bat, excellent speed, and a developing all-around offensive game, Ramirez has long been thought to be on the verge of a monster season. This time around, it could actually be more possible than ever. Wilkin's abilities started to come together in the eyes of many I spoke with over the offseason, and he will be looked to be a major component in the Erie lineup this year.
There are several outfielders at the Double-A and Triple-A levels who will be lobbying to be the guy that takes over in left field after incumbent Jacque Jones leaves Detroit; and a big season from Ramirez could put him in line for that shot. There is still a substantial amount of development remaining for Wilkin, but given his strides the last two years, nothing is out of the question.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.