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 went back to Double-A for the 2008 season, and the entire drip was a rousing success. He got off to a roaring start with back-to-back TigsTown Erie Player of the Month awards, and he finished the Eastern League campaign with a .303/.365/.522 line that included ranking in the league's top ten in runs, triples, home runs, RBI, steals, average, slugging, and OPS. He earned TigsTown's Erie Player of the Year award, was named to the Eastern League mid-season All-Star squad, and participated in the Futures Game during All-Star weekend.
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. Ramirez has stagnated a bit defensively, but he shows enough ability and natural athleticism to be an average defender with a strong arm, likely destined for 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. Ramirez made nice strides in terms of not chasing as many breaking balls out of the zone in 2008, but he still has some contact issues that may hold him from reaching his ceiling. His raw power and speed are exceptional and make for a dynamic offensive package that could make him a big time Major League player.
There is little doubt that Wilkin has an incredible set of tools, and the potential to develop into an astounding five-tool player. Things began to click for Wilkin in 2008, and he truly showed outstanding in-game ability and even more potential that was yet untapped. If he can make more strides in controlling the strike zone, he could develop into a superstar type player.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AA
There are no lingering effects from the 2004 labrum surgery, or the 2006 ankle/foot injury. After two straight healthy seasons, Ramirez seems to be shaking free of the questions about his durability. He was healthy in both 2007 and 2008, and that health enabled him to make great strides as a player.
Logically, the Tigers moved Ramirez to Triple-A Toledo for the 2009 season. After a disastrous eleven game stretch with the ‘Hens in 2008, he'll look to have a better showing this season. Ramirez made a very strong showing in spring training, drawing praise from Tiger Manager Jim Leyland and numerous others in Tiger camp.
There is absolutely no doubting his immense talent, and fans have been waiting for years to see it shine through. After getting a glimpse of it last year, Ramirez looks to continue his breakout and punish Eastern League pitching in 2009. Don't be shocked if Ramirez sees some time in Detroit this season, and he could be a fixture by Opening Day 2010.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.