Position: Right-handed Pitcher
The Tigers discovered Lebron in the Dominican Republic, and signed him as a 17-year old. He was signed in September 2006, by Julian German and Ramon Perez. Signing after the 2006 season, Lebron did not make his professional debut until the 2007 Dominican Summer League campaign. Still learning how to pitch, and where the ball was going out of his hand, Lebron only made two appearances for the DSL Tigers, striking out three and walking three in 3 1/3 innings of work.
The 2008 season was a much different story, as Lebron came out of the gates strong. In June, he posted a 1-1 record and 2.16 ERA to go along with a strikeout rate of 12.42 per nine innings; earning him TigsTown's DSL Pitcher of the Month award. For the season, Lebron finished with a 2-4 record and 4.31 ERA, though he allowed only 40 hits in 48 innings while striking out 51.
The scouting report has the potential to be pretty simple for Ramon Lebron. The kid can chuck it! Lebron's fastball routinely sits in the 93-94 range, and regularly touches as high as 98 on the radar gun. His slight frame belies his velocity, and some are optimistic that he could sit in the 96-97 range once he adds strength and fills out his 6-foot-1 frame.
Command has been a huge issue for Lebron, as he struggles to repeat his delivery and throw strikes regularly. When he is in the zone, he can be unhittable, but he doesn't spend enough time pounding the zone with his impressive fastball.
Ramon has enough stuff to stick in a rotation if he can control it all a bit better, backing up his fastball with a curveball and change-up. The curveball is very sharp and has plus potential, flashing that at times right now. His change-up is more of a show-me pitch at this time, but he has flashed adequate arm speed and average movement at times.
Lebron is a solid athlete that should be able to continue refining his ability to repeat his delivery, though it will likely always have some effort to it. He fields his position well, but is still learning some of the defensive nuances of pitching, as are many young players like him.
As a starter or reliever, Lebron has an unlimited ceiling, held back only by his inability to routinely throw strikes and work ahead in counts. If he can make strides in that area – and some believe he has begun to do just that – he could absolutely take off and fly through the minor league system.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
Lebron has not experienced any arm problems in his brief minor league career, having logged under 100 innings total over the first three years of his career. Most scouts would like to see him bulk up a bit to increase his durability, and some note minor concerns over some effort in his delivery, but he has yet to show any problems.
The Tigers brought Lebron stateside for the 2009 season and he has continued trends showed in the Dominican; limiting hits by striking out plenty of hitters, but also walking tons of hitters. He has turned in moments of brilliance throughout the summer season, and many scouts and opposing coaches have raved about his raw stuff.
Lebron is going to take some time to become the pitcher many believe he can become, but they see too much potential not to believe in the arm long term. The Tigers plan to keep him in the rotation in the immediate future, hoping the additional innings will aid in the development process. His ultimate role will be determined both by his ability to command the fastball, and his ability to further develop his change-up. In either role – as a starter or reliever – Lebron has the potential to be a dominating force.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.