Tigers Prospect Profile #4: Wilkin Ramirez

Despite seemingly being in the organization since the previous century, Wilkin Ramirez completed the '09 season at just 23 years of age and made his big league debut. What makes Ramirez remain one of the top prospects in the organization?

Wilkin Ramirez
Position: Outfielder
Height: 6-4
Weight: 190
Born: 10/25/1985
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
Ramirez was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2003 season; signing for a six-figure bonus as a high ceiling third baseman.

The Tigers didn't waste any time challenging Ramirez, assigning him directly to the Gulf Coast League at just 17-years old. Despite his youth, Ramirez's talent was evident immediately, as he hit .275/.321/.450 in 54 games, with six doubles, seven triples, and five home runs.

After such a promising debut, expectations were soaring for Ramirez, before his 2004 season came to a screeching halt before it even began. Ramirez was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right arm, requiring surgery and extensive rehab, and forcing him to miss the entire season.

Returning to the field in 2005, Ramirez posted a solid line at West Michigan, hitting .262 with 16 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Ramirez struggled to control the strike zone and battled contact issues, walking only 35 times and striking out 143 times in 131 games.

The Tigers promoted Ramirez to High-A Lakeland for the 2006 season, and the results weren't exactly what people were looking for. Through 66 games, Ramirez hit just .225 with only ten walks and a paltry .394 slugging average. In the midst of his slow start, Ramirez suffered a painful foot/ankle injury that caused him to miss the remainder of the season.

Finally healthy again for the 2007 season, Ramirez started the year back in Lakeland, posting much better results than before. Ramirez posted a .273/.315/.414 line that included ten home runs and 28 stolen bases before his promotion to Double-A Erie. After being promoted to Erie, Ramirez struggled with the change in talent level, hitting just .215 in 34 games.

The 2008 season was the breakout campaign many scouts had been waiting for, as Ramirez began to finally put things together on the field. In 110 games at Double-A, Ramirez ripped Eastern League pitching to the tune of a .303/.371/.522 line, with career highs in doubles (24) and home runs (19).

Wilkin was again promoted to start the 2009 season, this time to Triple-A Toledo. In and around a brief call-up to Detroit, Ramirez posted a .258/.326/.445 line in 113 games. He swiped 33 bases for the ‘Hens, along with poking 18 doubles and 17 home runs.

Ramirez spent part of the off-season playing for Licey in the Dominican Winter League, in an attempt to improve his ability to play center field, and improve his prospect stock.

Scouting Report
Ramirez is one of the most supremely skills players in the entire organization. His wealth of tools is at time awe-inspiring, as he can flash plus tools in nearly every category.

Offensively, Ramirez has a rare combination of enormous power and blazing speed. One of the fastest runners in the organization, he is at his best going from home to first in lightning speed. He can leg out base hits, take extra bases with aggressive base running, and steal bags with ease. He has legitimate plus power to all fields, and plus-plus power to center and left field. His swing generates excellent back spin and loft, and he can blast balls out of any park.

Where things get dicey for Ramirez is when one examines his ability to control the strike zone and make consistent contact. Ramirez continues to struggle with the recognition of breaking balls, and he will often chase pitches outside of the strike zone. His ability to make regular contact is also a concern, as he continues to rack up loft strikeout totals.

After moving from third base to the outfield, Ramirez adjusted slowly to the new position. Playing primarily left field, his instincts have been slow to progress and he often gets poor jumps and takes rounded routes to balls.

The Tigers have been attempting to move Ramirez from left field to center field over the last six months. Though it seems counterintuitive to move up the defensive spectrum in the outfield, Ramirez seems to get better jumps on the ball in center field, and his speed and arm are both put to better use.

Still only 24-years old, Ramirez still has the potential to be a dynamic player on both sides of the ball. To truly capitalize on his wealth of offensive talent, he will need to make additional strides in his approach. At this juncture, it is unlikely Ramirez actually fulfills his immense ceiling, but he could still become a useful player at the big league level.

Performance

Level

Team

AB

AVG

2B

HR

RBI

SO

BB

OBP%

SLG%

AAA

Toledo

434

.258

18

17

51

143

41

.326

.445

ML

Detroit

11

.364

0

1

3

3

1

.385

.818


Health Record
Ramirez has had his labrum repaired and worked past a serious foot and ankle injury, but he has been largely injury free over the last three seasons. He is a fast-twitch athlete that relies heavily on the health of his legs, and fortunately for him, he has remained healthy to a large extent.

The Future
In a shocking move, the Tigers optioned Ramirez to Double-A Erie to start the 2010 season, instead of returning him to Triple-A. The move was an attempt to ensure he continues getting consistent at-bats, as well as allowing him to play center field everyday to improve his prospect stock. Ramirez continues to draw comparisons to former Tiger Juan Encarnacion because of his incredible tools, and inability to translate those tools to consistent on-field production. Without a step forward in his command of the strike zone, Ramirez could remain a tease with his raw talent, without actually becoming an MLB regular.

With the assignment to Double-A, and the presence of Casper Wells, Clete Thomas, Ryan Strieby, and Brennan Boesch in the outfield at Triple-A, Ramirez is likely to spend the entire 2010 season in the minor leagues. He may get another chance at the big leagues in September, and he could enter spring training with a chance to compete for a spot in the Detroit lineup.

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