Mark LoMoglio

Yefrey Ramirez is a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick who is paying big returns early on.

TAMPA, FL -- After being drafted in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft back in December, right-hander Yefrey Ramirez has turned heads in extremely quick fashion in the Yankee organization with his performance.

There is so much to like about Ramirez in just the seven months he’s been with the team. He signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks as a position player in 2011 and didn’t throw a competitive pitch for them until 2012 when he gave up hitting to pitch full time, and it looks like it is going to work out in hindsight.

During his time with the DBacks, he never pitched above Rookie ball but did well in every stop except in 2014 with Missoula of the Pioneer League (4.45 ERA) and 2015 with Missoula again (5.35 ERA).

It seems like the Diamondbacks whiffed again on scouting their own talent when they decided not to protect Ramirez before the Rule 5 Draft. Tampa Yankees manager Patrick Osborn seemed surprised that he wasn’t protected.

“He’s turned out to be a diamond in the rough,” Osborn said. “Getting a guy like him in the Double-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft just doesn’t happen. He projects to be a number 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues and you just don’t let them go.”

Ramirez has three quality pitches: fastball [90-94 MPH], slider [80-85] and changeup [low 80’s]. Pitching Coach Tim Norton said his fastball has a little arm-side action but is fairly straight. Norton said the added deception Ramirez has with the hip turn and “shows those butt cheeks off”  helps hide the ball from hitters making it seem like the ball gets on them quicker than it does.

“His slider sometimes turns into a curveball which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you know what you’re doing,” Norton said.

In Charleston this year Ramirez was lights out. In 61 innings of work, he had 66 strikeouts, while walking only 14, with a 2.80 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. He struck out at least seven hitters in six of his eleven starts. He struck out at least seven twice from April to May but did it four times out of five starts in June which helped prompt his promotion to High-A Tampa where the K-Train kept rolling.

In his first start in Tampa he went seven innings, allowed three hits, one run and “struck out the world” according to Osborn—he K’d 11—while not surrendering a walk.

“I saw him in Spring Training and he didn’t look like he was ready," Norton said.  "The ball wasn’t coming out as good as it is now.  I didn’t know what to think of him, but boy, he did well in Charleston and he’s come here and has done great. He’s more than I thought he was.”

Through five starts, Ramirez has a 28:8 K/BB ratio. Twenty of the strikeouts have come in two starts though, while in the other three starts he has good enough pitches to get deep into games without having the big strikeout numbers.

“I’ve been working hard on location this year, and trying to keep focused on the pitches,” Ramirez said through the help of a translator.

As good as the numbers are this year -- a combined 2.53 ERA with more strikeouts than innings pitched between the two levels -- it's not as if Ramirez doesn't have things to improve.  Norton and Osborn both said that Ramirez tends to struggle out of the stretch and it’s something he needs to continue to work on.

“He’s getting ahead of himself and just falling down the mound,” Norton said. “He’s just automatic out of the windup. We just have to remind him that he has more time than he thinks. He’s jumping all over the place, he just needs to find that one consistent delivery of the stretch that he can repeat.”

Another thing that Ramirez needs to work on is keeping his concentration on the mound when he gets two outs. When he was in Charleston, ten of the fourteen walks he gave up were with two outs. Norton said it’s just a lack of focus and that he sees the finish line and doesn’t run all the way through it. Ramirez is still just 22-years-old, so there is time for him to fix the problem and he knows there is one which is a step in the right direction.

“When I get two quick outs, I just get too excited and I try to be too perfect but I’m working on it,” Ramirez said.

Osborn thinks there is even more room for improvement and growth for Ramirez than that in the future.

“He’s young and he hadn’t pitched a whole lot,” Osborn concluded. “You have to think there’s some more in the tank in his pitch development. I think for sure, this kid has put himself on the [prospect] map.”

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