For now, he might get lost in the shuffle amid dozens of pitchers in spring training. But after being acquired by the Orioles last July 31, right-hander Yefry Ramírez might have a shot to make the big leagues during the 2018 season.
He was 10-3 with a 3.41 ERA for Double-A Trenton when the Orioles acquired him from the New York Yankees for international bonus pool money. He then went 5-0 with an ERA of 3.66 in six starts for Double-A Bowie to end a strong 2017 season. One where he was an Eastern League All-Star and finished first in the league in wins, second in opponent average against and seventh in ERA.
For the season, between Trenton and Bowie, the 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic went 15-3 with a 3.47 ERA. Over 124 1/3 innings he allowed 105 hits with 49 walks, 117 strikeouts and a .232 average against.
This followed up a 2016 season where, between low and high Single-A ball, he was 7-9 with a 2.82 ERA and .183 average against.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall saw Ramírez make six starts for his club after the trade.
“First of all, he’s a real likeable young man and always has a smile on his face,” Kendall said. “A warm personality and very friendly. A very good teammate, tremendous teammate. There is something to be said for a guy winning 15 games between two clubs. He stays around long enough to win games.
“He is a real competitor out there. He was not overpowering, but he is around the plate with his fastball and he changes speeds. He’s got a very good feel for his changeup, which is an important pitch for him. He can work backwards, throwing changeups and sliders early in counts and then he expands the strike zone. He was just a guy that really knows how to win.”
For his career, Ramírez has gone 35-26 with an ERA of 3.45 over 470 innings with a walk rate of 2.80 and a 8.71 strikeouts rate per nine innings.
“He was 89 to 93 (mph) and pitched right around 91 to 92. He knows how to pitch and has a real good feel to pitch, battles and went deep into games,” Kendall said. “His changeup, I would say, is his plus pitch. His breaking ball was OK.”
Arizona originally signed Ramírez as an amateur and he actually played his first year as an infielder at 17 in 2011. He hit .169 in 44 games in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. He was moved to the mound in 2012, spending four years in short-season leagues before playing two years of full-season ball over the last two seasons. Baseball America ranks him as possessing the best changeup among all O’s minor leaguers. Ramírez is scheduled to pitch two innings Thursday in Sarasota in an intrasquad game.
So what does he need to work on to keep improving, keep moving up the minor league ladder and then get his big league shot?
“He’s going to need to locate as a guy that was not overpowering with his fastball,” Kendall said. “He’ll have to pitch down in the strike zone and be consistent down in the zone. Plus keep improving his breaking ball and work on his fastball command.”
So after that nice first impression with the Orioles, now Ramírez begins his first full season with the club with the chance to make an even longer and stronger one. He’ll show what he has in spring training and then likely begin the year in the rotation with Triple-A Norfolk. He’ll then be a phone call away from his first chance in the majors.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ first full-squad workout is today in Sarasota and their first spring game is Friday afternoon versus Tampa Bay. That game will be televised live on MASN.
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