Jose Ramirez is often remembered as the reason the Yankees were so willing to part ways with Arodys Vizcaino in the trade for Javier Vazquez (still bitter about that one). In 2010 it looked like the Yankees gave the Braves the wrong prospect, as Ramirez hit a wall and Vizcaino shot up the prospect rankings. Then the Braves made Vizcaino a reliever, where he proceeded to blow out his elbow this season. Meanwhile Jose Ramirez was busy hitting 100 mph with his fastball at instructs, poised to make this his true breakout year.
Jose Ramirez is a right-handed pitcher originally signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Not considered a big time signing at the time, he quickly started to open some eyes once coaches had a chance to work with him. Two thing have always been consistent with Ramirez; his huge arm and knockout changeup.
As a 19 year old he tore through short season ball and low-A with a combined ERA of 1.44 and striking out 108 while walking only 32 in 103 innings. Coming into the 2010 season he looked to be the next big time Yankee pitching prospect. He was getting positive reviews from both scouts and talent evaluators. Then the injury bug bit, limiting him to 11 appearances in 2010. When he came back in 2011 it wasn’t pretty, and by the end of the year he had a 5-12 record with a ERA of 5.66. His prospect status had fallen so far that the Yankees organization was considering making him exclusively a reliever for the rest of his career.
Coming into instucts last winter Ramirez was almost an after thought as a prospect. He started to make some changes and the results have been nothing short of impressive. Ramirez had always struggled with a third pitch. He originally threw a slurve, then scrapped that in favor of a true curve ball, both of which he struggled immensely with. He showed up at instucts this winter armed with a new slider he had been working on since the season ended. Ramirez quickly made his new found slider an above average pitch with plus potential. He commands it very well and is comfortable throwing it in any count. Now armed with three above average to plus pitches he has started to show his impressive potential as a starter again.
Ramirez has always had a power arm, but he has even taken that to a new level this season. He has consistently been sitting 93-96 and has touched 98 with his fastball. He continues to have good movement and strong tailing action. He also has great command of his fastball for a power pitcher.
Ramirez’s best pitch has always been his power change up, and he keeps his delivery exactly the same as his fastball. Hitters have a hard time tracking the difference before its too late. He throws a true power change up, with excellent command in the 80-85 mph range. It has great depth and fade to it and he is comfortable throwing it in any count. His changeup rivals Banuelos’s as one of the best in the Yankee system.
His slider shows flashes of being a plus pitch that he can throw for strikes. He throws his slider in the 85-88 range with good late movement. It’s turning into a solid strikeout pitch for him getting both swing and miss strikes and called strikes. He is still working on his arm angle and matching his delivery to his other two pitches but it has come along way in a short period of time. Another thing scouts really like about him is composure, even under pressure he doesn’t let anything get to him.
He has shown massive improvements so far this year. He was the first Yankee prospect with a double digit strikeout game this season and was also named the FSL pitcher of the week earlier this month. He has also been on Baseball America’s Helium list and John Sickels recently named him a pitcher to watch. Still only 22, he has a lot of projection left, but his real test will be when he is called up to Double-A where he’ll faced more advanced hitters.
Ramirez is now armed with three above average pitches. He has an elite ceiling and the results so far this year have been positive. He is a pitcher that has been through adversity, at one point being demoted to Charleston last season. The key to his development is to continue to work on that slider. If he is able to turn that into a legitimate third pitch, then there is a chance he will remain a starter. His ceiling at this point is a front end starter. There is still a good chance that he ends up in the bullpen though. With his power fastball and changeup combination, he would be a perfect candidate for late inning work. If Ramirez goes back to his old struggles with starting then this will be his future. This is likely his floor, as anyone who can throw with that type of power and control will hopefully at least get a shot at late inning relief.
His estimated time of arrival is approximately 2015. That would put him at 25 years old, a bit old in terms of prospect years. If he suddenly becomes lights out, which he is certainly capable of, then he will most certainly move faster. With his stuff, it is just a matter of when he can learn to harness it, and if/when that slider becomes a reliable third pitch.
Remember Jeremy Bleich? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. He was signed by the Yankees in the supplemental round, 44th overall, of the 2008 draft and ended up being their top selection after Gerrit Cole spurned their millions for UCLA. That’s not the reason why you wouldn’t remember him. The reason for that is because he hasn’t pitched since May of 2010 after suffering a shoulder injury that landed him on the DL for two years.
Well we finally have an update on him. According to Josh Norris of the Trentonian, Bleich has begun pitching in extended spring training and is expected to return soon, but it will likely be as a reliever when he finally does come back.
It’s not a big surprise that he would return as a reliever. Shoulder injuries are nasty business and he wasn’t a guy with electric stuff in the first place and primarily relied upon strong pitch ability. With even more diminished stuff it’s going to be hard for him to come back, but luckily he’s a lefty and perhaps he’ll be able to find work as a specialist.
After blowing a one-run lead in the seventh inning on Sunday, the Tampa Yankees put a tied game in the hands of 21-year-old reliever Mark Montgomery. He faced three batters in the eighth inning, three more in the ninth, and struck out all six of them. The Yankees walked off with a win a half inning later.
“I haven’t seen anybody say anything about this guy,” Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman said. “This guy is worth paying attention to.”
The Yankees took a bunch of good young relievers in last year’s draft — Newman also mentions Branden Pinder and Philip Wetherell as legitimate standouts — but it’s clear that Montgomery has the Yankees attention, and it’s probably time that he grabs your attention as well.
Signed out of Longwood University in Virginia, Montgomery has some in the Yankees organization wondering if he’s the next Dave Robertson. Like Robertson, he’s racking up massive strikeout totals in the minors — 86 through 50.1 professional innings so far — and he’s poised to move quickly like Robertson.
The outpitch, though, isn’t a Robertson curveball, it’s a hard-breaking slider that has confused several scouts. Newman said he’s seen some reports that call it a split, and some that suggest he throws both a slider and a split.
“It’s a slider that’s hard and very straight down at like a 45-degree angle break,” Newman said. “… This guy’s legit. The numbers tell you he’s legitimate, but the stuff is more than pretty good.”
Evan Rutckyj (pronounced ROOT-ski) recently made his debut for the Charleston River Dogs, his first start in full season ball. Most people have never heard of this tall, Canadian born left handed pitcher. If Extended Spring Training was any indication, however, people will know who he is by the end of this season. A hockey player in his youth, the Yankees are hoping that toughness will translate to the mound.
Rutckyj is a 6-foot-5, 213-pound left handed pitcher out of Ontario, Canada. He was born on January 31, 1992, making him 20 years old, and was drafted in the 16th round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. At the time of the draft Rutckyj was a major project. He hadn’t switched to pitching full time until the age of 17, and had only had about 80 innings in a year and a half before being drafted. Given his size and projectability, the Yankees took a chance on him.
Last year Rutckyj lived up to his billing as a project. At times he looked quite dominant, but inconsistency plagued his season. His stat line to finish the year wasn’t pretty, with a 4.76 ERA and 24 walks in just 45.1 IP. He did manage to strike out 37 and finished the season 5-3.
The coaches saw the potential though, and they sent him to Extended Spring Training this year to see how far he had come along in the off-season. Sure enough, Rutckyj was seen as the best pitcher at Extended Spring Training, and the coaches felt confident enough in his abilities to allow him to skip Staten Island and go straight to Charleston when a spot opened up.
His first start at Charleston was pure domination. He avoided the walks that he struggled with last season, and allowed just two hits in five innings en route to his first full season victory. Even more impressive, he struck out eight in that appearance. Keeping it in perspective, this is just one start. On the other hand, it’s probably his best start as a professional so far, and this can only bode well for his future.
As of now he has three pitches; the fastball, curve ball, and changeup. The fastball sits low 90′s and can get as high as 95 mph. If he continues to fill out, it is possible he could add even more velocity. As is the case with many lefties, the fastball has excellent tailing action.
His second pitch is his slider. He throws it at a hard 83 mph. Last year it was an unreliable pitch for him, but he worked hard on it in the offseason and Extended Spring Training, and coaches feel it is a plus pitch for him now. The changeup was a work in progress before this season, and I suspect he will continue to develop that pitch as time goes by. It is one of the hardest pitches to perfect after all.
It is difficult to predict the ceiling of such a raw talent, but he has the stuff and athleticism that could make him a middle to front end starter in the long term. If he has the gain in velocity that many are expecting of him, or he is able to harness the secondary pitches, he could have ace potential. As with many raw prospects in the low minors, the floor is on the opposite side of the spectrum. It’s possible a player like him flames out and never makes the majors. With the progress it appears he has made from last season, that is getting less and less likely.
The estimated time of arrival in the major leagues will be around 2015. Being in Charleston this season is a good sign, and if he continues to improve he should be in High-A next season. From there, he will move as fast or as slow as his performance allows.
Evan Rutckyj is a big guy possessing obvious athleticism. Players his size often have trouble repeating their delivery. This shouldn’t be a problem long term in a guy who has been able to excel in multiple sports and has improved his game in a short period of time. He may well be one of the biggest and best surprises of the 2012 season. Here’s to hoping Rutckyj becomes the next in a growing line of Canadians to make a splash in major league baseball.
He’ll pitch his second game of the season today for those who are interested in following.
Tyler Austin has put up impressive offensive numbers at pretty much every stop in his minor league career, and prospect watchers are beginning to take notice. I certainly include myself among people who have underrated Austin throughout his short career, probably unfairly, because he didn’t have an elite draft pedigree or play a premium position. As a guy who is likely limited to a corner outfield positions, the Austin’s offensive production needs to be very strong for him to be taken seriously as a legitimate prospect.
Evaluating players in the lower minors solely on the basis of numbers is problematic, since the level of competition is not always strong. At the lower levels, pitchers likely have inferior command, weak secondary offerings, and lower velocity than more advanced pitchers, which could allow a hitter with significant flaws to put up impressive numbers. It is still too early to tell whether this is the case with Austin, but with every day of continued success (and every rave from a scout who has seen him in person) it becomes increasingly less likely.
Austin came out of the gate on fire in April, batting .345/.383/.828 with 9 homers, a torrid pace that while impressive, was almost certainly unsustainable. Austin has come back to earth somewhat in May, as Sally League pitcher have begun to make adjustments to him. Still, a .253/.340/.471 line for the month, with 4 more homers, is not too shabby, Austin still leads the league in home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. At 20 years of age Austin is not old for the league either, so there is definitely a lot to like about his performance. Also worthy of note is that Austin’s road numbers are much better than his home numbers (1.188 OPS on the road vs. .840 at home). I’m not sure what Charleston’s park factor is these days, but if it has been playing as a pitcher-friendly park then it is possible that Austin’s numbers could be even better.
If Austin continues this performance, he will go from a guy who struggled to make organizational top 10 lists going into the season to a likely top 100 prospect. In fact, Keith Law recently said that he would consider Austin for his top 50, high praise from an analyst who tends to rely more on scouting than on numbers. Of course, to maintain this status, Law and other will expect Austin to continue to rake, as he has so far this season, while continuing to show that he can be a solid defender in the outfield. The Yankees could wind up promoting Austin to Tampa if he continues to hit well, since his advanced offensive skill-set could probably respond well to a fast-tracking. Regardless of how Austin does for the rest of the season, and where he ends up, the Yankees look to have an exciting offensive prospect on their hands.
With their first pick in the 2012 1st-year player draft, the Yankees selected right handed pitcher Ty Hensley out of Edmond Santa Fe High School in Oklahoma with the 30th overall pick.
Hensley is big and projectable at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds who has been compared to Phil Hughes physically. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph with his fastball and occasionally touches 98 with it. He has good mechanics and a strong curveball which made him stand out as a first rounder. He started out as a position player before being transitioned to the mound so there is still room for improvement.
Hensley was expected to go at least 10 rounds earlier in the draft and has signed a letter of intent with Ole Miss. The expectation is that the Yankees will be able to sign him though. He was ranked No. 23 overall by Baseball America before the draft.
Hensley is a prototypical hard-throwing high schooler with a 92-96 MPH heater and a plus curveball. He needs innings to refine his changeup and his command, but his upside is as high as any of the other prep pitchers not named Giolito. He is committed to the University of Mississippi but should be signable here. The Yankees have gone against consensus with their early selections in recent drafts, but Hensley is a perfect fit here and was under consideration by teams 10-15 spots higher than this. His father Mike was a minor league player, so he has baseball in his blood. He is a strong overall athlete who is also a prospect as a hitter. He also has background as a quarterback, demonstrating some leadership skills on the field. Overall, he’s a good risk as high school pitchers go.
With their second round pick (94th overall) in the 2012 first-year player draft, the Yankees took a 21-year-old, 6-foot-4, 226-pound catcher out of the University of Miami, Peter O'Brien. O'Brien is a big power hitting type with some work to do on his swing and his defense behind the plate. The Yankees found another strong work ...
Update: Aune has already signed with the Yankees. “They called earlier this morning, made me an offer, and it was one that was right for our family and I thought was at the right time,” Aune told Ben Baby of the Denton Record-Chronicle. “We accepted it.” With their first second-round pick (89th overall) in the MLB 2012 ...
With their third round pick (124th overall) in the MLB 2012 first-year player draft, the Yankees took a left handed hitting, 6-foot-0, 200 pound, outfielder out of Bradford High School (Wi.), Nathan Mikolas. Mikolas is another projectable type considered one of the best high school batters in the Midwest. He is said to have good bat speed, quick ...
With their fourth round pick (157th overall) in the MLB first-year player draft, the Yankees selected a smallish, hard throwing righty out of Faulkner University in Alabama, Corey Black. Coming in at 5-foot-11 and 170-pounds, the 20-year-old Black has already had Tommy John Surgery, but can still manage to get his fastball up in the 94-96 ...