Welcome to Over The Monster’s One Big Question series. For the next 40 (week)days, we will be trying to answer one important question for each player on the Red Sox 40-man roster. The goal is to find one interesting portion of each player’s game to watch for, whether that be in spring training or the early regular season. We’ll be going straight down the list on the team’s roster page, meaning we’ll be going in alphabetical order through each position group, starting with the pitchers. Today, we’re highlighting Noe Ramirez.
The Question: Is Noe Ramirez long for the 40-man roster?
For most of this series, I’ve tried to find a question that would help figure out how a player will make an impact on the 2017 Red Sox, and what kind of impact that will be. The key part of that is the assumption that the player will make some kind of impact on the team. Today, we’ve reached Noe Ramirez, and I’m not sure we can make that assumption. After all, my father always told me what happens when you assume. There’s little reason to believe the team will make a move that will require moving Ramirez off the 40-man in the near-term, but once the season starts and needs change, he could be gone before we get a chance to see him.
Ramirez was drafted by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. The righty was selected as a starter, and pitched in that role in his first professional season with Greenville. That idea was quickly ditched, though, and he’s thrown exclusively out of the bullpen since that point besides one random start in 2015.
Speaking of 2015, it was in this season that Ramirez was first promoted to the majors. His first outing was a sign of what was to come, apparently, as he allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits, one strikeout and one hit batsmen. He was immediately demoted. Since that point, he’s been a mainstay on the shuttle between Pawtucket and Boston, serving as the unexciting depth at the bottom tier of the bullpen.
All told, Ramirez has thrown 26 innings over his up-and-down major-league career. In that time, he’s posted an ugly 5.19 ERA (87 ERA+) with an even worse 6.68 FIP. Baseball Prospectus’ DRA is not a fan of him either, as his career mark is 4.99 and 12 percent worse than league average. The biggest issue for Ramirez, and the biggest reason his FIP is so terrible, has been the long ball. He’s allowed a whopping seven dingers over those 26 innings, good (bad?) for a rate of 2.4 per nine innings. On top of that, he’s had tons of trouble keeping his control, walking over five batters per nine innings with four hit batsmen thrown in there for good measure. All of this overrides what is admittedly solid strikeout stuff.
As is the case for a lot of up-and-down types, Ramirez’s minor-league numbers provide a slight glimmer of hope. The former college arm shot through the system because of his ability to shut down minor-league opponents. Since converting to the bullpen on a full-time basis, Ramirez has never had a minor-league stint in which he posted an ERA above 2.99. On top of that, he’s consistently held solid strikeout rates with good control that runs counter to his major-league performance. In fact, the one real blemish on his minor-league resumé is his first taste of Triple-A in 2015. In that stint, he struck out just over eight batters per nine, but also walked around four. Even then, he posted a strong 2.32 ERA thanks to an impressively low 0.2 home runs per nine inning.
Peeling back the numbers a little bit more, though, things quickly turn bleak again. That Ramirez was able to dominate the low minors makes sense. He was a polished college arm that was used to throwing long outings and was letting loose in short outings. He had a repertoire that most of these hitters weren’t used to seeing out of the bullpen. Things changed as he moved up the ladder, and that shows with his Triple-A numbers. Specifically, you see it with his ground ball rate. Prior to reaching Pawtucket, the righty was consistently inducing ground balls on over half of the balls in play he allowed. At Triple-A, his rate is 44 percent. In the majors, the rate (in a small sample) is 37 percent. That’s a huge reason for those home run problems, and unless he can turn that around he’s going to continue to get into trouble.
This coming year is going to be his age-27 season, so he’s no longer a young arm with tons of potential. Considering both his advancing age and the fact that this will be the last year in which Ramirez has a minor-league option, it’s time to put up or shut up. The 40-man roster is currently full, and he could be near the top of the chopping block. Steve Selsky, who was just added a couple weeks ago, may be ahead of him on the list. Deven Marrero and/or Josh Rutledge could be there, too.
On the pitching side, though, it’s hard to find someone who would be ahead of him. That spot could become quite valuable soon, perhaps if the worst has happened and Kyle Kendrick needs to make a spot start. Maybe Sam Travis mashes and earns himself an early promotion. Or, maybe Allen Craig (lol) or Rusney Castillo surprise us and play themselves back to the major-league roster. At the very least, room will need to be made for Carson Smith eventually.
Ramirez is one of the least interesting players on the Red Sox roster, and as it turns out he may not be around for long. What we’ve seen from him in the majors hasn’t been strong, and there’s only a little hope left that he’ll turn it around. Although his minor-league numbers are shiny, there’s a disturbing decline in ground ball rate that is manifesting in the worst way possible at the highest level. Ramirez will have to impress in spring training and early-season Triple-A action if he wants to stick around all year.