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40 in 40: Yohan Ramirez


Photo courtesy of MLB Pipeline/Twitter

Here we have 24-year-old Yohan Ramirez, a pitcher who heroically escaped the Astros organization just before its toxic stench could cause permanent damage. Like a fledgling pop star getting out from a bad record deal, Ramirez now has the freedom to pursue his true calling without worrying about the men in charge screwing it all up.

Ramirez has very little experience in his young career, just a few demos to his name. The half season he spent in Corpus Christi in 2019 qualifies as his biggest gig thus far, a product of some eye-opening performances earlier in the year at hole-in-the-wall venues in Zebulon, North Carolina and Lynchburg, Virginia. The youngster’s 2019 tour came with some euphoric highs (13.4 K/9, third-best among all MiLB pitchers with 100 total innings) and potentially debilitating flaws (52 walks in just 62.1 innings at Double-A). The Mariners are hoping that a few tweaks can help Ramirez find the signature sound he’s been looking for.

Enter Jerry Dipoto, Captain Save a Prospect. Perhaps fearing that the Astros would both seize creative control and ruin him with oppressive manipulation tactics—not to mention install an antenna in his brain or whatever the Astros do to their minor leaguers—Dipoto snatched Ramirez in the most recent Rule 5 draft. As such, the Mariners are now free to play around a bit, whether that means adding some synths or slowing the tempo or changing his approach entirely.

On his way out of the old studio, Ramirez’s bosses lobbed the usual platitudes about things just not working out. Houston’s special assistant Kevin Goldstein even made him a nice compliment-insult sandwich for the road.

“He throws really hard, really good slider,” Goldstein said. “You guys don’t need to be super advanced baseball people to look at the page on Baseball Reference and see all the walks. It’s going to come down to going to Arizona this spring and seeing if he can throw more strikes. The stuff is there. It’s some of the better stuff we have in the system. There’s just control issues.”

For Ramirez, this statement essentially boils down to “if you’re reading this, it’s too late”. The Astros gave up on you. Now it’s time to make some enemies.

As his previous exec mentioned, Ramirez does have the framework of an extremely successful pitcher. His profile points directly to a late-inning bullpen role, which of course heightens the need for him to cut down on the walks. Unless the M’s want a minor league version of the Fernando Rodney Experience this year, things will have to change dramatically. Were Ramirez any other prospect, should he possess any semblance of command in camp, the Mariners really would have nothing to lose by making Ramirez a starter at Double-A. 15 of his 27 appearances last year were as a starter, including five instances where he completed at least five innings, and he’s big enough to handle the work.

But Rule-5 picks don’t have that luxury. Ramirez has to be on the active 26-man roster or else Seattle has to offer him back to Houston, then try and pass him through waivers should Houston not want him back, making it exceedingly likely he falls back into the clutches of the league’s most reviled record producers. Ramirez has to stick in the bigs, which makes the next month crucial.

Getting excited about janky footage of a Rule-5 pitcher is what being a baseball fan in February is all about. Haters, let us have this. I’m sure he’ll get some play pretty soon in one of these Spring Training games where it takes 12 pitchers to record 27 outs. If we’re lucky enough to get him in one of this weekend’s TV games, keep an eye on Ramirez’s ability to spot the fastball, as well as the bite on his slider, the two things that will make his eventual MLB chances more feasible. Last year, he was still wielding four different pitches, but sometimes the greatness is in the simplicity.

Think of all the musical groups that reached the top despite having only two or three people. Nirvana. Outkast. Sleater-Kinney. Eric B & Rakim. Rush. TLC. The White Stripes. Beach House. Blink-182. Run-DMC. The Dixie Chicks. It can be done, Yohan. You just have to decide if that bass line you’ve been working on for years is ever going to work. Because if not, focusing on just guitar, drums, and vocals—or maybe even less than that—might be the best path to the big bucks.

But most importantly, any pitcher out there who want to be a pitcher, and want to go far, and don’t want to worry about their GM tryna be all in the media, all in trouble, cheating...COME TO SEATTLE!