Just 10 innings into the major-league career of Carlos Ramirez, there’s a lot to like for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The right-hander has kept his opponents off the scoreboard while demonstrating a nice slider, multi-inning stamina, and solid control. In 47.2 innings between the majors, Double-A and Triple-A this season, Ramirez hasn’t allowed a single earned run. Right now, it’s clearly too early to make definitive predictions about the course of Ramirez’s career, but already one thing is clear: this guy is going to absolutely murder right-handed hitters.
Any pitcher whose repertoire is mixing sinkers and sliders is going to specialize in taking out same-handed hitters, but Ramirez looks like he could be particularly difficult for them to pick up.
For one, the results at the big-league level so far are pretty astounding. Ramirez has faced 26 right-handed hitters at the highest level and none of them have recorded a hit while nine have struck out. That’s a small sample, but it’s backed by his work in the high minors this year where righties have managed a meagre .063/.151/.073 line against him.
Why is it that right-handers can’t touch him? Perhaps the biggest reason is command. Ramirez doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, but in his time with the Blue Jays he’s shown a remarkable ability to hit his spot. As a sinker-slider guy, the spot is the low-and-away corner of the strike zone. To right-handers he’s nailed it again, and again, and again:
Whether he uses his sinker with arm-side run to try and catch that corner starting outside the zone, or his slider with glove-side break moving away, he’s consistently spotting his pitches precisely where right-handers can’t do anything with them.
It’s a particularly interesting profile for a former position player who might be expected to throw harder than Ramirez’s 92-93 mph fastball, but with questionable command. Instead, he’s pitched more like a polished veteran than a raw but talented newcomer.
The other main ingredient in the 26-year-old’s success against righties is his use of the slider. Overall, Ramirez throws an almost exact 50-50 split of sinkers and sliders, slightly favouring the latter. Of the 586 pitchers who’ve tossed at least 10 innings in the bigs this year, he’s one of just 13 who throws sliders over half the time. Against righties, it’s an even heavier usage at a 55-45 ratio.
Once again, you would expect a converted position player to be fastball reliant, but instead Ramirez’s best and most important pitch is that slider. It’s been a deadly offering so far against same-handed opponents who’ve whiffed on 48.28 percent of their swings against it as he’s been money at locating it where it’s most dangerous — down and away.
The profile the Blue Jays are looking at is a classic sinker-slider guy with surprisingly fine command and a slider that’s really working. Despite a lack of top-notch velocity, it’s difficult to sketch out a better righty killer than that.
That said, it’s not clear at this point what lefties will do to Ramirez. Neither of his pitches seem likely to miss too many lefty bats. Combining all the levels he’s played at this year he’s struck out 35.6 percent of right-handers compared to 22.2 percent of left-handers. At the big league-level he has yet to sit down a left-hander, largely because he doesn’t have the velocity to climb the ladder or a secondary offering that breaks away from them.
How he handles that will go a long way towards determining his potential as a high-leverage or multi-inning option, but over the course of 2017 he’s certainly proved that he’s going to give righties fits.
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