8) Carlos Ramirez, 03/19/1988 -- C, A, High A, AA
.312/.385/.463 with 7 HR's and 3 SB's. +11 runs bat, +4 runs glove, 3.2 WAR
After putting up a .236/.346/.378 line over a forgettable year and a half with the Kernels, Ramirez finally got his midseason promotion and mashed .348/.403/.530 in the California League.
He had tweaked his approach entering 2011, halving his strikeout rate with Cedar Rapids while using the opposite field more regularly in April and May; but his linedrive percentage was stickier, hovering at a lowly 10%, so his BABIP remained in the tank with the Kernels. But upon arriving in Cali, Ramirez ran his linedrive rate all the way up to 23% in June, and with that solid contact came the healthy batting average. He remained hot through July before cooling some in August, though the power he'd flashed in college and rookie ball returned that month and he knocked three homers out, two to dead center. I didn't see Ramirez play in 2011, but the numbers suggest that he was experimenting with a tradeoff in his approach: after hitting an offensive wall in the Midwest League, Ramirez focused on putting the ball in play more at the expense of power. The tweak eventually worked, but only when he upped the quality of those additional balls in play by hitting more linedrives. His distance power diminished with the tradeoff, but he still provided some valuable pop with 21 doubles in approximately half a season worth of AB's with the 66er's.
When I saw Ramirez in early 2010, he was struggling to turn on fastballs tight and in, so I have too many images like the one on the left. Pitchers threw at his hands often, and he didn't get around in time. Fastballs out and over the plate were another story -- same pitcher, roughly the same velocity, but Ramirez lines a shot to left center in the picture on the right. The numbers suggest that he did a better job with high and tight velocity in 2011, probably by shortening his swing to close the hole.
While the bat improved, Ramirez' defensive numbers regressed in 2011. His passed ball and error totals remained ok, but his caught stealing rate plummeted, dropping from 42% in 2010 to a slightly below average 24% in 2011. In all, he allowed 93 stolen bases. That will be a key number to watch in 2012.
Ramirez remains an intriguing sleeper in the Angels' system. While he likely doesn't have the offensive ceiling we'd dreamed of in the aftermath of his stellar pro debut in the Pioneer League, he still flashes a well-rounded skill set. If his 2011 defensive prowess returns, a long career as a reserve and occasional everyday catcher remains a strong possibility.