After logging a career-high 43 games in 2004, Yordany Ramirez shattered that mark this past year, seeing action in 104 games for the Fort Wayne Wizards – and that was with a hamstring injury that trimmed a few games off his total.
It was only six years ago that Ramirez actually began playing baseball. And since then he has had various injuries limit his action – until this year.
“He wasn’t on the DL much and that was always a trademark,” Bill Bryk, the Padres’ minor league field coordinator, said. “We have dreamed about this guy and still are. This year he has to start putting up some numbers to warrant our dreams.
A former pitcher, Ramirez has some of the best tools in the Padres’ system – but hasn’t fully used those tools as of yet.
One area of his game that is refined is in the outfield. Other prospects are shipped to left and right field to accommodate Ramirez in centerfield. He is major league ready today to play the demanding position, showing great range, above average speed and a cannon arm – one of the best in the minors. His 20 outfield assists in 2005 ranked second in the Midwest League.
With that in mind, even Ramirez knows it boils down to his ability with the stick.
“It is all about the bat with Yordany,” Tye Waller, the Padres former director of player development, said. “We know he can defend and has a very strong arm. If he can hit, he can be that five-tool player. He has the athleticism to do it.”
And Ramirez barely helped his cause in that matter for the Wizards. On July 22, the right-handed hitter was batting just .199. The positive is it was the last day he would spend under the .200 barrier. Ramirez went on to hit .278 the rest of the way to end the year with a .222 batting average.
It was the start to his season that put him in such a predicament. Ramirez hit .220 in April, .188 in May, .203 in June and .203 in July. He was simply trying to do too much, swinging for the fences instead of taking what was given to him.
Part of that is experience. He netted just 331 at bats over his Padres career entering this year and eclipsed that mark in one season with 369 this year.
As a result, Ramirez lacked patience at the plate and swung at nearly everything – until he finally grasped the concept in late July with the help of the Fort Wayne coaching staff preaching “stay within yourself”.
He ended the year with 18 walks and 71 strikeouts – but his 18 walks were an improvement over the 11 he had in his three previous seasons.
He went on to the Instructional Leagues and hit .195 in 41 at bats, first pitch swinging 11 times and drawing just one walk.
“I was a little disappointed in his Instructional League,” Bryk admitted. “He did make progress, don’t get me wrong, by playing everyday last year.”
Ramirez is blessed with an abundance of speed and swiped 15 bases in 20 attempts, pushing his total to 38 in 46 attempts in four years. The problem has been his inability to consistently reach base, thanks to a .273 lifetime on base percentage.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder has power potential but needs to take a simple approach at the plate and let the power naturally come.
He clearly has some issues at the plate to work on but remains a high reward player if he can put it together. Few in the system have the athleticism and no one has the defensive prowess.
“I think he has a chance to hit and build his confidence up in the California League,” said Bryk. But he still has to earn the right to play in High-A and that will come this spring.