Getting to Know Cesar Ramos | The Process Report

Getting to Know Cesar Ramos

Steve Slowinski had a nice graphic on the cosmetics of the probable Opening Day bullpen. Cesar Ramos is included and after a moment or two, I realized I knew relatively little about him beyond his vitals. Underrated is thrown around a lot about various players, but I’m going to claim Ramos as the most underexposed player on the roster. For instance, Ramos was drafted by the Rays in 2002. I had no idea. Ostensibly it came up at some point –in a presser, maybe in the media guide, possibly in TPR11—but if you asked me to name the players who were Rays’ draft picks (signed or otherwise) on the 25-man roster, he would not have been selected.

Ramos did not sign, of course, and years later made more money as a first round pick with the Padres. San Diego fostered Ramos as a starter throughout his minor league career, with 122 of his 145 appearances coming in the rotation. The scouting reports tell of average stuff and average command, leading to some uncomfortable situations within a league known for its willingness to cuddle with offense. Unsurprisingly, Ramos’ strikeout and walk ratios are unimpressive (about 5 and 3 apiece) and his prospect status never took off the ground regardless of draft status.

If there is one thing to write in marker about Ramos it’s that he tosses using his left arm. If there is another, it’s that he’s unlikely to start with the Rays. The results were pretty rad the last time the Rays took another team’s left-handed starter and turned him into a reliever, but the situation are a bit different. Ramos’ best assets appear to be intangible. His attitude on the mound is praised by comparison to a bulldog. He’s also described as a guy who knows how to attack hitters and will work around the strike zone. If there is one hybrid in which to compare Ramos to, it’s a left-handed bullfox.

Ramos’ stuff consists of a fastball in the low-90s, a curve, slider, and changeup. In ever so brief big league time (about 20-innings worth), while his whiff rate is over 10 percent and his peripherals are strong –particularly against southpaws. Whenever a guy flunks out of the rotation because of average stuff, what it really means is that he lacks an outpitch. One gets the feeling Ramos is more than aware of this by watching him pitch.

Take his first career start against the Dodgers. He mixes his pitches well enough to keep batters off guard. He uses his slider –although it’s really more of a slurve— against either-handed hitter wherever he pleases. His pitch selection transcends count. In the first inning, with a deuces wild situation against Manny Ramirez, he throws a curve in the dirt. Ramirez fishes and ends the threat. J.P. Howell is the master of the curveball on the Rays’ staff. Howell can bury the thing in the dirt just as well as placing t for strikes. It doesn’t hurt that the pitch’s movement makes it a beast to handle.

Ramos’ skills are not quite on Howell’s level, but he seems to be a pest on lefties because of his secondary offerings as well as his delivery. Ramos rests the ball on his hip in the brief moment between extending his plant leg and stabbing it into the mound while finishing his delivery. At one point, against Andre Ethier (a southpaw), the pair go 13 pitches deep before Ramos gets his man to ground out. He does it with this sequencing:

1 SL up and over the middle, called strike
2 SL way down and away, swinging strike
3 FB up and away, foul
4 CU up and over the plate, foul
5 FB down and away, ball (could’ve gone either way)
6 SL, way down and away, foul
7 CU way down, ball
8 FB up and in, foul
9 SL down in the zone and away, foul
10 FB around the letter and away, foul
11 FB below the zone and over the middle, ball
12 SL up and over the plate, foul
13 FB in nearly an identical spot to the prior pitch, groundout

Ramos uses those three pitches interchangeably and without a care to the world as to their order. Maybe he doesn’t always pitch this way, but he can take creative liberties out of the bullpen that he never could in the rotation. Combine that with optimal management by Joe Maddon and it’s easy to see Ramos outperforming his cruel PECOTA projection (a 5.32 ERA and nearly as many walks as strikeouts). Ultimately, some may fall into the same trap with Ramos they did with Lance Cormier: by looking at his career numbers, which are skewed by lackluster starting experiences. If that’s the case, Ramos could surprise, even if he’s only a lefty specialist.

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