Prospect Talk

Prospect Spotlight: Rafael Ramirez Jr.

It is prospect time once again and boy do I have some shiny gold nuggets to sell you. Trust me, you are going to want to see these. Before the prospect world beats me up and steals all my gold though, let me first tell you what I have found and then everyone can maybe share in my gold fortune.

Digging through the stats this offseason I came upon one Rafael Ramirez Jr. Now he isn’t the shiniest piece of gold yet, but give him time and watch that rough exterior turn into perfection in front of your eyes. Let’s start off with some basics. Ramirez Jr., was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2022 by the Cleveland Guardians. It was the same international signing class that saw Jaison Chourio sign with Guardians as well. Later that year Ramirez Jr. would debut in the Dominican Summer League (DSL). In the DSL, he would get his first taste of pro ball and he put together a very respectable showing as he hit .247/.360/.365 with a wRC+ slightly above average at 104. He showed some power for a 16-year-old as he collected two home runs, six doubles, and three triples in 200 plate appearances. His stolen base numbers were solid at 11 and his plate discipline was noteworthy with a 12.5% walk rate and 17% strikeout rate. 

The plate discipline shown in the DSL was just a tiny nugget of the colossal chunk of gold that was in store for Ramirez Jr. in 2023. He would move stateside to play in Rookie-ball and would step up his game in an almost identical sample size. Over 190 plate appearances, he hit .250/.453/.426 with an OPS of .879 and a wRC+ 133. This was as a 17-year-old for much of the season. Some very eye-popping numbers in there, particularly the .453 on-base percentage and the wRC+ of 133. He was an exceptional hitter for the level and one of the youngest players on top of that. These numbers also came with some similar power as before, with him slugging four home runs, five doubles, and three triples. The plate discipline saw his strikeout rate increase to 28.4% and his walk rate increased to 26.3%. Yes, that is NOT a typo. He walked 50 times in 41 games, as one of the youngest players at the level. That is just a special number. 

As I let the above sink in and everyone comes to terms with that walk rate, let’s put some of his numbers from Rookie-ball into perspective. The walk rate of 26.3% by Ramirez Jr. in 2023 was the 5th best walk rate by any minor leaguer at one level since 2006, with a minimum of 180 plate appearances in a season (not including the DSL). Of those 5 players, he was the only one to do it in his 17-year-old season. Coming in with a little less wow factor, his .453 on-base percentage was top 30 of all 18-year-old or younger seasons, with a minimum of 180 plate appearances at one level since 2006 (not including the DSL). He had a truly special season getting on base for such a young player, it needs to be given more focus around the prospect world in my opinion. 

Prospects develop at different rates, especially their body and even their swings. This might be the key to turning our gold nuggets into a vast gold fortune. Looking at some videos of Ramirez Jr. from his time in the DSL, he appears more in line with Juan Pierre or Anthony Gose in terms of his body and even his swing at times. Fast forward a year and a half and what we can see is a total transformation in my opinion. He has grown up in a good way. He has put on some very good muscle, looks much bigger, and his swing has developed into a majestic left-handed power swing. The more I see him swing, the more it reminds me of, dare I say, Bryce Harper. There is true power in the swing now with a good follow-through and great bat speed. 

All of the above led me to rank Ramirez Jr. as my #25 shortstop prospect and firmly inside the top 200 prospects overall. The ingredients are all there for a super-prospect breakout. Great plate discipline, a young prospect getting bigger and stronger, and very noticeable swing improvements. Is this super aggressive, absolutely. In this instance, I think it is better to be early than late. He should be a great buy candidate in deep leagues and someone to monitor at a minimum in shallow leagues. If the plate discipline holds and he limits the strikeouts, he could see a power surge in 2024 and beyond, lighting a rocket up on his prospect value.

So there you have it, Rafael Ramirez Jr. is a player who needs to be on everyone’s radar going into 2024. The biggest question now is, am I the crazy old prospector who doesn’t know what he is talking about, or the one who keeps striking gold…only time will tell.

The Author

Daniel Labude

Daniel Labude

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