In mid-June of last season, I reminded you readers not to forget about Erasmo Ramirez. At that time, he was still simmering at Triple-A after recovering from some mysterious arm injury. But, he posted his highest strikeout rate at the level and paired it with his always good control. So concerns about his health disappeared and it was time to look forward to his imminent promotion.
That promotion eventually did come, though it took a bit longer than I had anticipated. His first start with the Mariners came about a month later in mid-July. Unfortunately, his skills not only took a dive from minor league levels, but also from where he sat in 2012. His 2012 Major League performance is what put him on our radar to begin with.
That intriguing debut was driven by a strong 11.3% SwStk% and excellent near 64% F-Strike%. Both those rates fell to just 8.8% and 59.2%, respectively, in 2013. So what changed? Let’s check out his pitch mix:
His slider and changeup usage essentially flip-flopped. That’s quite the head-scratcher though because Ramirez’s change had been his best pitch. It was a serious weapon over the small 2012 sample, as it generated an impressive 25.9% SwStk%. While he did induce a lower rate of swinging strikes with the pitch in 2013, it remained pretty darn good.
His slider was also extremely effective in 2012, generating a 22.4% SwStk% itself. But, that dropped significantly this year, to just below 10%. So oddly, he lost his slider, yet decided to use it more often.
This actually presents an opportunity for upside. Either he realizes his mistake and switches back to his pitch mix from 2012, relying more on the changeup than the slider. Or, he fixes what plagued his slider and gets it back closer to its 2012 effectiveness.
We already know he has a killer changeup, so if he could bring his slider back and make it a plus pitch again, then he should boost that strikeout rate. Aside from inducing fewer swinging strikes with the pitch, he also threw it inside the strike zone less frequently. So nothing went right with the pitch, yet he threw it 18% of the time!
Assuming his HR/FB rate neutralizes, he’ll once again be a nice speculative pick in drafts. If his slider does return, he’ll become mixed-league relevant once again.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.