Yefry Ramirez did a little bit of everything this year. He pitched in 17 games with the Orioles, including 12 starts and five appearances out of the bullpen. He also spent a lot of time traveling between Triple-A and the big league club.
His first appearance for the O’s this year was a spot start and he sent back down to the minors afterward. His second start a few weeks later earned him a short stretch in the rotation. After that he bounced around between the majors and minors, bullpen and rotation.
In 2017, Ramirez ranked 23rd on MLB Pipeline’s Orioles top 30 prospects list. His scouting report from the aforementioned publication offers the following details:
“Operating from a high three-quarters slot, Ramirez will sit comfortably in the low-90s with his fastball while bumping 96. He features a pair of average-or-better secondary pitches in a changeup and a curveball, and he uses both offerings to generate whiffs against hitters on both sides of the plate.”
His pro career started in 2011 as an infielder when the Arizona Diamondbacks signed him as an international free agent. He was converted to a pitcher the following year, according to MLB Pipeline. About four years later, in December 2015, Ramirez was selected by the Yankees in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. He made his way to the Orioles on July 31, 2017, in a trade for international bonus slot money.
In 94 games started across seven minor league seasons, Ramirez has a 38-31 record, 3.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He was 3-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 14 starts with the Norfolk Tides this past year, which came sporadically because of his frequent travel between Triple-A and the majors.
Although Ramirez started the season with the Tides, it appeared as though he would make his major league debut early in the year nonetheless. But it didn’t happen on his first trip. He was recalled on April 10 and spent two days with the O’s — with zero appearances — before being sent back down.
Two and a half months into the 2018 season, Ramirez was a rotation fill-in for the O’s. He was recalled for the second time on June 13 and started the same day against the Boston Red Sox, allowing three runs over 4.1 innings. He was sent back down two days later and recalled again on June 28.
This past season, a common thread with Ramirez was an inability to pitch deep into games. His longest outing was his 12th and final start of the season, when he pitched six innings against the Houston Astros, allowing three runs.
Six of his 12 starts were only five innings long. Four of those 12 starts were less than five innings.
In his 12 starts for the O’s, Ramirez was 1-8 with a 6.92 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and 1.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In five games as a reliever with the Birds, he had a 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and his SO/W ratio jumped to 2.25. All together, he had a 5.92 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in the majors this year.
Ramirez has some work to do as far as combating opposite side hitters, as shown by his extreme splits. Left-handers hit .287/.436/.491 against him while right-handers only hit .234/.283/.411. He’ll need to do better in order to maintain any meaningful role with the big league club next year and beyond.
Control is another factor that plagued Ramirez this past season. He allowed 36 walks in 65.1 innings, averaging five walks per nine innings. All of those free passes contributed to a frequently high pitch count that would often drive him from games early.
Moving forward, Ramirez’s role on the 2019 team is unclear. But if he’s going to stick in the rotation, he’ll need to reduce the walks, improve against lefties and pitch deeper into games.
Assuming that the Orioles rotation next year includes Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner and Dylan Bundy, that gives Ramirez a decent shot at earning one of the last two rotation spots with a solid spring. But a lot depends on his ability to make improvements.
He is the kind of young, controllable pitcher that will be given a shot in the rotation on a rebuilding club like the O’s. The earliest the 24-year-old Ramirez can become a free agent is 2024, according to Rotoworld.
If the young right-hander can make the necessary adjustments, he has a decent chance of being on the next good Orioles team in 3-5 years, if the prognosticators are right about the Orioles’ timeframe for becoming competitive. But those are a couple pretty big ‘ifs.’ Whether his future role is in the rotation or the bullpen is yet to be seen.