M’s Take Astros RHP in Rule 5 Draft

marc w · December 12, 2019 at 12:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The Rule 5 draft kicked off this morning in San Diego, with the M’s telegraphing their move early. Last night, Greg Johns and others reported that the M’s had their sights set on two pitchers, and if they were off the board by the time the M’s picked at #6, they wouldn’t pick anyone. Apparently, at least one of them was still around, as the M’s selected righty Yohan Ramirez, who’d been in the Astros org.

Ramirez is your classic live arm with poor control. He’d opened some eyes in 2018, touching the high-90s with his fastball, and getting the occasional mention for his curve and change-up (he’s also worked on a slider). That *should* be good enough to carve up the low minors, and it mostly was, even as he had to work around a concerning walk rate. Those walks hurt him more when he’d get bumped up a level, but to his credit, even after struggling at a level, he’d often solve it the following season.

This year was fascinating: both his strengths and weaknesses were cranked all the way up, as he racked up an impressive 158 strikeouts in 106 innings (a career high). But he also walked 74, including 52 in 62 1/3 IP in AA. This is the classic case of a team betting on their coaches to “fix” a power pitcher who struggles throwing strikes. As a rebuilding team, the M’s could conceivably take their time with Ramirez, using him in mop-up duty this year and continuing to work on his mechanics for the future. But just because they *could* doesn’t necessarily mean they should. The M’s need to figure out what Ramirez’s ceiling might realistically be, and if the progress isn’t there, to move along. Ramirez will turn 25 early next year, so he’s not an Elvis Luciano from last year (picked by Toronto at age 19) or some of the former international free agent prospects available in today’s draft at 20-21. You can’t fault the M’s for shooting their shot, though. Here’s a guy who put up ridiculous strikeout numbers working both from the rotation and bullpen, and who has at least the makings of a starter’s arsenal with 3-4 pitches.

The M’s had the room, and bet on upside. They’re focused, as you tend to be in the Rule 5 draft, on what Ramirez does well and not his easy-to-spot flaws. That’s what player development should be about, and without mucking up a perfectly optimistic post with criticism, it’s the opposite of what we saw in the hasty trade of Omar Narvaez. I believe that Narvaez’s defensive struggles could impact pitchers, and I also believe the M’s when they say that Tom Murphy should be the starter. But that entire situation was borne of the M’s laser-focus on Narvaez’s flaws, and letting those drive their overall valuation of him down. It’s possible, even likely, that Ramirez doesn’t throw a pitch for the M’s, but I hope they’re able to rein in his “high effort” delivery and help him find the plate. I hope they’re able to get the most out of the many flawed players on the roster, because it’s going to be a long year, and some real, meaningful, hope would be nice.


2 Responses to “M’s Take Astros RHP in Rule 5 Draft”

  1. Stevemotivateir on December 12th, 2019 4:17 pm

    Is it that hard to believe that Narvaez was a project himself!?

    They didn’t acquire him believing he was un-fixable and could get away with bad defense if his bat was lively.

    They acquired him believing they had a good year to experiment and see if they could improve his defense.

    It didn’t work. So what. If he can’t catch, are we really going to stress losing a potential DH at least one more year before the team is contending? He wouldn’t be that cheap at that point as second or third year arbitration eligible player and it’s not like finding a bat-first, bat-only replacement would be that difficult if time were to prove that was a need.

    And then there’s the very real possibility of regression. His power numbers were positive in 2019…only 2019. Didn’t exactly rake in exit velocity, either, so he’s very much a candidate for regression.

    I can think of worse trades.

  2. LongDistance on December 14th, 2019 3:27 am

    Admission: my son’s a pitcher, so I’m obviously going to be pretty rigid when it comes to my feelings about catchers. But, even so, in all the years I’ve spent watching baseball, whether pro, semi-pro, NCAA, club, high school and on down, nothing is more depressing to watch than a game where the catcher is failing on any (and usually all) the fundamentals: blocking everything, understanding a pitcher and working with them either in terms of the count or psychologically, creating a zone with the umpire, and knowing the batters. We’ve all seen lousy catchers frustrate good pitchers, make regular pitchers feel they’re all on their own, and make it a complete waste of time for struggling pitchers. I don’t care if they’ve got a sweet bat. What they destroy in terms of higher pitch counts, damaged concentration and the resulting mistakes either inside or outside the zone, and just a general sense of futility for the team, isn’t worth it. The last thing any team needs, let alone a rebuilding one, is a mediocre catcher who pitchers don’t feel in tune with or outright distrust.

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