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Oakland A’s claim pitcher Carlos Ramirez off waivers

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The right-hander reached MLB with the Blue Jays the last two years.

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s swept the Blue Jays in four games this weekend, and now they’ll leave town with an extra prize. The A’s claimed pitcher Carlos Ramirez off waivers from Toronto on Sunday, the team announced.

Ramirez signed with the Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, but he did so as an outfielder. However, after making little progress at the plate, he switched to pitching in mid-2014 at age 23. After a couple seasons in the lower minors, he opened 2017 in Double-A and caught fire — in 25 relief appearances at AA/AAA (37⅔ ip) he didn’t allow a single earned run, riding that wave all the way up to a September call-up for his MLB debut (which also went well).

Ramirez, 2017 AA/AAA: 0.00 ERA, 37⅔ ip, 45 Ks, 10 BB, 0 HR, 1.75 FIP
Ramirez, 2017 MLB: 2.70 ERA, 16⅔ ip, 14 Ks, 3 BB, 3 HR, 4.54 FIP

Unfortunately, he’s struggled to begin 2018 at age 27, especially with his walk rate.

Ramirez, 2018 AAA: 5.40 ERA, 8⅓ ip, 10 Ks, 8 BB, 0 HR, 4.24 FIP
Ramirez, 2018 MLB: 3.86 ERA, 2⅓ ip, 3 Ks, 5 BB, 0 HR, 7.00 FIP

That briefly poor showing was enough for Ramirez to get squeezed out of Toronto’s roster, and they DFA’d him last weekend. The A’s had an open spot on their own 40-man squad, so no corresponding move is needed to add him. The team has not yet announced whether he will report to Triple-A Nashville or straight to Oakland.

Ramirez throws a fastball and a slider, and he leans on that breaking ball particularly heavily. He’s used his slider for half of his total offerings in the majors, which is an extremely high rate. Here’s more from Gregor Chisholm of MLB’s site after Ramirez’s debut last September:

Based on how Ramirez pitched Friday night, it was easy to see why he had so much success in the Minors. He topped out at 94 mph, but it was a devastating slider that stood out the most. The slider looks like a fastball on its way to the plate but has late break that causes the ball to swerve out of the zone and miss bats. Per Statcast™, Ramirez threw 16 of his 27 pitches for sliders and got three swinging strikes and four called strikes.

And an even deeper look by Clinton Riddle of SB Nation’s Minor League Ball (also from last fall):

His fastball has some natural sink and tail to it, sitting 92-93, while his slider is a mid-80’s offering with a bit of a drop to it and decent lateral movement. At times, it almost looks like he’s just taking something off his fastball or throwing a change-up, but not that often.

He’s been reasonably aggressive about going right at hitters (62% strike percentage) and generates great leverage from his 6’5” frame. As he appears now, Ramirez has the makings of a short-reliever, but development of a third pitch (splitter?) might need to have to happen before he could stick in the big leagues. His slider’s lateral break is sometimes easy to read coming out of his hand, so in his case having a third pitch would help to give batters something else to worry about.

Ramirez is going to be interesting to watch, especially if he continues to refine his game. He’s got a low-mileage arm, a prototypical pitcher’s build, smooth and simple mechanics, and an apparent lack of fear. Even if he were to open 2018 in Triple-A, it won’t be for long.

Note that Brooks Baseball labeled some of this year’s fastballs as sinkers rather than four-seamers, so it’s possible he has indeed begun trying to add a third pitch. Stay tuned to find out if that’s true! I didn’t find a good video of his slider, but here he is freezing Tim Beckham with a fastball last year for his first career strikeout.

Welcome, Carlos!

Hot takes

Love it! I see a pitcher who had a breakout last summer and some early-season scuffles this year. The amazing sample from 2017 is still the one that stands out to me the most, and it reminds me of Ryan Dull’s meteoric rise in 2015 with his own slider. His scoreless streak ultimately exceeded 50 total innings, beginning at the end of ‘16 in High-A and continuing through the first 10 frames of his MLB career — eat your heart out, Parker Dunshee.

There’s still a lot for Ramirez to prove, as a prospect who has only barely cracked the bigs. Even if he pans out, his current arsenal probably doesn’t give him setup/closer upside. But in terms of using an open roster spot to grab an extra body for free, this feels like a steal. He could easily become a contributor in Oakland’s pen this year.

The A’s currently have 10 relievers on their active roster, so two will have to go back down to the minors next week in favor of a couple new starters. Until the addition of Ramirez, there were no more healthy relievers on the 40-man beyond those 10. Now the bullpen has another quality backup, and the overall depth chart looks something like this (don’t get too hung up on precise order, just gathering together all the names with a particular eye toward roster/options status):

  1. Blake Treinen
  2. Yusmeiro Petit
  3. Lou Trivino
  4. Danny Coulombe
  5. Santiago Casilla (can’t be optioned)
  6. Chris Hatcher (out of options)
  7. Wilmer Font (out of options)
  8. Ryan Dull
  9. Emilio Pagan
  10. Josh Lucas
  11. Carlos Ramirez
  12. Bobby Wahl (not on 40-man)

10-day DL: LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), RHP Liam Hendriks (groin)