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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #18: Tyler Ramirez is an on-base machine

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The outfield sleeper continues to show a consistently productive bat.

Photo credit: Richard Acosta | Midland RockHounds

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds yet another outfielder. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+78%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+7%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+80%)
  4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+1%)
  5. Austin Beck, OF (+59%)
  6. Jorge Mateo, SS (+6%)
  7. Jameson Hannah, OF (+4%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+13%)
  9. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (+12%)
  10. Parker Dunshee, RHP (+21%)
  11. Grant Holmes, RHP (+7%)
  12. Jeremy Eierman, SS (+31%)
  13. Luis Barrera, OF (+15%)
  14. Brian Howard, RHP (+1%)
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF (+17%)
  16. Skye Bolt, OF (+11%)
  17. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+12%)
  18. Tyler Ramirez, OF (+17%)

Earlier in this CPL series, we talked about pitchers Parker Dunshee and Brian Howard. They are a couple of mid-round draft picks who don’t carry standout tools and aren’t perceived as possessing high ceilings, but who have done nothing but produce in the pros. Tyler Ramirez is like the hitter version of that same story.

Ramirez was drafted in the 7th round, same as Dunshee but one year earlier. His pro debut that summer was merely fine and didn’t jump off the page like those of the two pitchers, but he went to work immediately in 2017. Ramirez opened that season in High-A, breezed through it (.399 OBP, 130 wRC+), then moved up to Double-A and didn’t miss a beat (.395, 135). He stuck around in Midland for another full campaign in ‘18, and despite a small downtick he still posted strong numbers (.370, 121).

The question is whether the sleeper can go the rest of the way toward being an MLB contributor. He can clearly draw walks and his ability to sustain a high BABIP is looking more and more real (.386 last 1,165 PAs), but he still strikes out a lot and doesn’t have any power, both of which reduce his margin for error at the plate. He draws plus grades for his defense and arm, and MLB Pipeline claims he could handle CF if needed, but in real life he’s played the bulk of his career in LF so far. Given all that background you’d think he’d at least be fast, which could help the rest of his game play up, but his speed isn’t considered any better than average. On top of all that, he has to overcome the undersized label, standing 5’9 in height.

For every reason to be optimistic about Ramirez, there is another reason why he might profile as a fourth outfielder at best. Of course, the 24-year-old still has time to improve his stock — perhaps by adding power as he ages, or getting a chance to prove himself up-the-middle, or simply showing that his high OBP/BABIP can be fully maintained in the majors. But for now he’s pretty much the definition of a sleeper, as a relatively unheralded prospect with an intriguing skill set whom you can dream about suddenly taking a big step forward. After all, how many of us had Ramon Laureano pegged as our imminent everyday CF stud last winter, before we found out his 2017 slump was a total fluke and he was actually Gold Glove-caliber in center instead of best suited for a corner as advertised?

I tend to be a sucker for this particular kind of sleeper, the high-OBP, low-power tweener outfielder who is a jack of most trades but a master of none. Years ago it was Shane Peterson, and more recently it was Jaycob Brugman, so it doesn’t always work out. But I’m also a big Nick Martini fan, even if I think he’ll be replaced for now by Robbie Grossman, who also kind of fits this category. Perhaps it’s because the lack of glaring weaknesses means I can’t tell you exactly why Ramirez won’t pan out, which doesn’t guarantee success but at least makes it tougher to imagine outright failure.

But there’s also something to be said for players who consistently play well throughout the minors and never play poorly, and those guys deserve some benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise regardless of what their profiles say about their ceilings. In order to make it, all Ramirez has to do is exactly what he’s done for his entire pro career since day one.

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded (or leaves for the NFL), his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

* * *

The new nominee is Wyatt Marks. He’s the third member of the 2017-draft-mid-round pitching trio with Dunshee and Howard, though he’s still a step behind in terms of development. He only barely reached High-A last summer and is generally considered a future reliever, but he’s got legit upside in the pen and he’s already as interesting as you could reasonably hope for from a 13th-round pick.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great): wRC+ (75/100/135), BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%), K% (30%/22%/14%)

Wyatt Marks, RHP

Expected level: A+ | Age 24

2018, A: 3.23 ERA, 106 ip, 127 Ks, 35 BB, 8 HR, 3.14 FIP
2018, A+: 3.58 ERA, 27⅔ ip, 32 Ks, 16 BB, 4 HR, 5.17 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (from 2018):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45

Marks gets the most out of his two above-average pitches, missing bats inside and outside of the zone easily with each. He won’t shy away from challenging hitters up in the zone with his low-90s fastball that he can also spot to both sides of the plate. His curveball is a hammer when it’s on, registering in the low 80s with tight spin, and it serves as an ideal bat-missing complement to his fastball. Marks has a strong track record as a strike-thrower, but he’ll need to improve his fastball command for continued success at higher levels.

Though he started seven of his 13 games during his pro debut and has pitched almost exclusively in that role with Class A Beloit in 2018, Marks’ future is likely in the bullpen. His fastball-curveball combo gives him upside as a high-leverage reliever, and with improved command of both pitches, he could hop on the fast track to the Major Leagues.

* * *

Nick Allen

Expected level: A/A+ | Age 20

2018, A: 512 PAs, 73 wRC+, 0 HR, 24 SB, 6.6% BB, 16.6% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 45

Allen certainly did struggle in the first half of 2018, hitting just .198 with a. .513 OPS in the Midwest League before the All-Star break. Some of that is because of the aforementioned lack of strength, though the A’s think he can add some to help him stay durable, but much of it can be attributed to Allen having to deal with the loss of a family member in early May. In the second half, Allen corrected a little drift in his swing and started impacting the baseball more, posting a .274 average and .679 OPS after the break. His walk rate went up and his strikeout rate dropped as his pitch recognition improved. He also stopped worrying about trying to lift or drive the ball, understanding that consistent contact and on-base skills, combined with his plus speed, are his ticket.

There’s never been any question that Allen’s glove will carry him to the big leagues. His arm is strong and accurate and he can throw from any angle to go along with his plus range and outstanding hands. A greater understanding of who he is offensively could help him become a defensive-oriented regular.

* * *

Jonah Heim, C

Expected level: AA | Age 24

2018, A+: 348 PAs, 113 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.3% BB, 17.2% Ks
2018, AA: 154 PAs, 29 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.5% BB, 14.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

A long-limbed, switch-hitting backstop, Heim stands out more for his work behind the plate than at it. He receives well and has a strong arm that’s allowed him to throw out just over 34 percent of potential basestealers heading into 2019. Heim started to swing the bat with a bit more authority over the past two seasons and hit well in the California League before stumbling post-promotion. He has more of a line drive approach now, but he shows some raw power in batting practice and still has room to add strength. While it’s more leverage than bat speed, you can dream on some future pop.

The A’s would love to see Heim play with a little more urgency. A slow heartbeat for a catcher isn’t a bad thing, but some added energy could help him reach the big leagues as a backup backstop.

* * *

Kevin Merrell, SS

Expected level: A+ | Age 23

2018, A+: 290 PAs, 72 wRC+, 0 HR, 5 SB, 5.2% BB, 22.8% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 70 | Arm: 45 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45

Merrell should be able to use his legs to wreak havoc on the basepaths. He’s still learning his left-handed swing and he had a tendency to hook balls on the ground early on. He’s now working on getting some separation so he can impact the ball, and he’s learning to slash the ball to the left side so he can use his legs to help him more. The combination of approach and speed could make him an above-average hitter, albeit one with little power, in time. It’s unclear what Merrell’s long-term defensive home will be. He’s unorthodox defensively at short, with a fringy arm, but he does have impressive range. He impressed in big league camp during 2018 Spring Training, playing on both sides of second base. He also played some outfield in college.

It could be that Merrell ends up fitting a super-utility role at the big league level, with his speed playing at a number of positions, though it’s too early to rule out an every day gig at second base. Most importantly, he needs to make up for lost at-bats in 2019.

* * *

Marcos Brito, 2B

Expected level: A | Age 19

2018, A-: 241 PAs, 89 wRC+, 1 HR, 11.2% BB, 20.7% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 50 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45

It hasn’t shown up on the stat line just yet, but Brito has the chance to hit from both sides of the plate, though he’s a touch better swinging the bat left-handed. He’s added some strength as he’s matured and while he’s never going to be a power guy, there should be the ability to impact the ball with some extra-base authority to all fields. Brito initially spent time bouncing between second and third, but it’s looking more and more likely that second base is his long-term defensive home with an arm that’s a little short for the left side of the infield. He could eventually be a plus defender, though right now he mixes in making the spectacular play with losing concentration and making needless errors on routine plays.

Brito will play all of the 2019 season at age 19, so there’s plenty of time for his production to catch up to his potential. If it all clicks, he eventually could be a solid every day second baseman in the big leagues.

* * *

Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!