Minor League Insider: Neil Ramirez trying to regain ‘prospect’ status

Posted Saturday, Apr. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: Outfielder Engel Beltre received his minor-league Gold Glove on Thursday. Beltre spent the 2012 season at Double A Frisco, making one error in 320 total chances for a .997 fielding percentage. He also had 12 outfield assists. Double A Frisco: Right-hander Cody Buckel has gotten off to a rough start. He has gone 0-2 with an 18.69 ERA over his first two starts, issuing 11 walks over 4 1/3 innings. High A Myrtle Beach: Shortstop Luis Sardinas is batting .280 with five walks and six strikeouts over seven games through Friday. Class A Hickory: Outfielder Lewis Brinson, last year’s first-round pick, is batting .275 with two home runs and six RBIs over 11 games through Friday.

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Neil Ramirez went into last season as one of the Texas Rangers’ higher-rated prospects. His stock has dropped significantly going into this season, though, after he was demoted from Triple A Round Rock to Double A Frisco midway through 2012.

But early in 2013 Ramirez is doing his best to regain his status as a big-league prospect. The 23-year-old right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first two starts at Frisco, including throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday night.

That performance drew rave reviews from those within the organization’s development staff.

“He was really good,” said Jake Krug, director of minor-league operations. “It was a good night. He had a really good plan for how he wanted to attack hitters and worked high and low in the zone. Really impressive.”

Said Danny Clark, the minor-league pitching coordinator: “It’s the best I’ve seen him throw in a couple of years. You can see the confidence level increase for him, and that’s the biggest thing for Neil’s development. The last couple of outings we’re starting to see the Neil Ramirez we saw two years ago.”

Two years ago, Ramirez had a breakthrough season and established himself as one of the young power arms in the system. It’s what everyone had hoped to see from the Rangers’ 2007 supplemental pick (44th overall) out of Kempsville (Va.) High School.

Ramirez started the 2011 season at High A Myrtle Beach and made only one start before earning a promotion to Round Rock. He held his own there early on, but eventually struggled and was sidelined with arm fatigue twice.

Ramirez had a stint in Frisco before finishing the season in Round Rock. In all, he went 5-3 with a 3.12 ERA over 25 starts, and went into the next spring training as the Rangers’ fifth-rated prospect by Baseball America.

What a difference a year can make.

After going into last season as a strong candidate for a big-league call-up at some point during the season, Ramirez finished as a guy who had fallen off the map.

Ramirez began the year at Round Rock, posting a 7.66 ERA over his first 15 starts, and was demoted back to Frisco. He then went 2-5 with a 4.20 ERA over 13 games (12 starts) with the RoughRiders, and went from fifth to 23rd in the Rangers’ prospect rankings by Baseball America.

“Neil went through the system very quickly, and we all want to move guys as quickly as possible,” Clark said. “But the one thing about this game is everybody is different. It just took Neil a little more time to settle into who he was as a pitcher.”

Ramirez has added a slider to his repertoire, which has helped. And he’s also found a between-starts routine that might be even more beneficial in the long run.

Ramirez is one of the hardest workers in the gym and keeps himself in great shape, but he actually might overdo it at times. There is a fine balance between putting in the off-field work and staying fresh for starts.

“I definitely learned you need to take days if you don’t feel good,” Ramirez said. “Learning not to push too hard on those days, and I’ve definitely got a good routine now. During the season, it’s all about maintaining. I feel I’ve learned my body, learned how to maintain it and my pregame routine is something that I’ve dialed down a lot.

“The biggest thing for me is to simplify everything. Simplify my routine, simplify my attitude on the mound. Keep it simple. On the start day, just go out and compete and have fun. I look back at last year where there weren’t a lot of times I had a smile on my face out there. It’s a business, but you’ve got to enjoy it.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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