Scottsdale, Ariz. -- I wasn't able to track down Roberto Ramos for an interview this week, and even though I'm going to be back to the Rockies' complex in a few days, I wanted to put up video of the big first baseman since we've had a few requests specifically for him. Above, watch four rounds of batting practice, plus a scrimmage at-bat against minor leaguer Logan Sawyer (Ramos struck out looking).
Ramos is an interesting asset in the Rockies' system. Listed at 6'5", 220 lbs., he's every bit of that and then some, and it's pretty evident what the Rockies are counting on him to do. Drafted in the 16th round in 2014 out of California's College of the Canyons, the Mexican-born first baseman struggled that summer. He slashed just .213/.287/.328 split between Tri-City (50 at-bats) and Grand Junction (72 at-bats).
Then, last summer, something changed in Ramos; in 55 games split between Grand Junction (38 at-bats) and Low-A Asheville (164 at-bats), the lefty swinger slashed .332/.408/.609 with 13 home runs and 17 more doubles. Yes, most of that time his home park was Asheville's lefty-friendly McCormick Field, but an OPS jump of 402 points from the year before ought not be accounted just with a shorter right-field fence.
So what changed? Well, I'm not sure—it's tough to track down position players on the minor league side for extended interviews—but I can guess at one aspect of Ramos' approach at the plate, just based on the video above. Whereas many hitters conventionally stride forward, or have a leg kick towards the pitcher as they ready their swing, Ramos added a double tap with his right foot going the other direction this year.
Here, watch this highlight video of Ramos from the summer of 2014. And then this one from early last summer, before his Asheville call-up. Watch his right foot before and as the pitcher delivers the ball. See how he pretty conventionally strides forward? Then, watch our video again up top: notice that tap he's started to employ with his right foot going back towards his left before striding out? That's new—and a big change.
The reason a guy would add something like that, in my best estimation, is quite obviously to help load his backside and prevent his weight from moving too far forward on offspeed pitches. As is true of many power hitters, it's likely Ramos might have been fooled in the past by breaking balls, lunging at pitches he had no business attacking. That double-tap stride gives Ramos an easier weigh to center most of his weight over his back leg, and leaves him less susceptible to lunging forward on offspeed pitches (though a large part of that goes to pitch recognition, too, and that's something a stride tap won't change).
Even Robb Nen employed a similar tapping mechanism to keep his weight back as a pitcher; it's not a bad idea, it certainly promotes balance, and it's quite obviously a change for Ramos this year. We'll see if that affects how he hits the ball this summer, presumably in Modesto (that's the group with which he's been working out all spring), as he angles to play his first true full season of baseball in his professional career.
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