26. Roberto Ramos (188 points, 22 ballots)
Much as Brian Mundell had the year before, Roberto Ramos rose to prominence in 2018 among PuRPs voters as a first baseman laying waste to the High A California League. The 6’5”, 220 pound Beeflord was assigned to High A in 2018 for the third time after a 114 wRC+ campaign in 2017 (and an injury-shortened 89 PA cameo the year prior) in which he hit .297/.351/.444 while splitting time with Mundell.
The Mexican native, a lefty swinger and righty thrower, quickly proved that he had mastered High A in his third season there. In 255 plate appearances with Lancaster against pitchers who were on average about 0.7 years younger, Ramos mashed to the tune of .304/.411/.640 with 17 homers among his 35 extra base hits, good for a whopping 175 wRC+. Germane to this discussion is that Ramos was the beneficiary of a stellar offensive environment in Lancaster, but he hit roughly as well at home (1.067 OPS) as he did on the road (1.034 OPS) while smashing both lefties (1.096 OPS) and righties (1.040 OPS).
Ramos was promoted in June to Double-A, where again he shared first base duties with Mundell. With Hartford in 228 plate appearances against pitchers who were on average about 1.3 years older, Ramos saw his rate stats take a dip (.231/.320/.503), though he still compiled 15 homers (giving him 32 on the year over the two levels) among his 24 extra base hits and posted a 125 wRC+ in the much tougher Eastern League. Ramos is also currently competing in the Mexican Winter League, where after years of struggling he has a robust .326/.448/.587 line in 58 plate appearances against much older players.
That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows for Ramos. The 24-year old’s K%, already well into the 20+% mark in his professional career, rose to 32.4% in Hartford. He struggled comparatively against lefties (.703 OPS) vs. righties (.869 OPS) in Double-A and hit just .212/.299/.411 post All-Star break. He is limited to first base defensively, though he has worked to become a good defender there. Finally, Ramos has become an extreme three true outcomes player. Namely, a full 116 of his 228 PAs (51%) in Hartford ended in a homer, walk, or strikeout — and 45% of his 2018 Lancaster PAs did as well. That seems to be the way MLB is going, but players with a significant K% in the minors don’t tend to see that decrease much at higher levels, which is a concern for a bat-first prospect like Ramos.
Baseball Census provides some game video of Ramos from April 2018:
Bobby DeMuro, shooter of the above video, profiled Ramos in April (and again in June), the conclusion of which was:
Ramos may not have much of an overall game or projectable tools beyond the mid-level minors going for him, but man, he’s got pull power that plays perfectly right into Lancaster wind tunnel in right-center field. For me, his lack of overall tools across the game, poor pitch recognition, and poor plate discipline make it pretty unlikely that he’ll do too much of anything in the upper minors beyond this point ... but who knows… if any organization needs/rewards raw power right now, it’s the Colorado Rockies.
Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus filed a report on Ramos in June 2018 as well. He considered Ramos organizational depth, but praised his raw power:
Ramos boasts light-tower power from the left side and at least some idea of how to get to it. There’s a good deal of swing-and-miss to his game, the product of a swing that’ll stiffen up and an aggressive approach that has shown little sign of tamping down. He shows quality arm strength, but as a first base-only prospect the power is his notable asset. His is the kind of one-dimensional profile that doesn’t play particularly well in the modern game. He’ll need to continue showing he can get to his power in full at every level, and even that leave him with a modest second-division profile, with an org trajectory still his most likely.
Ramos has prodigious raw power and will have to rely on it to carry him to the big leagues. He can drive the ball out of the park to all fields, though he’ll have to prove that he can make consistent contact against upper-level pitching. His left-handed swing can get long and he can get pull-happy, but he has made some improvements with his stroke and approach in 2018.
Hard work has turned Ramos into a respectable first baseman with soft hands and average arm strength. He can’t paly anywhere else, however, because his well below-average speed would make him a liability in left field. The Rockies have a logjam of first-base prospects in their system, so he’ll have to keep mashing to stand out.
Finally, John Sickels of the dearly departed Minor League Ball chimed in on Ramos in July:
He has legitimate 60-grade power and has refined his swing enough to get the power frequently in games. He has a reputation as a fastball hitter with some contact problems against breaking stuff. The concern pre-season was that this issue was masked by his friendly hitting environments at the lower levels of the Rockies system but so far he’s held his own after moving up to the more balanced environs of the Eastern League. Defensively, he’s made progress cutting down errors at first base but lacks the speed and mobility to handle another position. He has to hit.
Taken as a whole, the consensus leans toward Ramos likely staying an organizational player unless he can cut down on the swing and miss, given the bat-only profile. The Rockies seemed to subscribe to this idea when they didn’t protect Ramos from the Rule 5 draft after his monster season, while the rest of MLB reinforced it when they didn’t select him.
2019 will see Ramos again vie for positioning and playing time with Mundell, whether it be in Double- or Triple-A, with each striving to serve as a thumper at first base for the Rockies should they need it. At this point, I agree with the prospect watchers in declaring Ramos to be organizational depth, albeit highly interesting depth who I’ll be watching closely in 2019 to see if he can consolidate the gains of 2018. As such, Ramos missed out on my personal list and has a 35+ Future Value tag from me.