He doesn't have crazy splits this year, with a .267 OBP against righties and .278 OBP against lefties (the SLG is .103 higher against lefties). He has a decent strike percentage of 64.68% (all numbers are not counting the start I detail below), but has really struggled keeping the ball on the ground with a 22/38 GO/AO ratio. In 25 AAA starts, he has a 4.06 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 9.44 K/9IP. This is really impressive once you consider that the 22 year old (will turn 23 years old later this month) pitches in the very hitter friendly AAA. According to our AAA (PCL edition) metric, this is projected to be a 3.59 ERA in the big leagues.
I watched him on Sunday May 13th 2012 against the Tacoma Rainiers (Seattle Mariners' AAA). The Rainiers have a weak PCL lineup. To give you an idea of just how weak it is, Carlos Triunfel was batting 3rd. Triunfel has been extremely disappointing as a prospect, with a .697 career MiLB OPS. On the under hand, he definitely was getting squeezed by the umpire.
His curveball was ranked the best in the organization by Baseball America in 2007. I really saw him go to it when it looked like he was in trouble early on. Most of the time his curveball didn't get as low as you would like and stayed up. When it did get down, it was clearly his best pitch. It wasn't a big looping curve, but it had good speed differential.
He can throw all his breaking pitches for strikes. Especially his changeup. He threw one changeup on a 3-1 for a swinging strike in the 2nd against Savastano. It doesn't have a lot of movement, so it is all about speed differential and just making the hitter guess. It is certainly not a Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez "here is my changeup, and you can't hit it" change, but few of them are. It is a serviceable pitch.
The breaking stuff induced a lot of weak pop-outs, 4 in 3 innings (2 in 1st, 1 each in the 2nd and 3rd). His fastball was in the low to mid 90s and he showed a lot of promise with it, commanding it on both sides of the plate and both up and down.
He definitely had some hard downward movement. His fastball had real sink when it was kept low, almost like he has a separate sinker. His velocity did show off, as a lot of hitters were late on the fastball early. He was really fastball happy, and I think to a detriment. I thought he should have thrown more curveballs. He gave up a double on a fastball down the middle and really started to have major control problems in the 3rd (and he got no help from his defense, I felt bad that the left side of his infield was Matt Kata and Tommy Mendonca. The Detroit Tigers think that is a dreadful defensive infield). With the bases loaded, he threw a fastball up and in to fastball up and in hitter Luis Jimenez, and predictably, he hit a grand slam. Whether this is simply a lack of scouting report or just awful command one can't be real sure, but it was not pretty. Overall, his fastball isn't a "put away" pitch, even though it seems he wanted it to be. He had some really wild fastballs up high, which might be a product of an inconsistent release point. He hit a batter in the 4th, and there was definitely a regression from the first time he went through the lineup to the 2nd time. However, he still got some swings and misses, which I thought was very encouraging.
Overall, he has a very simple delivery, with no real deception but no real mechanical flaws or major injury risks (although our understanding of pitching mechanics are not very good). He displayed what I thought was mid rotation stuff, but he looks really far from polished and is clearly not ready for the big leagues yet. The promise is there, which I thought was magnified when he made Johan Limonta (to be fair, a player with no big league future or potential) look really silly on his fastball/changeup combo. He threw too many pitches in the middle of the plate, and even with decent (not great) movement on his pitches, it is just not a recipe for success. Whether Ramirez lives up to his stuff or not will depend on location, like most pitchers.
Update: I saw Ramirez again in Round Rock against the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA). Here is some poorly done video (by my brother Daniel):
Some other notes from the game:
Michael Taylor of the A's is an absolute monster as far as size goes. He takes a huge hack, but the bat speed is pretty slow and he swings and misses a lot. He seems to have a decent eye (he walked when Neil Ramirez was walking everyone and then struck out when Ramirez was striking out everyone).
A.J. Griffin started for the Rivercats and he was 88-89 MPH with a 78-79 curve and then a slow curve/change that got a couple of 68 MPH readings. The stuff doesn't really match his minor league strikeout totals. He had a couple of bad luck plays in the first, followed by a good fielding play. Matt Kata of all people took him all the way to the wall later in the game.
Tyler Tufts for Round Rock has an overhand delivery with a little bit of tail on a 87-91 MPH fastball (Cole notes that he was hitting 93-95 earlier this year). He has an 80 MPH curve, and kept all 3 balls in the infield.
Pedro Figueroa is a lefty that was throwing 90-93 MPH out of the bullpen for Sacramento.
Tanner Scheppers of Round Rock was throwing 95-97 MPH, and hit 98 MPH twice. He hung the 82 MPH slider the first time he threw it and gave up a single, but then got a double play. He got a nasty swing and miss in the last at-bat on the slider, and then got a called strike 3 to the end the game.