Welinton Ramirez – 22 yrs old, 6’0″ 205 lbs, from the Dominican Republic
Believe it or not, the Jays signed Ramirez all the way back in August 2003, which means that they got him signed as soon as he was legal to sign (assuming his age is correct).You won’t find his name in any Baseball America book covering the Jays, but then again only their international coverage staff knew anything about Santiago Nesi, so that tells you something about the depth of coverage they sometimes take. Add to that the fact that they dedicated one of their least experienced scouts to cover the Blue Jays top prospects in 2010 in Nathan Rode, and you can understand how he’d miss some prospects along the way with such a big task to take on. I didn’t agree with lots of the choices made this year, such as leaving Darin Mastroianni off the top 30 list for Jays prospects, and don’t see how they could miss Welinton’s season. They could have at the very least included him in the minor league depth chart!
It took quite a while for Welinton to come State side and get a full year under his belt as a pro, but he did so in 2008 with the GCL Blue Jays. His stats were as follows, with the caveat that he was 20 at the time – which is fairly old for the GCL:
GCL: 176 AB, 46 hits, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HRs, 25 RBI, 4 SB, 56 Ks, .261 average, .311 OBP, .392 SLG
You can understand by looking at these stats, and by looking at his age, that the Jays were not overwhelmed by his potential. Still, they move him up to Lansing last season after he played in Auburn for their Short Season, because he did begin to show comfort at the plate and a more mature outlook at the plate. Here were his stats in Auburn and Lansing in 2009:
Auburn: 220 AB, 70 hits, 22 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HRs, 33 RBI, 11 BB, 55 Ks, 13 SB, .318 average, .353 OBP, .477 SLG
Lansing: 67 AB, 21 hits, 7 doubles, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 19 Ks, 4 SB, .313 average, .338 OBP, .468 SLG
That performance in 2009 was a huge stride for Welinton because he did it versus players that are approximately his age. He stole a good amount of bases, showed more leveling power with the number of doubles he hit, which should translate to more HRs as he adds strength. The average and OBP increases were the nicest to see, although his walk to K ratio still shows he doesn’t walk nearly enough. Still, it has to be encouraging for the Jays to see this from Welinton, and they’ll hope that the trend continues as he goes up the ladder.
The problem with Welinton is that none of his tools are exceptional. He has a keen batter’s eye, and some speed, but that can only take you so far. Or, can it? I know lots of players in MLB who are there for exactly those 2 reasons – well, those and the fact that they can play some D. I’m thinking of guys like Randy Winn, David DeJesus, or even Alex Rios. The latter is exactly the potential I see in Welinton. Someone who can go out there and hit up to 15 HRs, steal 20-30 bases, and hit for close to a .300 average. I’m pretty sure most MLB teams would take that in a heartbeat.
So, why am I alone in thinking he can make this happen? Well, for the same reason most teams wouldn’t have given Randy Ruiz or Garrett Jones a shot to prove themselves in the majors. MLB teams like to see a “natural” progression to a minor league player’s career. If they step outside the mold, there’s a chance they’ll never get a chance to play in MLB, regardless of improvements they make in the minors. How else can you explain the fact that someone like Brian Dopirak (only 26) can hit 42 doubles and 27 HRs while hitting .330 at the highest level of the minors can’t find a job in the majors? How can that be? Garrett Atkins (9 HRs while at Coors Field), Casey Kotchman (14 HRs), Troy Glaus (DL man), and Daniel Murphy can be starters at 1B with a lot less offensive talent, but Dopirak sits in the minors. That, my friends, is exactly the same reason that Welinton Ramirez will need to have an outstanding year and jump 2 levels in doing so in order to get noticed, because until then he’s just an older guy at a lower level. Welinton did win one award in 2009, it was to be part of the NYP league mid-season all stars, so hopefully he is able to build off of that.
Welinton will begin the year in HiA Dunedin. He should be able to get more than 400 ABs in one season for the first time, and will hopefully tap into more power now that he’ll get steady ABs over a longer period. At 6’0″ 205 lbs, he should be able to get to at least 10 HRs per season, if not 15. More importantly, however, is the fact that he needs to start walking and to continue to drive the ball hard. If he does those 2 things, steals some bases, and maintains an average above .300, I see no reason that Welinton can’t reach AA by the end of the season. If he does as stated above, and shows that kind of promise, he needs to be pushed a little to make sure the Jays can see what he’s really made of. It seems to me that they’ve been pretty easy on him so far, although the Auburn assignment proved they see promise in him and wanted to get a better feel for his skills.
My projections for him in Dunedin are as follows:
Dunedin: 425 AB, 135 hits, 41 doubles, 4 triples, 8 HRs, 65 RBI, 27 SB, .305 average, .332 OBP, .435 SLG
He’s my 10th favorite prospect to watch on my top 10 list, and I’ll update his progress as the year progresses.
I should have #9 out within a week!