The Toronto Blue Jays acquired Harold Ramirez in the Francisco Liriano deal with Pittsburgh at the 2016 trade deadline
When initial reports surfaced that the Toronto Blue Jays had dealt Drew Hutchison to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Francisco Liriano, it was fair to assume that a one-for-one deal was clean.
Not so. Catching prospect Reese McGuire came back to the Blue Jays and he was joined by outfielder Harold Ramirez, both of whom instantly joined Toronto’s group of top positional prospects.
Ramirez, signed out of Columbia in 2011 for $1.05 million, is one of the organization’s most intriguing case studies because he does not fit a classic or simple prospect profile.
Name: Harold Ramirez
Position: OF Age: 22
Height: 5’10” Age: 220 lbs.
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: International FA (2011, Columbia)
Ramirez’s value lies in his bat — that isn’t up for much debate — but the type of bat he brings is unique to prospect listings.
After playing a mixed bag out outfield positions in his earlier seasons, Ramirez played 68 games (of 99) in centre field in 2016. He doesn’t fit the Blue Jays’ previous prototypes at the position in the slightest — think of Anthony Gose, D.J. Davis, Roemon Fields — and while he’s more than able to stick there through the minors, most MLB teams will have a centre-fielder that will push him to the corner.
Playing in a corner, the question with Ramirez’s bat — which again, is very impressive — becomes his power. More than most prospects in this organization, Ramirez is an example of how a hit tool is valued from position to position.
Ramirez’s breakthrough season came in 2015 at high-A, where he posted a .337 batting average and .857 OPS over 80 games. For a 22 year old prospect, Ramirez is still relatively raw with just under 1,500 plate appearances in the minors, and after another strong season in double-A last year, his prospect shine remains.
In 99 games between Pittsburg and Toronto’s systems last season, Ramirez cleared the wall twice. His average and on-base percentage are both encouraging, but as a corner outfielder, Ramirez will need that power tool to turn a corner quickly. It is something that scouts have expected to click at any moment, and despite the slow development, Ramirez’s swing is ready to carry more thump.
Simplicity and efficiency are the name of the game with Ramirez’s stroke. His set up remains very quiet until his first move, and because of this, Ramirez is able to adapt to a variety of pitches on the fly. (This will become especially valuable in the upper minors and majors against smarter, veteran pitchers).
Ramirez’s quiet motion involves a slight set of the hands (a small movement upward) and a setting of the front foot. It’s worth monitoring if he catches leg-kick fever this spring like so many Blue Jays prospects did last February and March, but as is, this swing works. To an extent.
Injuries have followed Ramirez through his young career, so a season played at full health could see him creep past double-digit home runs at the double-A and triple-A levels in Toronto’s system. His contact and pure hit tools are very advanced, so Ramirez does not need 35 home runs to keep his value afloat by any means. He does, however, need development.
Elsewhere, Ramirez’s tools will play across the board. He’s athletic enough to steal a base — though his success rate could use some work — and his glove won’t hold him back in a corner outfield. Scouts aren’t high on his arm, which will be an area to watch.
Following the trade with Pittsburgh, MLB.com listed Ramirez as Toronto’s number five prospect. That will be adjusted with updated rankings, of course, but it goes to show how highly some view Ramirez (Baseball America ranked him as the Pirates’ No. 5 prospect after 2015 and Baseball Prospectus ranked him as the No. 80 prospect in all of baseball entering last season).
Ramirez will hit. The question is: How will he hit? He’ll be given everyday reps and, if he can stay healthy, Ramirez will have every opportunity to put up the counting stats that are expected.
If Ramirez stays on his current development path, he has the potential to be a starting-calibre outfielder at the MLB level. His bat gives him a safe floor, but to be a true impact player, Ramirez needs one tool to pop in 2017. A strong season will position Ramirez to compete for an MLB roster spot in 2018.
#30: RHP Jordan Romano #29: RHP Yennsy Diaz #28: CF Reggie Pruitt
#27: 1B Ryan McBroom #26: CF Roemon Fields #25: 2B Cavan Biggio
#24: RHP Jose Espada #23: RHP Patrick Murphy #22: C Danny Jansen
#21: OF Dwight Smith Jr. #20: RHP Zach Jackson #19: RHP Francisco Rios