The current talk of the National League is a reliever turned starter with a small body type dominating the league with three solid pitches and, specifically, a killer changeup. Kris Medlen’s season has been one of the more interesting storylines this year, which has to do with both his impressive performance as a starter and the fact that he has done so for a contending team. In the American League, there is a pitcher that I find to be strikingly similar to Medlen. They both have a similar body type, they both have changeups that make hitters look absolutely silly, and they both have displayed top notch command. While he will need a bigger sample size to be evaluated more in depth, Erasmo Ramirez looks like he has the tools to be a rather successful starting pitcher.
Like every pitcher, Ramirez’s repertoire starts with the fastball. Listed at just 5”11 and 180 lbs, he is still able to reach an average velocity of 92-93 miles per hour, and reaching as high as 95, with his two fastballs. That’s a pretty high number for a pitcher with such a slight frame, and the combination of solid command with that type of velocity provides Ramirez with a solid foundation for his repertoire.
What his heater’s velocity and command also do is set up his changeup, which is his one pitch that makes me say “wow.” Here are two .gifs from his last outing against the Blue Jays. Kelly Johnson and Adam Lind are not elite hitters by any means, but you can tell how much fade Ramirez gets on the pitch when you see how out in front both hitters are in the images.
The gap between his fastball and changeup is on the higher end, at about a 12 mile per hour difference. Getting that big of a velocity difference and not sacrificing much arm action makes me believe that he will become even more dependent on the pitch over time, similar to Medlen.
One of the differences between the two pitchers is that Ramirez has two breaking balls whereas Medlen has just a tight curveball. Ramirez has thrown 101 breaking balls this year, 61 sliders and 40 curveballs. His wOBA against with his slider is .088 while his wOBA against his curveball is .622. His slider is not quite a power slider, sitting at around 83 miles per hour – about nine miles per hour slower than his fastball – but he has shown a lot of promise with the pitch in his short major league career.
As previously mentioned, Ramirez’s command is one of his top attributes. His first stint in triple-A last season marked the only time his walk rate was above 5.3% at any level, which coincides with his current 5% rate in the majors. His strikeout rate is probably slightly inflated right now, with 16 strikeouts in 15 innings over his past two starts – not including one that he exited due to an elbow injury in June. Even if the strikeout rate drops, and I expect it to, his ability to avoid issuing walks should allow him to remain productive in the early stages of his career. In the future, I could see the strikeouts starting to compile as he relies more heavily on his offspeed offerings, and particularly his changeup. Projecting Ramirez to turn into what Medlen is – which is actually something that we are currently in the process of understanding – is probably optimistic, but his skills and repertoire could allow him to pass previous expectations just as Medlen is currently doing. If you have not seen Ramirez pitch live, he pitches tonight against the Orioles, which is certainly a game worth watching.