Is Erasmo Ramirez the Next Kris Medlen?

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.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

32 Responses to “Is Erasmo Ramirez the Next Kris Medlen?”

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  1. John says:

    That low arm angle reminds me of Henderson Alvarez of the Jays. Fantastic changeup but I doubt the curve develops. Hopefully he has better command than Alvarez.

    Medlen seems to be a different type of beast. I remember him having a more traditional delivery, fantastic change, good curve, willing to work high in the zone. Very different from Ramirez who should work down down down.

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    • Yeah says:

      It’s interesting, Medlen definitely has a more traditional delivery. I’m not sure about ramirez, but Medlen seems to get a ton of called strikes by just freezing batters. I think Medlen’s pitching is much more than the sum of all the parts. One of the reasons he success is because batters don’t know what to look for or where to look for it, hence all the called strikes, and because he has at least two pitches, the two seamer and the change up, that look extremely similar almost the entire way to the plate and have super late breaking action. That combined with the curve, which just adds another different velocity to the mix, and hitting the corners of the plate make it impossible for the batter to know when to or if they should swing.

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  2. Bob says:

    What’s the difference between a screwball and a change up with screwball like action, which is what it appears Ramirez’s Changeup has?

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    • brett says:

      Grip position and the way the wrist finishes (with a screwball, for a righty, the wrist finishes down to the left, almost in a similar manner to that of a quarterback in football)

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  3. Matthias says:

    Perusing some pitch f/x stats, I found it interesting that Ramirez has low swing rates, both inside and outside the zone. Even his fastballs are swung at less often than the overall major league average.

    Is this common for new pitchers to see less swings while the batters feel them out? As batters become more comfortable and adjust, is Ramirez going to get slammed for being in the zone too much (53% vs. league average 49%)?

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  4. ThirteenOfTwo says:

    Somehow this guy didn’t make the Mariners’ top 20 prospects on the lists; maybe because he’s short. But he looked excellent in spring training and has looked quite good in his most recent starts, injury notwithstanding. He’s shown the ability to shut dudes down… the Mariners just don’t seem to run out of good pitching prospects.

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  5. bossman jr says:

    Control = strikethrowing ability (not walking people)

    Command = precision in the execution of pitches (hitting catchers mitt)

    Kind of like the difference between accuracy and precision

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  6. GG says:

    Agreed. Not saying this is definitely the case here, but it seems that a lot of recent Fangraphs articles are about how good some young and upcoming pitcher is despite not a lot of hype surrounding him. Perhaps small sample size stats are the reason but it seems like each pitcher’s stuff is the reason. MLB pitchers have great stuff, so that changeup is plus but his fastball may not be better than above average. The breaking stuff may not develop and his command is not the same as control. Look at Henderson Alvarez. Great fastball, great changeup, excellent control. But he doesn’t get swings and misses. Professional baseball is extremely tough and tiny, almost unnoticeable differences make up the difference between below average and average.

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  7. Carlos Collazo says:

    How do you make .gifs?

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  8. Steve says:

    Good article. I have been thinking something along the same lines. He reminds me of Doug Fister (height jokes aside), not flashy but has enough tools and pitching smarts to make it work.

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  9. nsacpi says:

    Cristhian Martinez is another pitcher that has some similarities to Medlen. A little bigger. But has the great change. Fastball around 90. Strong strikeout rate for a non-power pitcher.

    Main difference is Medlen’s exceptional command and movement on his fastball. I suspect that will also be the difference with Ramirez.

    And then there are the intangibles. Medlen’s intelligence and toughness as a competitor.

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    • Average_Casey says:

      This isn’t meant to be flippant but how do you know he has toughness as a competitor? That really isn’t anything you can measure. The only way I have been able to identify someone’s competitiveness is to play with or against them. Something we don’t get by watching from the stands or on the television. He may be tough but we really can’t know. Also, I don’t think intangibles mean much in a pitcher since they don’t decide when they pitch or come out.

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  10. marlins12 says:

    Well, Medlen’s whiter. And he’s good. Thus, it must mean he has more grit and toughness.

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  11. marlins12 says:

    Whatever. It’s a stupid assumption. Fair enough?

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  12. marlins12 says:

    You said: “Don’t impugn someone you know nothing about by implying that they’re a racist so casually.”

    The same can be said about his comment.

    “Intangible” or not, it’s a silly thing to say. He’s questioning (actually, not even that, considering he didn’t bring it up as a question; he mentioned it as though it was factual basically) the characters of people he knows nothing about.

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    • wobatus says:

      Hard to measure but I imagine might come in to play. Intelligence, sure. Pitch sequencing, setting up batters. Competitiveness? This might manifest in continuing to give effort when things aren’t going your way. Not slumping your shoulders and looking distracted when a teammate makes an error or you don’t get a call from an umpire. Most pitchers who are now commentators mention stuff like that when they watch a guy pitch.

      Not really measurable. Sure. Just the guy’s opinion. Everyone knows it is fairly subjective yet any time someone mentions something like that people feel the need to comment back ‘how do you know?” or “how do you measure?” I know, this is fangraphs, but it was such a casually tossed off reference if you don’t think it’s relevant you can just choose to ignore it.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      Learn to use the reply button, eh?

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  13. ThirteenOfTwo says:

    8IP 4H 2ER 6K 0BB.

    Both runs scored after he came out in the top of the ninth. Three of the hits were singles.

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  14. Dale says:

    This guy has a true 80 changeup (probably the best in the game…I’d put it above Scherzer, Shields, and Volquez). He takes off like 12 mph from his fastball, doesn’t slow down his arm speed at all, and the bottom falls out. It’s unbelievable. One of the best I have ever seen. Reminds me of Pedro’s back in the late-90s.

    I seriously can’t hype this guy’s changeup enough. Just check out his 10 strikeout performance against the A’s. Bugs Bunny all the way.

    And the kid touches 95 with great command!


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  15. Philip Rhodes says:

    Medlen does have some other qualities that not everyone is aware of :
    1) Great move to first, picked off two runners in a game this year, overall
    low rate at which runners try to steal and low rate of successful steals

    2) Excellent fielder – He recently made the FIRST error of his professional
    career (i.e. both minor and major league) – He kept his scoreless streak
    alive by throwing out Jason Marquis (Padres) at the plate on an infield
    dribbler – Medlen whirled and threw a strike to the catcher – Marquis
    looked stunned that he had been thrown out.

    3) Can help himself on the offensive side although his BAVG hasn’t been
    impressive this year (was a shortstop in (community) college). Also a good
    base runner although he did get hurt sliding into home in 2010.

    4) Quick worker on the mound plus good control keeps fielders engaged

    5) Finally, I have never seen a player who exudes so much pure joy at being
    out there on the field ( well maybe since Ernie ‘Let’s play two today’ Banks)

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