February 24, 2012 at 7:59 AM
2011 Teams: Portland Sea Dogs/Pawtucket Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Pawtucket Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 23
Strengths: An extremely graceful athlete, Lin displays outstanding defensive instincts in center field. He gets excellent reads off the bat that allow him to make difficult plays in either of the gaps look easy. Lin’s plus closing speed and instincts give him well-above average range in center. Very fundamentally sound, he typically takes ideal routes to the ball and rarely looks pressed when tracking flyballs down. Rounding out Lin’s defensive game is a plus-plus arm that has shown improving accuracy with each year of professional experience. He has developed better body control when throwing and also learned to not rush things when taking a shot at nabbing an advancing runner. Offensively Lin excels with his plate discipline and strike zone management when in the batter’s box. He has a plan in place during each at-bat. He rarely chases a pitch outside of his strike zone and picks up breaking balls very quickly. Lin demonstrates the type of bat control to spoil pitches in tough spots, allowing him to stay alive in counts. Once reaching base, his plus speed and work improving reads off of opposing pitchers project him to capable of stealing around 25 bases in a season at the major league level.
Development Needs: While Lin works himself into good hitter’s counts and displays sound discipline at the plate, his ability to consistently drive offerings in those situations has been lacking. His swing is short and compact, but often hits the ball off of the trademark or end of the bat instead of the sweet spot. Balls tend to die off his bat with little backspin. When Lin does drive balls, he is typically opening up early and guessing fastball to get the head of the bat in front. Cheating like this will leave him susceptible to experienced pitchers working him away with hard breaking balls consistently. Lin must improve with the frequency he makes solid contact to produce enough line drives to maintain an average-to-better batting average at the big league level. His power does not factor to be a big part of his game, projecting as well below-average. His ability to make hard contact is crucial to being able to take advantage of his on-base skills as well. Right now he gives opposing pitchers no reason not to challenge him. Overall, Lin’s bat is very light and his batspeed has not been translating with the increase in level of competition.
2012 Outlook: Added to the 40-man roster this past November, Lin will get a chance to participate in the major league camp before getting sent back at some point in March. This experience should be a good spring board into his season in Triple-A. Lin can more than handle center field defensively in the big leagues right now and should be a plus-to-better defender as he continues to slow things down in the field. The key for 2012 is showing that he can make more consistent hard contact. Lin will not strike out that frequently and will draw his fair share of walks with Pawtucket this season. It comes down to how much he can improve driving the ball to produce more line drives rather than an abundance of flares or weak grounders at this level. A rise here will prove he can be a threat to hit his way onto base as well as use his batting eye to do so. I see Lin as a future bench player at the big league level, providing late inning defense or pinch runner duty, along with drawing the occasional start with offensive progress in 2012. He also serves as outfield depth for the Red Sox this season and could see some time with the club if an injury depletes the bench or during a cameo September call-up appearance.
Position: Starting Pitcher
2011 Team: Did not pitch
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22
Strengths: Ramirez brings a strong mound presence to his outings and an understanding of how to pitch. He features an 89-92 mph fastball, with which he displays solid-average command. Utilizing both sides of the plate well, Ramirez moves his heater around the corners of the plate and is able to throw to all tiers of the strike zone. The offering is most effective in the lower portion of the zone between opposing hitters’ knees and thighs. Ramirez can reach back and touch 93 mph when needing a little something extra on his fastball to elevate against an opposing batter. His best offering is an 82-84 mph changeup. Showing strong diving action, this pitch drops quickly off the table to disappear out of the hitter’s line of sight. It can also tumble similar to a split-fingered fastball. Ramirez leans on his change to produce outs and swings-and-misses. It projects as a plus pitch. His ability to use it at any point in the count also enhances his fastball. When mixing it into sequences, the deception and change in speeds gives his fastball the appearance it is coming in harder than it is. Ramirez has the feel for when to play both of the pitches off of each other and vary his patterns to keep hitters off-balance. A polished pitcher out of college, he should adjust quickly in his professional career.
Development Needs: Ramirez will be the type of pitcher as he gets further into his professional career that will have to rely heavily on his command and control. He will have to be fine with his fastball due to the lack of overpowering velocity. In order for his heater to be effective against more advanced hitters in the minors, he needs to push his command by honing his ability to repeat his release point. Becoming more consistent with it will allow Ramirez to spot frequently on the corners and pound strike zone early in counts. He cannot afford to leave the ball up in the strike zone and in the middle of the plate. His slider is presently a fringe-average offering that lacks enough depth to fool hitters. A sharper breaking slider gives Ramirez an option to use against right-handed batters to keep them honest on the outside third of the plate. They will sit all over his fastball in this area if he cannot learn to snap his slider off so it darts down into the dirt. Development of this pitch into a more reliable one is a key need for being able to stick as a starter once he enters Double-A. Given Ramirez’ overall repertoire, he has the look of a reliever at the major league level.
2012 Outlook: Ramirez is set to begin his first spring training as a member of the Red Sox organization. Having not pitched last year after signing, there will be some adjustments to pitching in the five-man rotation, but an assignment to Greenville will help ease him into the transition. Taking his experience and polish into account, he looks likely to be ahead of the level of competition as he starts to find his footing. He should display solid control and limit the levels of hard contact made against him in the South Atlantic League. The time spent in A-ball is also a good opportunity to work on honing his fastball command and crispness of his slider for when he begins to face more advanced hitters. If his placement in Greenville is not providing enough of a challenge, there is a good chance that Ramirez will receive a promotion to High A around mid-season. While he is more likely to have his stuff fully tested when reaching Double-A, the bump up in competition faced in the Carolina League will push him to hit more spots and leave less margin for error. This year serves as a season to hone his overall arsenal and get used to the rigors of pitching in the long professional season.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen