A Late Rule 5 Preview – With Notes on the Elvin Ramirez Buzz

The rule five draft begins at 9 am this morning.  Last night, before the Red Sox made Carl Crawford a very, very rich man, there was a little bit of chatter about the draft.

In particular, there were numerous reports that the Mets would lose hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Elvin Ramirez.  Buster Olney tweeted, “The guy widely expected to be the first pick in the Rule 5 draft:Mets right-hander Elvin Ramirez,who has been clocked 94-98 mph this winter.”

At Baseball America, John Manuel, who did not write about Ramirez in his first look at 25 guys who could be selected in the Rule 5 draft, corrected that omission by writing, “Ramirez has pushed his fastball up to 98-99 mph according to several scouts who have seen him in the Dominican. … He throws a changeup, curve and slider as well but has impressed most with his improved fastball velocity and control in the Dominican, where he was averaging 11.32 strikeouts per nine innings and just 1.74 walks per nine.”

The idea that the Mets might lose a player in the Rule Five draft, prompted some overheated reaction on Twitter.  In particular, fans wanted to know why Ramirez was left off the 40-man roster, leaving him exposed to the draft.  The simple answer is that before his latest 20.2 innings in the Dominican Winter League he didn’t look anything close to Major League ready.

Here are his walk and strikeout rates by level the last three years:

Year Level IP BB K BB/9 K/9 K/BB
2008 SAL 81 36 62 4.0 6.9 1.7
2009 SAL 72.67 39 48 4.8 5.9 1.2
2010 FSL 73.3 43 65 5.3 8.0 1.5
2010 EL 6.67 6 7 8.1 9.4 1.2
2010 DWL 20.67 4 26 1.7 11.3 6.5

What he’s done in the last twenty innings in the DWL is completely out of line with the last three years.

Ramirez missed almost all of the second half of the 2008 season with back problems and was sitting in the 92-93 mph range.  Similarly, he made just one post-All Star Break appearance in 2009.  Coming off two straight injury shortened seasons, the Mets moved Ramirez to the St. Lucie bullpen this year.  He was ok, but hardly dominant.  He hit neither of my two favorite statistical markers at the advanced-A level: his K/9 was below 1 and his K/BB was well below 2.5.  However, he allowed very few hits, just 56 in 73.1 for an opponents’ batting average of .212 and did not yield a home run.

I suppose that one story you could tell is that it’s all about health for Ramirez.  Healthy this year, he was able to work to improve his command, and now stronger after a full-season of work, he body is really showing for the first time what he’s capable of doing.   If the improvement is real and not a fluke, the timing was terrible for the Mets.  The Mets, and all teams in baseball had to submit their reserve lists for the Rule 5 draft on November 20.  After his outing on the 18th, Ramirez had thrown 8.2 innings with 9 strikeouts, three walks, five hits allowed and four runs, three earned for a 3.09 ERA.  He’d been effective, but hardly overwhelming.  In his last 12 innings, he’s fanned 17, walked one and given up nine hits and just two runs.  That’s great.  It’s also 12 innings.  I really don’t know when his velocity spiked, but the idea that Ramirez was a valuable commodity as recently as three weeks ago was far-fetched.

Or maybe these are 12 really fluky innings.

As for the other Mets who could be selected, we’ll go to the Mailbag, where Jesse asks:

Message Body:

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the following pitchers are going to be available in the Rule 5 Draft:

Eddie Kunz

Nicholas Carr

Brant Rustich

Roy Merritt

Erich Niesen

Stephen Clyne

Michael Antonini

Probably some I’m missing.  All of these guys were at some point worthwhile enough to make an appearance in the Top 41.  Any chance that the Mets lose any of these arms on Thursday?

Thanks,

Jesse

There’s a chance that the Mets could lose any of those guys, but Carr, who was throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s in the AFL is the most likely.  Carr has never shown much command or control however.  Kunz has been underwhelming for years.  Niesen has consistently struggle to throw strikes.  Rustich just had surgery for Thorasic Outlet Syndrome this fall and has never made it through any of his three professional seasons without missing significant time to injury.