When Spring Training began over a month ago, there were players who we knew would make the team, players we thought would make the team and players we thought would look great in their future minor league uniforms. I previewed the outfield situation, and one of the players I basically ignored was Wilkin Ramirez. Now, after a huge Spring, Ramirez seems set for a bench role, with the chance to play his way into more playing time. Ramirez was not a storyline coming into Spring Training, so let’s all get up to speed and learn more about one of the newest and perhaps the most surprising Minnesota Twins.
Nearly ten years ago, Wilkin Ramirez signed with the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He was 17 years old when he signed and his journey from the Tigers’ minor leagues to Minnesota has been an interesting one. He slugged .450 as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League. However, he suffered a shoulder injury in 2004 and missed the entire season. When he returned to pro baseball in 2005, he spent the whole season in A ball and hit 16 home runs and stole 21 bases. This performance established Ramirez as a legitimate prospect.
Looking closer, Ramirez also struck out 143 times in 541 plate appearances in A ball. That 26% K rate was a harbinger for the future. In fact, that strikeout rate has basically followed him to every level he has reached. That being said, Ramirez has found success. He slowly climbed the Tigers’ farm system, striking out and hitting home runs all along the way. As he aged, he added more consistent overall power, posting a .490 slugging percentage in 2008. By 2009, he was ready for the move to Detroit.
On May 20, 2009, Ramirez made his MLB debut. He started at DH, batted third and hit a home run in his third MLB at bat. He was pinch hit for in the following inning and then he only received ten more plate appearances before being sent back to AAA. Most of his stint in Detroit was spent as a pinch runner and pinch hitter. While he got his first MLB chance, he certainly did not get an extended look.
Heading into 2010, at only age 24, he was still a young man. However, he got off to a horrible start in AAA and was traded to Atlanta in July, for a player to be named later. Ramirez rebounded a bit in 2011, and earned his second MLB stint. He only played in 20 games for the Braves, receiving 30 plate appearances. He didn’t do much with those plate appearances, and the Braves did not retain Ramirez after the 2011 season.
Ramirez signed a minor league contract with the Twins for 2012. He showed good power at AAA and earned a Spring Training invitation in 2013. This Spring, Ramirez has raked. He posted a .425/.465/.600 triple slash and seems to have won a bench job with the Twins. The Twins want some power off the bench, and Ramirez has power and he has pinch hitting experience.
Even in his crazy productive Spring Training, Ramirez has still showed the strikeout issues that seem to have robbed his chance at a lengthy, productive career. However, he may have found a niche on this team, as a fifth outfielder with some pop and the ability to fill-in at a corner if an injury hits. He doesn’t fit the typical Twins bench profile, but he is a much preferable pinch hitter compared with players like Drew Butera and Eduardo Escobar.
Ramirez can be useful in very specific situations. Perhaps the game is close late. Chris Parmelee is scheduled to face a tough lefty. Ramirez pinch hits, hopefully comes through, and Darin Mastroianni takes over in right. It’s not a glamorous job, but it helps the team win games. This situation might not present itself a lot, but when it does, having a bench bat like Ramirez’s will be a luxury that the Twins have not had in the recent past. He won’t be a superstar, but Wilkin Ramirez fills an important role.
I couldn’t come up with a good pun on Wilkin Ramirez, but I found some good Twins puns and wrote a screenplay. You can read it here: Inside a Target Field Promotions Meeting. Puns aside, what are your expectations for Wilkin Ramirez? Please share in the comments below. Remember, we love you. No judgments.