Yankees’ new top catching prospect is beginning to surge at Double-A

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Last season was certainly a disaster and disappointment at the Major League level for the Yankees, but those words would be insulting to describe what transpired in their farm system. A myriad of prospects emerged as top-100 caliber prospects, and one of their biggest breakouts was catcher Agustin Ramirez, who flashed elite-level raw power with an excellent feel for the strike zone. He’s viewed as the complete package, a catcher who can hold his own behind the dish while bringing a bat more than capable of being adequate for a backstop.

The potential is enormous offensively because of his powerful swing, and after clubbing four home runs in his first five games at Double-A to open the season, he’s off to the right kind of start to propel himself into the big-league conversation.

Agustin Ramirez Could Emerge as Catching Option For the Yankees

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Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to come by reliable catching, as the position is extremely demanding physically, and most effort is placed on developing defense since a catcher is at least somewhat involved in every defensive play. They work with the pitcher to find the right pitch for the situation, they can frame pitches to present balls as strikes and steal outs, and they can also throw out potential base stealers or catch a guy leaning a bit too far off of the bag to get a crucial out and give their pitcher a breather.

When you have a catcher who can play defense and hit, that’s a player you need to do everything in your power to develop, and while Austin Wells is being groomed into that role with the Yankees right now, Agustin Ramirez could be next. Already on the team’s 40-man roster, the 22-year-old catcher is off to a blazing-hot start in Double-A after slowing down to end his season last year following a promotion to Somerset.

He hit two home runs with a ..313 SLG% in 31 games last season with the Patriots, and now he’s already up to four home runs and a .818 SLG%.

What impressed me most from last season was the ascent from Single-A to Double-A, making the rare three-level climb in just one season and completely changing his stock as a prospect. It’s hard to make the adjustments necessary offensively and defensively, but he was able to post +4.7 Defensive Runs Prevented with an impressive 36.4% Caught Stealing rate across those levels combined. The Yankees have been able to develop catchers at a high level defensively, most notably with their ability to frame pitches.

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Since hiring catching coordinator Tanner Swanson ahead of the 2020 season, the Yankees rank second in Framing Runs (48.9) and third in Defensive Runs Saved (27) from their catchers. It’s a turnaround from years past, as in the five years prior, the Yankees were middle of the pack in both metrics from that very position. Some would attribute that to a change in roster personnel, as Jose Trevino is a much better defender than Gary Sanchez, but this ignores the progressions that players made in the organization under Swanson.

Jose Trevino had +6 Fielding Run Value, 8 Defensive Runs Saved, and 9.5 Framing Runs in 1,178.2 innings as the catcher for the Texas Rangers, but in 1,299.2 innings with the Yankees, he’s improved to +27 Fielding Run Value, 28 Defensive Runs Saved, and 26.8 Framing Runs. Austin Wells has taken great strides as a catcher since being drafted as well, a trickle-down effect from the organizational philosophy they have for catching development, and it makes them an excellent place for Ramirez to develop behind the plate.

The offensive skillset has even more upside, with excellent raw power and a great feel for contact which could allow him to rocket through the system and get into MLB conversations by the end of the season.

It was Single-A and should be taken with a grain of salt given the difficulty of levels like Double-A in comparison, but these are still remarkable offensive metrics. Among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances at that level, Agustin Ramirez was second in SEAGER (27.5) and first in 90th Percentile Exit Velocity (107.5), a sign that he can consistently do damage on contact while also making great swing decisions. He’s aggressive enough in-zone while not chasing often, and the only real question I have about his profile is whether he can lift the ball in the air consistently enough.

His Zone Contact% was the fifth-best mark in the league under the previously stated qualifications, but once Ramirez got to Double-A, his groundball rate ballooned and the line drive rate collapsed. Early into the season, we’re seeing those trends improve, with a high line-drive rate (37.5%) and a low groundball rate (31.3%), and if he’s able to generate slightly better launch angles consistently, we could see his profile explode. In Somerset, the broadcast revealed last year that one of the singles that Ramirez hit registered an Exit Velocity of 114 MPH, and that kind of raw power is something you drool over.

The eternal struggle between balancing your quantity and quality of contact can be a headscratcher for players and coaches alike, but when a player like Agustin Ramirez comes around with plus skills in both departments, it immediately turns heads. His swing is violent, a helicopter-like swing that looks eerily similar to Miguel Andujar’s distinct hack, although the two have very different skills at the plate. It’ll be exciting to see how he progresses in the coming months, but there’s a stud in this profile, and the Yankees should be very excited.

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