After a short start by Jhony Brito in a frustrating 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins last night, the Yankees had to burn through plenty of relievers to get themselves through the rough loss. Greg Weissert shouldered the burden of tossing 2 IPs, which would have made him unavailable for the next couple of days. Thus, the Yankees optioned him for a fresh arm. Nick Ramirez was brought in on a MiLB deal, and with the Yankees needing multi-inning insurance in the backend of their bullpen, Ramirez was promoted in Weissert’s place. The Yankees had an open spot on their 40-Man Roster, thus, didn’t need to make any other roster moves to clear space there.
With an interesting Spring Training and the Yankees’ reputation with castaway arms, let’s delve into Nick Ramirez’s skillset.
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Relying on Command and Movement
Nick Ramirez has a mere 18.9% K%, but with his excellent command, he’s able to miss barrels and attack the strike zone. He has a sinker, changeup, and sweeper that he uses at similar frequencies, with the sweeper generating almost 19″ of horizontal sweep at 78.6 MPH. That serves as his primary weapon to left-handed batters, who’ll have a tough time trying to track such a large breaking ball from his left-handed side. As for righties, he’ll frequent a devastating changeup that generates a good amount of drop alongside 15.8″ of horizontal run, giving it a fading action that can generate plenty of ugly swings.
As for his sinker, it’s the pitch that he can use in any spot to bail him out, as in a small sample size with Scranton, he was able to generate a whopping 84.6% groundball rate on that pitch alone. This is why he has a 60.9% groundball rate on the season and has maintained an ERA of 1.74 despite the lack of whiffs, which enticed the Yankees to give him the call. Furthermore, the Yankees’ infield defense is absolutely wonderful, so they can take full advantage of the soft contact Ramirez is capable of inducing. Despite the great movement, he does this with little velocity, which is a departure from the Yankees’ norm.
From Albert Abreu to Clay Holmes, the Yankees love their fireballers. Among all relievers on the MLB roster, the Yankees’ lowest average fastball velocity belongs to Ron Marinaccio, who averages 93.8 MPH on his four-seam fastball. Nick Ramirez’s sinker sits at a measly 88.4 MPH, making it far-and-away the slowest fastball in the bullpen and a much slower fastball than even Nestor Cortes, who has notoriously low fastball velocities. When you evaluate what Nick Ramirez does well, it’s creating the right movement profiles based on the opposing batter and executing on pitch location, whereas the Yankees typically rely on overpowering stuff.
Being a stuff-first pitcher versus a command-first pitcher is ideal, but that doesn’t mean that a command-first arm is incapable of succeeding at the Major League level. The Yankees helped Ramirez with his stuff by teaching him the aforementioned sweeper, which is eerily similar to what they did with another soft-tossing lefty. When Lucas Luetge signed with the Yankees, he was an older pitcher with diminishing velocity but extremely promising breaking pitches and exquisite command. He was an extremely effective backend reliever for the Yankees, and while he eventually was traded to Atlanta, his time in New York was successful.
There are some distinct differences, as Luetge developed his sweeper in 2022, not 2021, when he first arrived, and he used a cutter instead of a sinker like Ramirez. Ramirez seems to have a more complete arsenal since he has an excellent changeup, but just like Luetge, he could prove to the Yankees that his command-first approach is capable of getting outs effectively at the Major League level. It’s an interesting situation for certain, but Nick Ramirez definitely has something he wants to prove, starting tonight against the Twins as the Yankees face their second series loss in a row.