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Player Notes: Brooks Raley, Jose Ramirez, Donn Roach

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Brooks Raley
Brooks Raley
Brian Kersey

More player comments from the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has 1210 comments like these and includes the statistics from the last two years.

Brooks Raley, LHP, Chicago Cubs
Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-3 WT: 185 DOB: July 29, 1988

A sixth-round pick in 2009 from Texas A&M, Brooks Raley made his major league debut last summer, making five starts for the Cubs. He pitched adequately in three of those starts, but got knocked around in the other two, resulting in the numbers you see above. Raley is a four-pitch lefty, working with an 85-90 MPH fastball (averaging 88), a slider/cutter, a changeup, and a curveball. None of his pitches qualify as plus, resulting in a thin margin for error, but when he throws strikes he can be effective. He was tough on lefties in the minors and might transfer to LOOGY work. However, since he's a very good athlete with a consistent delivery and good makeup, the temptation is to see if he can eat some innings as a fifth starter. The sabermetric case for Raley is a weak one, but for some subjective reason I think he might surprise us eventually with a Scott Diamond-like season. Grade C.

Jose Ramirez, 2B, Cleveland Indians
Bats: S Throws: R HT: 5-9 WT: 165 DOB: September 17, 1992

SLEEPER ALERT! While everyone is talking about Francisco Lindor, Dorssys Paulino, and Ronny Rodriguez when Indians infield prospects are discussed, Jose Ramirez is sneaking up on us. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Ramirez has hit the shit out of the baseball in North America, showing a mature contact hitting approach, decent plate discipline, pop to the gaps, and speed on the bases. Previously a shortstop, he moved over to second base in deference to Lindor last year and thrived, posting an amazing .993 fielding percentage while demonstrating plenty of range and reasonable arm strength. That kind of reliability is very rare for such a young player, especially when coupled with good defensive tools. He was age-appropriate for the Midwest League at age 19, so we can't say this was some sort of calendar-related fluke. Ramirez doesn't have big home run power, but that's not a requirement in a second baseman and he does everything else well. Amazingly, despite his age, performance, and athleticism, he does not show up highly on prospect lists. Scouts are skeptical about his small size (listed 5-9 but probably smaller) and many don't think he'll hold up at higher levels. You would think that the Jose Altuve example would give evaluators pause, especially since Altuve (who is even smaller than Ramirez) was in the Appy League at age 19 and hadn't emerged yet. In any event, maybe the scouts are right and Ramirez won't pan out, but given the balance of evidence I think he needs a lot more attention than he's received, and a year from now this grade may look too low. Grade C+.

Donn Roach, RHP, San Diego Padres
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 200 DOB: December 14, 1989

I have been pushing Donn Roach as a sleeper for a couple of years, giving him the Sleeper Alert! tag in 2011 and writing "I still think he can surprise us" in 2012. He did just that, blowing through the Cal League in the early part of 2012. The Angels, perhaps trying to sell high, traded him to the Padres for Ernesto Frieri in May, but Roach continued pitching well. He reached Double-A in July before being shut down; there was no injury, but the Padres wanted to limit his innings since he was converting from the bullpen to starting. Roach probably has the best sinker in the minor leagues, a 90-94 MPH bowling ball that hitters simply cannot loft, resulting in a 3.53 GO/AO last year and just two homers allowed. He has a nasty splitter that he'll use like a changeup, and his curveball is pretty good too. Roach has ironed out his mechanics since college, dramatically enhancing his command. Most scouts see him as either a number four starter or a grounder-oriented reliever, although if he maintains his command and pitches in front of a good infield defense, he could exceed those expectations. He remains a personal favorite. Grade B-.