When the Rays acquired Cesar Ramos, it appeared as if they had found their new left-handed specialist. Although he was a first-round pick as a starting pitcher, good results in the rotation did not manifest for him. This is mainly because Ramos did his best work against left-handed batters. Just take a look at his splits vs. lefties over the past three years in the minors…
By moving Ramos to the bullpen full-time, Tampa Bay could use him in situations which maximize his ability. That ability includes a low-90s fastball, a changeup, and two forms of the breaking ball (slider and curveball). The velocity and number of available pitches are not that of a traditional lefty specialist.
Ramos has thrown just seven innings in his career with the Rays. You already know about putting faith in such a sample size. On the other hand, there are some things that have impressed me about the former college roommate of Evan Longoria.
Joe Maddon has not been shy in using Ramos. He has appeared in nearly half of the Rays game so far. His average leverage index suggests that he has been used as expected in middle relief. That said, he has nearly split his at-bats against batters on both sides of the plate. This is partly due to him throwing into games where the score is skewed one way or the other; however, Ramos’ early season splits have been interesting.
Ramos has faced 28 batters on the season. Looking at the breakdown, he has faced 16 on the left side and 12 on the right. He has allowed eight baserunners total – four hits and four walks. Of the eight baserunners, a surprising six of them have been left-handed. In fact, all four hits allowed by Ramos have come against left-handed batters.
Over the course of a larger sample selection, Ramos’ numbers versus left-handed batters should improve. Conversely, one would expect his success against right-handed batters to also regress. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, his bag of tricks includes more options than the traditional LOOGY (lefty one out guy).
Although his big league career has been rather limited, Ramos has shown the ability to get swings and misses at the highest level. One of the pitches he has been able to get whiffs on is his changeup. Similar to John Danks and Ricky Romero but on a much smaller scale, Ramos uses the changeup against right-handed batters. Thus far in 2011, the pitch has been a nice little weapon when facing the platoon split.
Ultimately, like everything else we’ve analyzed to this point of the season, it is too soon to make proclamations. Ramos, among others, has been a pleasant surprise in the revamped bullpen. While most expected him to assume the standard left-handed reliever role, the early returns versus right-handers as well as an effective off-speed pitch could have him in a larger role within the Rays’ bullpen.