July 31st, 2012
Baseball has been part of RoughRiders’ pitcher Neil Ramirez since he was five years old. He started playing on tournament teams when he was around ten years old including a team called the Virginia Heat which was in the AAU. The spark that began his Ramirez’s initial interest in pitching came from a certain major league team.
“My favorite team growing up was the Atlanta Braves,” Ramirez said. “I loved the whole pitching staff, watching Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, all those guys.”
High school ball was where Ramirez started garnering attention and standing out.
“I played all four years on the varsity team,” Ramirez said. “I wasn’t the main pitcher I would say until my junior year. We had a pretty good team. A couple of guys ended up playing at D-III schools and one kid, Matt Little, is in pro ball right now with the Tigers.”
Ramirez was drafted in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Texas Rangers out of Kempsville High School. He said he remembers draft day.
“(It was) nerve-wracking. It’s just kind of a waiting game waiting for your name to be called,” Ramirez said. “I heard different things from different people about where I was going to go so it was cool. It was an awesome experience.”
The biggest decision Ramirez had to make was deciding whether or not to go to college before pursuing professional baseball.
“It was a tough decision. It took all summer for us to kind of decide, me and my family,” Ramirez said. That was definitely one of the tougher decisions because I was going to Georgia Tech which at the time had two of my friends that were committed there and they ended up being top picks also so we would have had a really good staff.”
After deciding to return to college later and sign with the Rangers, his experience in the farm system began in Short Season Spokane. He said it was definitely a learning process.
“It was the first time out on my own really. That’s what I definitely remember a lot, just growing up and learning how to take care of myself,” Ramirez said. “I had a great group of guys that I played with. Zaneski’s still here playing with me now. We had a real fun team up in Spokane. We ended up winning that league that year too which was really neat to get a ring our first year.”
Ramirez spent the next two seasons pitching in Low-A Hickory before being promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach in 2011. He didn’t spend much time there as he was promoted to Double-A Frisco after one game. He made six appearances with the RoughRIders before moving up to Triple-A Round Rock. He began the 2012 season in Triple-A before returning to Frisco. Ramirez said he realizes why and hopes to continue and build upon the skills he has.
“I struggled in Round Rock which everybody goes through so I learned to deal with it. I got sent down here realizing that it’s all a process and not about right now. It’s about the future so I’m just continuing to try to get better every day,” Ramirez said. “I want to be consistent and go out there every five days and give my team a chance to win. I think if I can go out there and compete, battle hitters and stuff like that, it will work out.”
Story by Jarah Wright
The Texas Rangers traded RoughRiders’ pitcher Jake Brigham to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Geovany Soto. The trade was announced this morning. With the addition of Soto, Yorvit Torrealba was designated for assignment.
Brigham spent seven years in the Rangers’ organzation. During the 2012 season with Frisco, he had a record of five wins and five losses with an earned run average of 4.28. He has struck out 116 batters this season and 114 last season breaking several records. He sits in third and fourth place for the most strikeouts in a single season and is in second place for the most strikeouts all-time.
As we enter the final hours of the Major League Baseball Non-Waiver Trade Deadline, here is a look at how the Rangers Minor League teams, not including Frisco, have fared thus far this season and a look at how they have done recently.
Round Rock Express (AAA)
48-61 record (16 games back in the American Southern Division of the PCL)
Runs per Game: 4.82 (12th in the PCL)
Runs Allowed per Game: 5.28 (8th in the PCL)
Top 30 Prospects: 6
How the Names Have Done: The Express came into the season with a promising roster, including 2011 RoughRiders pitchers Martin Perez (#2 ranked Texas prospect) and Neil Ramirez (#5 ranked Texas prospect) and outfielder Leonys Martin (#4 ranked Texas prospect). The roster also included 2011 breakthrough players Mike Bianucci (30 home runs and 89 RBI in 2011) and Tommy Mendonca (25 home runs, 87 RBI, and an .827 OPS in 2011). Mendonca, however, struggled on the field when he was healthy and has been on the DL since June 2. Bianucci hit .280 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 78 games before also being placed on the DL on July 12. Perez was inconsistent and then promoted to the Rangers. Neil Ramirez struggled before being sent down to Frisco. Leonys Martin played well for the Express before being promoted to the Rangers.
Lately: While the Express have struggled as a team this season, they have won five games in a row and are 7-3 in their last ten games.
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A+)
58-49 record overall (22-15 record and first place in the Southern Division of the Carolina League in the second half)
Runs Per Game: 3.81 (8th in the CAR)
Runs Allowed Per Game: 3.73 (1st in the CAR)
Top 30 Prospects: 8
How the Names Have Done: Myrtle Beach has had nearly a third of the Texas Rangers top 30 prospects on their roster at some point this season led by current RoughRiders pitcher Cody Buckel (#6 ranked Texas prospect) and third baseman Christian Villanueva (#8 ranked Texas prospect). Buckel dominated the Carolina League prior to being called up as he went 5-3 with a league best 1.31 ERA over 13 starts for the Pelicans. Villanueva is currently hitting .285 with a team high ten home runs and .777 OPS in the pitcher friendly league. Odubel Herrera (#27 ranked Texas prospect) leads the team with 20 steals. Ranked pitching prospects Matt West (#10) and Luke Jackson (#18) have been with the team since mid June. Matt West, converted to pitching from the infield, has struggled to an 8.10 ERA out of the bullpen in eleven appearances. Jackson is 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA over seven starts. Like Jackson, Roman Mendez (#19 ranked Texas prospect) also has struggled, going 4-6 with a 5.34 ERA over 13 appearances (12 starts).
Lately: The Pelicans finished 36-34 in the first half, but have been playing much better and are aiming for a playoff berth. They currently are 22-15 with a 1 game lead over the first half title winner, the Winston-Salem Dash. Overall, the Pelicans have a 3.5 game lead over the Salem Red Sox in case the Dash win both halves.
Hickory Crawdads (A)
57-50 record overall (21-17 tied for first place in the Northern Division of the South Atlantic League in the second half)
Runs per Game: 5.20 (4th in the SAL)
Runs Allowed per Game: 4.92 (6th in the SAL)
Top 30 Prospects: 7
How the Names Have Done: For the second straight year the Hickory Crawdads roster has featured an 18 year old middle infielder that has produced above league average with the bat. Last year it was top prospect Jurickson Profar who put his mark on the South Atlantic League. This year, second baseman Rougned Odor (#9 ranked Texas prospect) earned attention by hitting .293 with six home runs and an .838 OPS in the first half. While he has struggled in the second half, Odor is still posting above league average numbers with a .268 average, eight home runs and a .749 OPS overall. Catcher Jorge Alfaro (#7 ranked Texas prospect) is one of the highest ceiling players on the Crawdad’s roster and might be one of the highest ceiling prospects in the organization. Alfaro, 19 years old, is hitting .289 with 22 extra base hits in 48 games and an .820 OPS. In the second half, the catcher is hitting .302 with an .859 OPS. Speaking of high ceilings, some would argue that Jordan Akins (#12 ranked Texas prospect) has the highest ceiling of any position player in the organization. Whether he develops his raw tools on the field is another story. The possible five tool outfielder is batting just .192 with an atrocious 9 walk to 118 strikeout ratio. His .529 OPS is the lowest on the team. In the second half, Akins is hitting just .165 with a .435 OPS and 42 strikeouts to just two walks. It seems as though Texas just knows how to develop middle infielders. Beginning with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, on down to Profar and Leury Garcia in Frisco, and to Odor and Luis Sardinas (#17 ranked Texas prospect) in Hickory, the Rangers have done a tremendous job developing middle infielders. Sardinas leads Hickory with a .305 batting average and 27 steals. So far in July, the switch hitting shortstop is hitting .389 with a .929 OPS.
Lately: The Crawdads finished the first half 36-33, but have gone 21-17 and are tied for the division lead in the second half. Overall their 57-50 record is the third best in the division, six games behind the Hagerstown Suns for the best overall. Over their last ten games, the Crawdads are an even 5-5. After taking three of four from the Delmarva Shorebirds, they were swept by the Augusta Greenjackets. They are currently playing the Kannapolis Intimidators at home.
Spokane Indians (SS-A)
16-28 record overall (4-2 and tied for first place in the Eastern Division of the Northwest League in the second half)
Runs per Game: 3.50 (8th in the NWL)
Runs Allowed per Game: 4.93 (7th in the NWL)
Top 30 Prospects: 1
How the Names Have Done: With the season beginning on June 15, the Spokane Indians are part of short season ball. Their roster was filled mostly with 2012 draft picks, albeit with one top prospect entering 2012. Pitcher David Perez (#26 ranked Texas prospect) entered the 2011 season as the #11 prospect in the organization. Suffering command struggles, he dropped a bit in the rankings, but remains with an extremely high ceiling. Perez only has appeared in three games (one start) for the Indians, however, and went 1-1 with a 13.00 ERA in those appearances. Catcher Patrick Cantwell (third round pick) was the highest 2012 draft pick on Spokane’s roster, and has hit .250 with a .668 OPS thus far. Fifth round pick and University of Texas-Arlington product Preston Beck is hitting just .203 with a .572 OPS for the Indians. Gabriel Roa, a 25th round pick, leads the team with a .307 batting average and is among the team leaders in OPS with a .736 OPS. Fourth round pick, pitcher Alec Asher, has done well going 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen. He has 24 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. Pitcher Eric Brooks, an 11th round pick, is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts).
Lately: After going just 12-26 in the first half, the Indians are 4-2 early on in the second half. They are 6-4 in their last ten games with a series win (2 out of 3) over the Yakima Bears most recently.
Arizona League Rangers (Rookie)
19-13 overall (First place in the Western Division of the Arizona League)
Runs per Game: 6.56 (4th in the AZL)
Runs Allowed per Game: 5.41 (4th in the AZL)
Top 30 Prospects: 2
How the Names Have Done: When you’re talking about the Arizona League and the Rangers, the first name that will pop up when looking at draft status, prospect status, and a stat sheet is 2012 first round supplemental pick Joey Gallo. Drafted out of Bishop Gorman High School in Nevada, Gallo has gotten off to a tremendous professional start. Gallo is hitting .321 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI in 32 games. He has hit over half of the team’s home runs and has hit more home runs by himself than four other teams in the league have as a team. He also has twice as many home runs as the next closest in the league. The third baseman isn’t just hitting home runs, however, as Gallo also has walked an impressive 28 times in 32 games. It should be noted that none of those were intentional walks either. First round pick Lewis Brinson, an outfielder, has also gotten off to a good start with a .302 batting average and an .881 OPS. He has hit seven triples in 32 games and stolen eight bases in nine attempts. Ronald Guzman (#13 ranked Texas prospect) is hitting .283 with ten extra base hits in 28 games. Nomar Mazara (#30 ranked Texas prospect) is struggling with a .231 batting average, but has walked 23 times and hit 13 extra base hits in 31 games to help him to a .787 OPS.
Lately: The AZL Rangers are currently on a four game winning streak and have won six of their last seven games. They won six in a row from June 29 to July 5, but followed that streak with a five game losing streak. Overall, they are 19-13 and hold a one game lead over the AZL Mariners.
Written By: Michael Damman