This is the third and final catcher profile in search for Mauer's potential temporary replacement. The series started with José Morales, followed by Drew Butera, and concludes today with Wilson Ramos
Wilson Ramos is the baby of the trio, since he will not turn 22 until August 10th. He is also the one with the highest upside. He was ranked as the number 3 top prospect for the Twins by Baseball America both for 2008 and 2009. Ramos is Venezuelan and was signed as an amateur free agent in July of 2004 by Jose Leon, the Twins' scout who also signed other notables such as Jose Mijares, Oswaldo Sosa, Yohan Pino, Josmir Pinto, and Frank Mata. His pro debut was in 2006 with the Gulf Coast Twins (short season rookie league) where he played in 46 games (34 as a catcher and 12 as a 1B) and hitting .286/.339/.435 with 3 HRs in 154 AB. He was a GCL post-season All Star. In 2007 he jumped 2 levels, bypassing the Elizabethton Twins (Appalachian league, high Rookie) to join the Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League (A). He appeared in 73 games, 51 as a catcher as 22 as a DH, compiling a .291/.345/.438 line with 8 HR in 292 AB. Last season, he was promoted to the Ft. Myers Miracle of the Florida State League (high A) where he appeared in 126 games (80 as a catcher, 41 as a DH) and hit .288/.346/.434 with 13 HR in 452 AB. He was both an FSL Mid- season and an FSL Post-season All Star. Something that has to be noted is that his batting line has been the same every year in consecutively higher levels, which is not an easy accomplishment.
This winter, Wilson Ramos played winter ball in his native Venezuela with the Tigres de Arague (a team that also included Twins, Luke Hughes, Matt Tolbert, Jose Mijares, Frank Mota and Oswaldo Sosa). He outplayed both Tolbert and Hughes, hitting .317/.331/.475 with 4 HRs in 120 AB (44 games). This earned him a position to the Venezualan team for the Carribean Series finals, where he earned the starting catcher position over the veterans Raul Chavez (10 years MLB experience and the Pirates' back up catcher last season) and Alex Delgado (16 years minor league experience and a cup of coffee with Boston). He lead the Venezualan team to a 5-1 record and the championship by hitting .385/.529/.385 in 4 games (14 AB, 5 singles, 5 walks, 3 strikeouts.) He was a Caribbean Series All-Star.
Ramos is a dark horse (and a fan favorite) in the battle for Mauer's temporary replacement. He does have the highest ceiling that the other 2 (and been outperforming them thus far in the spring), has been very successful in every league he played and is a complete catcher who has both defensive and hitting ability. He absolutely bashes LHP (.344/.401/.520 in 2008 with the Miracle) uses the whole field and has power to all fields (here is his spray chart from 2008. You need to click on the "spray chart" link to see it) This will be the age 21 season for Ramos, and the consensus in the Twins organization appears to be that they do not want to rush him to the bigs quite yet. If we look at the catcher who he could temporary replace, Joe Mauer, it looks like that the Twins are not hesitant to bring up North 21 year old players, if it makes sense. Mauer in his age 20 season (his last in the minors) hit .335/.397/.412 in 62 games with the Miracle and .341/.395/.453 in 73 games with the Rock Cats. Wilson Ramos in his age 20 season hit .288/.346/.434 with the Miracle. He does have more power than Mauer (Mauer had 9 career homes runs in the minors and Ramos 24; they both have played 3 full minor league season); however, he still needs to improve his contact skills and his discipline at the plate. An additional season as a starter in New Britain would probably benefit him. If he puts similar numbers there as he did in 2008 with the Miracle, the Twins might have a very interesting decision in 2010, about who will be Redmond's replacement and Mauer's back up catcher in the Majors: Ramos or Morales?
Update: Ramos was optioned to New Britain today
Ramos has been wearing the number 40 on his jersey in his minor league career but was assigned the number 76 in the major league camp, because number 40 is what Rick Anderson wears.
(don't you love that tag, btw?)
Here is Ramos batting against the Sarasota Reds in an extended spring training game in 2007