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Venezuela’s best hitter is Marlins’ latest under-the-radar signing

Once regarded as a top prospect, outfielder Harold Ramírez could make an impact in Miami sooner rather than later.

Toronto Blue Jays Photo Day Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

H. Ramirez is a Miami Marlin!

Sorry, not that H. Ramirez, Marlins fans. I’m talking about Harold Ramírez. Who, you ask? This guy:

The Marlins’ newest addition just finished tearing up Double-A in the Blue Jays system. Ramírez won the Eastern League batting title in 2018, slashing .320/.365/.471 in the process, while knocking 11 out of the park and driving in 70 runs, all with a respectable 17.4% K rate. Maybe the most surprising part of the season for the 5-foot-10, 220-pound outfielder was his efficient 16 stolen bases in 18 attempts.

This made it all the more peculiar that he was DFA’d by Toronto before being scooped up by the Marlins earlier this week on a minor league deal (first reported by John Dreker, Pirates Prospects). Ramírez has followed up his stellar minor league season with an even better showing for Leones del Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting at a .374 clip with a .994 OPS through 40 games played. He leads all qualifiers in both categories.

Originally an international signing out of Colombia by the Pirates, Ramírez was once a top prospect. He entered the Blue Jays system in 2016 as part of the Francisco Liriano trade. MLB Pipeline ranked him ninth in the organization, ahead of the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

MLB Pipeline’s report on Ramírez following the 2016 season

But the following year, Ramírez struggled in his first full season at Double-A—he slashed .266/.320/.358 with only 6 home runs, which caused him to fall off many prospect lists.

The jump in production from last year to this year could be partially attributed to luck, as his BABIP jumped from .296 (approximately the Eastern League average) to .371.

A more likely explanation, however, would be the difference in the type of contact he made, brought on by a change in approach. His GB% decreased by 7.3% while his FB % increased by 7.2%, his IFFB% dropped by 7.7 %, and his GB/FB ratio improved from 2.20 all the way down to 1.49. This means a steeper launch angle and greater exit velocity on the balls he put in play, which lends itself to more extra-base hits.

  • Ramírez, 2017 (Double-A Eastern League): 27 XBH in 489 PA
  • Ramírez, 2018 (Double-A Eastern League): 48 XBH in 505 PA

Still only 24 years old, Ramírez is the latest in a string of intriguing under-the-radar signings by the Marlins, and should not be overlooked. There are some similarities to Austin Dean, who was the same age last summer when he earned Minor League Player of the Year honors en route to an MLB opportunity down the stretch. While none of Ramírez’s physical tools are particularly exciting, he has always shown the ability to make consistent, solid contact which allows him to get to his average power more often. Realistically, he profiles as a fourth outfielder who would be limited to a corner spot, but he could provide plenty of value with the bat when the opportunity arises.

Expect a Triple-A assignment to New Orleans with the Baby Cakes to begin the season, with a real shot to join the big club at some point in 2019, especially if he continues to have the same kind of success at the plate that he had in 2018.