Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day Roster Limbo: Yohan Ramirez
Yohan Ramirez quietly pitched well for the Pittsburgh Pirates last season, but will he be on the team's Opening Day roster?
A very under-the-radar move that the Pittsburgh Pirates made last summer came when they traded for right-handed reliever Yohan Ramirez. In early July the team acquired Ramirez from the Cleveland Guardians and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Ramirez then made his Pirate debut on August 4th. He went on to pitch 27.0 innings in 22 relief appearances for the Bucs. Outside of a poor outing against the Boston Red Sox on August 17th, Ramirez quietly pitched really well for the Pirates.
With the Bucs the righty posted a 3.67 ERA and a 3.82 FIP. He walked 11.2% of batters faced, struck out 18.1% of opposing batters, and limited home runs to a rate of 0.33 HR/9. He also generated ground balls at a strong 58.7% rate.
As was mentioned above, Ramirez had one super poor outing against the Red Sox. He allowed 11 earned runs and walked 13 batters as a Pirate, outside of that poor outing against Boston he allowed just 8 runs while walking 10. That comes out to a strong 2.77 ERA.
Ramirez also flashed a pair of plus pitches last season. Opposing batters hit just .221 with a .247 slugging percentage against his sinker. Ramirez's slider limited opponents to a .239 batting average and had a healthy 38.3% whiff rate. Even though opposing batters slugged an alarming .688 against his four-seamed fastball the pitch still generated a 38.2% whiff rate.
Throughout his MLB career Ramirez has always had the stuff to be a quality MLB reliever. However, he had always struggled with consistency and control. But with the Pirates last season he looked like a releiver turning a corner and starting to put it together.
Looking ahead to 2023 it is easy to see why Ramirez would be pegged as being a key cog in the Pirate bullpen. That said, it is no guarantee he makes the team's Opening Day roster. Ramirez still has minor league options remaining and this could hurt his chances of heading to Cincinnati with the team.
Due to the pitchers that are out of minor league options it's hard to envision Ramirez cracking the team's Opening Day roster. Even if Ramirez starts the season at Triple-A Indianapolis he should join the team's bullpen at some point in 2023, and likely early.
There is a good chance that Ramirez will be the first minor league pitcher the Pirates turn to when one is needed. Once Ramirez would return to the majors he should be able to pitch his way into a permanent bullpen role. After all, down the stretch last season Derek Shelton had begun to use Ramirez in high-leverage situations.