Scout's View: Max Ramirez




As we continue to break down players in this year’s Futures Game, we stay on the World side again this week to take a look at Indians catcher Max Ramirez.

Dealt straight up from Atlanta to Cleveland for closer Bob Wickman last June, the 22-year-old is better known for his bat than his defensive skills, though he’s getting better behind the dish this season at high Class A Kinston.

Scouts in the low Class A South Atlantic League killed Ramirez’s defense last season, grading him as well below-average in game-calling, receiving and handling a staff. One American League scout said, “pitchers just look uncomfortable throwing to him.”

But the Carolina League has been a different story for Ramirez, who has handled one of the top lefthanders in the Indians’ system, David Huff, and the rest of the Kinston staff--which ranks No. 1 in the CL in ERA (3.23)--with aplomb.

Ramirez’s bat remains what will get him to the big leagues, however.

Signed by the Braves in 2002 out of Venezuela, Ramirez is hitting .305/.424/.538 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs in 210 at-bats.

Though Ramirez caught just 57 out of 117 games last year, the Indians have pushed their new prospect behind the plate more often to get more experience and to get a better look at what they have. So far this season, Ramirez has served as Kinston’s DH in just 10 of 59 games.

He’s caught 29 percent of would-be basestealers this season, which is up slightly from his limited time behind the plate last year.

We caught up with an American League scout who followed Ramirez for the last two weeks to find out where he stands, both offensively and defensively:

“You have to love the bat, but you somewhat question his overall tools defensively,” the scout said. “Still, if he can catch a little bit I don’t think you can ignore the offensive potential. This is definitely a guy who will hit for high average and I think he’ll be a guy who has the ceiling to hit 20 homers a year in the big leagues.

“He smokes balls to right-center (as a righthanded hitter). I mean, he just wears out that gap. But there’s also big power to that side of the field, which is impressive. He hits to all fields, he’s not afraid to shorten up his stroke when he has to . . . he’s just the complete package as a hitter. He turns on inside fastballs like nobody’s business and handles offspeed pitches well. Great pitch recognition.

“The only things Victor Martinez had on him at this stage is his ability to hit from both sides of the plate with a little more raw power. They’re both even in terms of their defensive ability at the same level.

“Ramirez is a guy you have to follow for a series or two to get a real feel for how much better he’s gotten back there, though he’s not a frontline catcher. He stands up when he throws, so there’s a delay in his transfer and his feet aren’t what I would call an asset.

“His arm strength and accuracy are both average, but his game-calling, his receiving have improved. He sets up pretty good and you can tell he’s working to study hitters. This league has been extremely beneficial for him; seeing the same guys in an eight-team league. It’s been huge for him.

“With as offensive as the game is now, there’s going to be a spot for him behind the plate somewhere. He’ll get by back there, but the place where he’ll make his living is with the bat.”