National League East Prospect Notebook For July
Mets’ Alex Ramirez Tones Down Approach To Move Up The Ladder
Alex Ramirez’s production was only part of the equation in his July 4 promotion from Low-A St. Lucie to High-A Brooklyn.
The 19-year-old center fielder impressed the Mets most by decreasing his chase rate from 50% in May to 26% in June, according to Mets director of hitting development Hugh Quattlebaum.
“He was kind of swinging at everything, and he cut it in half in June,” Quattlebaum said. “That was a huge emphasis in his development plan, and he couldn’t have knocked it out of the park any better.
“The chase rate numbers show a commitment to paying attention to some of this stuff and an ability to improve that is really impressive.”
Ramirez hit .284/.360/.443 with six home runs and 17 stolen bases in 67 games at Low-A.
The Mets signed Ramirez out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 for $2.05 million, the third-highest bonus in franchise history for an international amateur, behind only Francisco Alvarez and Ronny Mauricio.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Ramirez intrigues with his raw athleticism.
“He is really like a smooth athlete, really smooth,” Quattlebaum said. “Kind of one of those guys who looks like he floats out there tracking down fly balls, and he’s got some unique movements in his swing, but it’s probably too early to tell if they are going to be signature movements or things he might have to tweak over time.
“He’s got a pretty aggressive bat tip and a lot of work to move it to where he actually likes to launch from, so he does have some bigger movements.
“It seems to me when he has quieted some of them down, which he has done at times when he’s had some success, he can harness those movements and kind of be more a complete package of control.”
Quattlebaum hopes that Ramirez’s promotion to Brooklyn can serve as an example to other players.
“It’s an issue in the organization that we’re chasing too much,” Quattlebaum said.
Ramirez making changes and being promoted for it will “send a good message through the organization,” according to Quattlebaum.
Ian Lewis Shares Bahamian Connection With Young Marlins Star
That water slide at the Atlantis Resorts is called “Leap of Faith,” and that’s exactly what the Marlins have taken with Chisholm, 24, and Lewis, 19.
The Marlins signed Lewis for $950,000 in 2019, the same year they traded Zac Gallen to the D-backs to acquire Chisholm.
Lewis was 11 when he met Chisholm at a baseball camp back home. Chisholm, now the Marlins’ second baseman, has mentored Lewis ever since.
“Some people call me a mini-Jazz,” said Lewis, whose father Ian Sr. works as a waiter at The Atlantis. “It’s funny because they don’t even know that Jazz and I talk every day.”
Chisholm is a lefthanded hitter listed at 5-foot-11, 184 pounds.
Lewis, a switch-hitter, weighed 140 pounds when he signed. He’s now 5-foot-11, 180 pounds. The Low-A Jupiter second baseman has plus speed, a strong arm and developing power.
“The sound off Ian’s bat is different,” Jupiter manager Angel Espada said. “Like any young guy, he needs more in-game reps to develop his tools. But he should be an impact player in the majors in the near future.”
Lewis broke onto the prospect scene in 2021 with a big season in the Florida Complex League. He joined Jupiter on May 10 this season and through 44 games had hit .261/.343/.369 with two home runs and 13 stolen bases.
These days, Lewis is mentoring another Marlins minor leaguer from The Bahamas: 17-year-old shortstop Cherif Neymour.
Lewis signed as a shortstop but has found a home at second base, in part because he plays at the same level as shortstops Jose Salas and Kahlil Watson.
“It gets me on the field to show what I can do,” he said. “I’ll play anywhere.”
Lewis has the number 242—the area code in The Bahamas—tattooed on his right arm, and he said Chisholm’s success has given kids on the island hope for their young careers.
Chisholm, who famously dyed his hair bright blue last year, may be a trend-setter in that regard, also.
“I’m keeping my hair black for now,” Lewis said. “But I might change it up later in my journey.”
Health Has Helped Phillies’ Ben Brown Break Out On Jersey Shore
The Phillies’ top pitching prospects congregated at High-A Jersey Shore this summer.
It also included a fourth entrant who lacked the draft pedigree of the other three.
Righthander Ben Brown was drafted out of high school in Long Island in the 33rd round in 2017. This season, the 22-year-old was pitching like a first-rounder.
Brown was turning heads and breaking bats with a three-pitch power mix. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound righty had recorded a 3.79 ERA and held hitters to a .210 average while striking out 80 and walking 22 in 57 innings.
Coming out Ward Melville High, Brown had only one college offer—from Siena. Phillies scouts Alex Agostino and Tom Downey always liked Brown’s size and potential. The Phillies were able to sign him for just $60,000.
“There was never a doubt,” Brown said about signing. “When your dream is in front of you, it’s hard not to say yes.”
Brown had Tommy John surgery in May 2019. His rehab was lengthy, and Covid limited his mound time right through the 2021 season.
Brown reported to minicamp this February and quickly caught the eye of Brian Kaplan, the organization’s director of pitching.
“His stuff stood out in minicamp, so I’m not surprised by the success he’s had,” Kaplan said. “He’s kind of just ridden that momentum.”
Brown uses an aggressive style of pitching. His fastball sits 95-97 mph and has touched 99. He throws two hard breaking pitches, a slider that has been up to 90 mph and a curveball up to 88. He is working on a changeup.
“This is the first time in a few years that I’ve been completely healthy, so I’m able to work on adjustments in the bullpen,” Brown said. “I’m able to play catch every day and work on things.
“In the game, I’m learning to read hitters more. Being healthy, I feel like I’m competing and bettering myself.”
Nationals’ Jackson Rutledge Narrows His Repertoire To Expand His Success
Back in a regular routine for the first time since 2019, righthander Jackson Rutledge is making more use of his 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame.
Rutledge showed a plus power slider over a two-start stretch at Low-A Fredericksburg in which he threw 10 scoreless innings while striking out eight and allowing only one walk and four hits.
“It’s just being able to go out and pitch every fifth or sixth day,” Rutledge said. “Since 2020, I haven’t had a whole lot of consistency in my routine. But now I’m able to make adjustments and get into that rhythm more often.”
After Rutledge was drafted 17th overall in 2019 out of San Jacinto (Texas) JC, he dominated in six Low-A starts. The pandemic in 2020 and shoulder tightness and a blister in 2021 set him back, but an improved slider might help push him forward again.
Through 10 starts for Fredericksburg this season, the 23-year-old Rutledge had a 5.85 ERA but with a respectable 37 strikeouts and 12 walks in 40 innings.
He was starting to get more out of his fastball/slider combination to go with a changeup. His season debut didn’t come until May 5 because he was still strengthening his shoulder.
“We came up with a game plan and made a couple of grip adjustments where now he's throwing the slider as hard as he can,” Fredericksburg pitching coach Joel Hanrahan said.
“The other thing is he’s throwing the fastball more. I think his mentality with the fastball has gotten a lot better.”
Rutledge’s four-seamer and two-seamer are both in the mid-to-high 90s. His slider is often in the 83-86 mph range. He previously had a version of his slider with a larger break, but he has scrapped that to focus on the hard slider.
“When he throws that slider with good aggression, conviction and intention, it's a nice power pitch for him,” Hanrahan said. “I think the health has been a big thing for him. Now the confidence is there.”
Versatile Cal Conley Rounds Into Form This Summer For Braves
After a slow start to the season, 22-year-old shortstop Cal Conley was showing all-around promise.
The Braves drafted Conley out of Texas Tech in the fourth round last July. In his pro debut that summer he hit .214/.304/.307 in 35 games at Low-A Augusta.
Those obviously were not eye-popping numbers, but some amount of hardship was understandable during his first taste of pro baseball.
Conley got off to a slow start with Augusta this season, hitting .176 in April before improving in May and truly finding his rhythm in June with an .863 OPS.
Through 72 games overall, he was hitting .245/.304/.413 with 10 home runs and 22 stolen bases.
Offensive growth is the key to Conley’s climb. He already offers quality defense and the versatility to grow into a utility role. The switch-hitter also runs well.
“He really impressed our group in spring training,” Braves farm director Ben Sestanovich said, “and we’re excited to see a full season’s worth of Cal.
“We draft these college kids, and they get to play a little bit (in their draft years)—they get their first taste of pro ball—but I really think it’s (a case where), to some degree, you close your eyes and wait for the next spring training.
“That’s really what we’re working towards when these guys get drafted that first year anyways.”
Conley might not offer a ton of upside, but he projects around average in each facet. He’s one of several higher-floor, lower-ceiling prospects in the Braves’ system, which is being retooled after graduating a bevy of blue-chip players in recent years.
Trade Central: Phillies Add David Robertson, Cubs Get Ben Brown
The Phillies traded away one of their better young starting pitching prospects to acquire veteran reliever David Robertson.
AROUND THE DIVISION
— Nationals righthander Jackson Tetreault recorded a 4.19 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 58 innings at Triple-A Rochester before being called up. His first major league win was a seven-inning performance against the Phillies. “His fastball is very good,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “He threw some up to 97 (mph), and he dialed some down to 92 or 93. We told him: It doesn’t matter how hard you throw here. You’ve got to control the strike zone.”
— Braves preseason top prospect Michael Harris II looked like a future star during his first month-plus in MLB. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .293/.329/.489 with five home runs and four stolen bases across his first 37 games.
— Braves lefthander Kyle Muller had shown improved command with Triple-A Gwinnett. One of the Braves’ top pitching prospects, he appeared in only one MLB game this season and struggled. He said he has developed a better understanding of himself since, and the results have showed such. Muller led the International League with 102 strikeouts and ranked second with a 2.99 ERA as of July 4. He could find his way back to Atlanta down the stretch.