Last year, Nick Ramirez quietly became a favorite among those who closely follow the farm system of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cal State-Fullerton product was a 4th-round back in 2011 after starring as a hitter and closer in college, but until 2017 he had played exclusively first base a professional. His career as a hitter looked like it had stalled out the year prior when he batted .206/.316/.404 with 14 home runs in 113 games as a 26 year old part-timer in his third season at Class AA. So when he reported to Spring Training in 2017, he did so with the goal of getting stretched out as a left-handed reliever.
Ramirez once again headed to the Southern League but instead of occupying a spot on the bench, he joined the Biloxi Shuckers’ bullpen. Though he hadn’t pitched regularly in some seven years, Ramirez flourished during his first trial as a professional hurler. He made 48 appearances and logged 79.0 innings, posting a sterling 1.37 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 24 walks. He allowed only four home runs on the season and held opponents to just a .196 batting average against. Ramirez was especially tough on opposing southpaws, limiting them to a .167/.273/.240 slash. He also accrued 32 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and first baseman, during which he hit .222/.344/.481 with two home runs. He even earned a call-up to AAA late in the MiLB season as a reinforcement for Colorado Springs’ playoff run, finding action in one game and retiring the only batter he faced.
There was some speculation about a potential 40 man roster addition, but Ramirez ultimately became eligible for minor league free agency following the conclusion of the season and hit the open market in search of new opportunities. Apparently his camp has decided that a return to the only organization he’s ever known is in Nick’s best interest, as it was first reported earlier today by The Brewer Nation and later confirmed by Adam McCalvy that Ramirez will return on a minor league deal for 2018:
As @BrewerNation reported, slugging lefty reliever Nick Ramirez has an agreement to return to the Brewers. It's a straight Minor League deal, but he saw lots of Cactus League action last year and could again. 1.36 ERA in 79.1ip and .825 OPS in 32 PAs between AA and AAA in '17.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) January 9, 2018
Ramirez’s deal apparently does not include an official invitation to big league camp for Spring Training, but as McCalvy noted in his tweet Ramirez was called over from minor league camp on several occasions last spring. According to data from Brooks Baseball, he brandished a 90-93 MPH fastball along with changeup, curveball, and slider during his brief spring stint last year.
Ramirez seems likely to head to the Sky Sox to begin 2018 but faces what appears to be an uphill battle to make it to the big leagues next year. When the Boone Logan deal becomes official he’ll become the designated LOOGY in the bullpen, and for the time being Oliver Drake, Tyler Webb, and Wei-Chung Wang are all guys who can fill that role that are already on the 40 man roster. Lefty Josh Hader also looks like a good bet to start the year in the bullpen. It is worth noting that Ramirez did fair pretty well against righties during his first year on the mound, so if he can keep that up and serve as a more traditional reliever instead of a specialist, it figures to increase his chances at getting a call to The Show with Milwaukee.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference