What can wash off the stink of a heartbreaking loss to the second rate Padres? The Prospect Mailbag can, of course!
Today we have three questions spanning the universe of prospects: one on a journeyman catcher, one on a fading infielder, and one on a reliever on the rise.
Over on BCB, Willy asked: What about Max Ramirez the catcher on Fresno. It looks like he’s had a nice 40 games (hitting at least) with the Grizzlies, any thoughts on him or his possible future in the bigs?
First, a little background on Max Ramirez.
Ramirez started out in the Braves organization in 2003, where he played two seasons at the rookie level as a third baseman and one as a catcher. He climbed the ladder each year, going from Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League (where he was Player of the Year in ’05), and hitting the South Atlantic League in 2006.
He stalled at the A-ball level, in part because he was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman. A year later he was traded to Texas. In 2008 he played for Frisco (Double-A), Oklahoma City(Triple-A), and the AZL Rangers (rookie) and he made his Major League debut that year.
Ramirez bounced around the Texas system between 2009 and 2010. He was the victim of roster shuffles at the beginning of 2011, first being waived to make space for Arthur Rhodes, then being waived by Boston, who claimed him a day after the Rangers cut him loose. The Cubs picked him up, giving him three new teams in a week’s time. Then the Cubs released him May 6.
Houston claimed him in May and released him a month later. Then the Giants stepped in and offered him a minor league deal June 21.
He’s played some first but mostly catcher this year with the Grizzlies and has hit .342 with six homers and 23 RBIs. He can walk a little bit and has a .403 OBP with the club. He has three additional home runs with Oklahoma City (now the Astros’ Triple-A club) and Iowa City this year.
Unfortunately Ramirez is on a team with several catchers: Chris Stewart was there before he was called up to aid the infirmary. Tyler La Torre, Hector Sanchez, and Jackson Williams have also seen time behind the plate, with Williams getting the most starts among catchers on the roster with 51.
Ramirez is a 27-year-old journeyman minor league catcher. He’s Venezuelan so I doubt he’d be fudging on his age. Falsifying age scandals rarely occur with Venezuelan prospects. Being a journeyman minor league catcher doesn’t doom a guy to a life of irrelevance–Eli Whiteside got a ring for it. But Ramirez is another warm body among other warm bodies behind the plate. Unless all of the Giants’ catchers and corner infielders spontaneously combust in the next week or so, don’t expect Ramirez to get a shot any time soon.
Rory (our very own paapfly) asked about Charlie Culberson, in particular: I also wonder if you might touch on why everyone seemed to be so high on him coming into 2011 when he had one decent (not great) season in A-Advanced and a good AFL season. I mean, he’d otherwise been atrocious with both the glove and stick in back-to-back Sally League seasons.
Charlie Culberson had a hand in my prospect education. His career performance taught me that not every high round draft pick is a can’t miss prospect.
Rory’s correct about Culberson’s Sally League years. His first turn in Class-A Augusta in 2008 produced 35 errors in 81 games as a shortstop and he hit .234. He didn’t walk worth a damn and he had little power. In a word: barf.
In 2009 he switched to third base, played 132 games, still didn’t hit anything, struck out 110 times, and made 40 errors. More barf.
2010 brought another position change, this time to second. The errors went down. He could hit, both for average and power, although his .340 OBP (a career best) wasn’t so great. He stole 25 bases. He still struck out a ton.
I remember seeing him in San Jose last year. I was looking for all the problems that predicated him. His fielding appeared to be much smoother and in an interview I did with him he mentioned how hard he worked on his defense to improve.
Culberson’s Arizona Fall League season was 21 games where he hit .366 with 11 doubles. I’ll admit, his big year in San Jose combined with his AFL performance made me reconsider him. He was on life support as a prospect going into the 2010 year and I said he had to have a great campaign to stay on the list. He upheld his end of the bargain.
However, 2011 has seen him regress to the mean. At least his error totals haven’t gone back up. He strikes out too much in Double-A Richmond and his power has fallen off. He has 13 steals so far. His numbers with the Flying Squirrels look much like what his ability is. The Cal League helped him by inflating numbers in 2010.
One thing I’ve noticed about Culberson is that he always hits lefties well. So that’s something.
Culberson is on my State of the System address in the #21-30 group. I don’t know if he’ll make my 2012 prospect list. But his last two years have been vast improvements over his first two years so that counts for something to me.
Here’s one that was buried on my Twitter feed, from Sifor: Is Brett Bochy considered a legitimate prospect? His numbers in Augusta are fantastic.
I covered Bochy in Part II of the State of the System address. Here on BCB, Rory, Otis, the other Chris, and I will produce a real prospect list for 2012 and I can be certain that Bochy will be on that list. Once he makes it to San Jose in 2012, I can evaluate his prospect status in a much more productive manner.
That’s it for me for the regular season prospect mailbag. I will return to the States in mid-December, when you can expect more unpopular opinions. Happy off-season!