The New York Yankees managed to skirt potential disaster last winter when the Rule 5 Draft rolled around, leaving slugger Andres Chaparro unprotected, only to learn that no other team was confident enough in his bat-first profile to take a chance, either.
Will the Yankees roll the dice this time around with a similar offensive breakout?
Chaparro, still just 24 years old and not on the 40-man roster, has posted an .818 OPS at Triple-A with 20 bombs, but his positionless/future DH profile (not to mention his right-handedness) has kept him in limbo. Fans have cried out for something, anything to increase offensive production this year, and the Yankees have not responded with a Chaparro promotion. If they don't reward a player with a 40-man spot in December, don't expect to see them in August.
That brings us to catcher Agustin Ramirez, who was promoted to Double-A Somerset on Tuesday afternoon, which feels like the first of two rewards coming his way this year.
Ramirez will be up for Rule 5 protection this time around, and considering the Yankees didn't trade anyone at this year's deadline, they'll be faced with a number of difficult decisions when it comes time to manipulate the 40-man again with non-tenders and winter trades. Will New York's brass make room for Ramirez, or will they cross their fingers?
Yankees Rule 5 Draft: New York needs 40-man roster spot for Agustin Ramirez
If you haven't heard of the 6-foot-tall, 210-pound, 21-year-old righty catcher, we wouldn't blame you. 2023 is Ramirez's fifth professional season (if you count the vanished 2020), but his first in full-season ball; he spent 2021 and 2022 in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League.
And oh, by the way, he somehow knocked in 51 runs at Rookie Ball last season in just 44 games, which ... is pretty solid, no matter where you do it.
That makes it all the more impressive that he's level-jumped twice this year, from Low-A Tampa to High-A Hudson Valley, ultimately landing in Somerset. This type of fast track would seem to imply the Yankees would like to keep a close eye on him this offseason -- but, then again, who can really predict how the Yankees plan to handle their prospects with any accuracy?
Ramirez flashed power at Low-A, hitting seven homers and knocking in 35 runs in 56 games (impressively OBPing .384 despite a .245 batting average). It was at Hudson Valley where he really shined, though, drilling nine homers and hitting a ridiculous .384 in 27 games (1.144 OPS, by the way).
A strong end to the season in Somerset could put him on the Jasson Dominguez track, which will hopefully result in some Triple-A time by the end of The Martian's season.
If Ramirez impresses at Double-A at a position of weakness for the Yankees, there may be no hiding him. With a fleet of players exiting the 40-man this offseason due to free agency (Luis Severino, Wandy Peralta, Isiah Kiner-Falefa), non-tender possibilities (Lou Trivino), and trades, it would be irresponsible for them to look the other way here, especially after okaying this promotion.