When people think of Boston Red Sox pitching prospects, the names Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and Anthony Ranaudo come to mind. There are plenty of other solid pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization but when thinking about players who are truly intriguing, Noe Ramirez comes to mind. Noe Ramirez, 24, spent time between high-A Salem and AA Portland and boasted a 2.38 ERA in 75 2/3 spread out between 35 games along with 75 strikeouts. What Ramirez offers that is different from the rest of the talented pitching prospects is simply the fact that he is a reliever. Most top pitching propects convert to the bullpen when they cannot find their way into an MLB rotation, however Ramirez made the switch at the beginning of 2013 in high-A Salem. In addition to his success during the regular season, Ramirez had success in the Arizona Fall League. While pitching 14 innings in ten games for the Surprise Saguaros he boasted a 1.93 ERA, 11 strikeouts, and a pair of saves. This came after a solid but not great campaign as a starter in Greenville in 2012. His numbers consisted of a 4.15 ERA in 16 starts along with 82 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings. The conversion has definitely helped Ramirez for a number of reasons. First of all, he has much more stamina than the average reliever, lasting on average about two innings per appearance. Longer relief appearances could increase his value as a long reliever or a middle reliever similar to what Matt Albers did with the Red Sox. In addition, his ability to throw strikes has led to his dominance since his walks stay low at 17 for the year while his strikeouts stayed high at 75 for the year. Most guys in the minors have the stuff but not the command whereas Ramirez has both. For example Miguel Celestino has great stuff but no command so he struggles and Mike Augliera has great command but lesser stuff so he is not a top prospect either. Both of those two players have had their struggles, but Augliera has had moderate success which shows that command is more important. Also for Noe Ramirez, his deceptive sidearm delivery makes him difficult to read, and sidearmers tend to be more successful as relievers since they lack the stamina of a workhorse starter. For this season, expect Ramirez to do what he did in 2013 and split the year between two levels. Once his success really starts to show itself in AA Portland somewhere around June, he will be promoted to Pawtucket. From there expect an ERA somewhere around 3.00 for Ramirez with a strikeouts per nine innings rate somewhere near 9.00. His control should also be improved from where it was last season and realistically could have five strikeouts for every walk he allows. After the 2014 season, Ramirez is set to be a Rule Five draft candidate, and unless Boston wants to part ways with him, it would be in their best interest to add him to the 40-man roster. This is because there is no doubt in my mind that a weaker team such as a Houston or Miami type team would snag him with one of the top picks in the draft. If one of these teams picked him up, he would be almost a lock at making the opening day roster. Odds are though, Boston would likely protect a pitcher as young and talented as Noe, and by the end of 2015, he will have established himself as an MLB quality reliever. To recap, Noe Ramirez is set to impress this season, and has what it takes to be a valuable MLB reliever. If the Red Sox are not willing to protect him by adding him to the 40-man roster, then he will be an MLB reliever elsewhere. With his ability to strike guys out, go multiple innings, and not give up too many homeruns, he could be a valued long reliever or middle reliever for just about any team. Also, it is worth noting that his name is not pronounced no. Although it looks similar, his name is actually pronounced Noh-EH and he said in an interview it bothers him when people call him no. Follow me on twitter @CLNS_Tom
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