Cubs Player Review 2014 Season – RHP Neil Ramirez
Jul 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Neil Ramirez (54) throws the ball against the Washington Nationals during the seventh inning at Nationals Park. The Cubs won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 was a very successful one for the Chicago Cubs‘ bullpen, something quite strange considering that the fans were used to see players like Shawn Camp, Carlos Marmol and – earlier this year – Jose Veras take the ball late in the game only to blow leads or to simply be unable to retire the opposing batters.
All of that changed this year. The Cubs’ Front Office assembled a stock of power arms in the upper levels of the minors, and it seems like that strategy is finally noticeable on the big league club. Players like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm and Zac Rosscup figure to have a role with the team going forward but none had a more surprising year than RHP Neil Ramirez.
Ramirez arrived to the Cubs organization at the trade deadline in 2013 as part of the return obtained by Chicago when they shipped Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers. Ramirez was the PTBNL later in that trade (it also included Grimm, top prospect CJ Edwards, and Kyle Hendricks) due to some medical issues that he had over the course of his minor league career but he was heralded by many as the player in that trade with the biggest chance to make an impact with the Cubs down the road.
His minor league numbers with Chicago weren’t very good, (a 7.56 ERA in only eight appearances during the 2013 campaign) but he showed flashes of brilliance in Spring Training this year, where he looked like a guy that could be a factor in one of the youngest bullpens in all of baseball. He got the call to the Cubs on April 24th as a way to boost the relief corps early in the season and while he was expected to be good, no one saw coming the type of season he ended putting up.
Ramirez had 50 appearances (43/2 innings) and notched some solid numbers for a rookie, including a 10.9 K/9 ratio, a 1.053 WHIP and a 2.61 FIP to go along with a minuscule 1.44 ERA. Ramirez also got three saves over the course of the season and he was primarily used as the set-up man in the eight inning behind Hector Rondon, another surprising player that managed to run away with the closer job for the foreseeable future.
There are some concerns with Ramirez, and while his stuff is absolutely filthy – when he’s able to command it – he needs to keep an eye on his health, particularly his shoulder. He has had several shoulder injuries over the course of his minor league career and he also landed on the DL this season for a sore tricep, although it was probably due to the fact that this was the longest season of his young career.
There’s little question that Ramirez has all the tools to be a force in the Cubs’ bullpen this year, whether it’s as a setup man or another role. He has the stuff and the aggressive mentality to go after hitters no matter the count, and if he’s able to stay relatively healthy, he could become one of the best relievers in all of baseball in the near future.