Welcome to the first installment of OFR’s top prospect countdown, Fifty Prospects In Fifty Days. Every other day, we will post a breakdown of two Braves prospects, counting down to number 1 which should be revealed in December (spoiler alert: it’s Ronald Acuna).
Today I’m looking at a couple of Danville Braves teammates and fellow Dominicans that nevertheless went in opposite directions in 2017.
50. Jefrey Ramos, OF
Age: 19 | Bats: R
.307/.349/.497 | 133 wRC+ | 7 HR | 1 SB | 5.3% BB | 20.1% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2016
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: NA
Superlatives: Atlanta Braves GCL Position Player of the Year; OFR GCL Position Player of the Year
History: Ramos was a mid-grade signee from the huge 2016 international class, a little bit older than the more heralded prospects like Kevin Maitan and Yunior Severino, signing at the ripe old age of 17. Ramos was able to get some work in for the DSL Braves after signing, hitting .230/.283/.333 in his first 33 professional games. Ramos was assigned to the GCL Braves in June and was one the team’s most consistently productive players, hitting .325/.374/.556 through early August when he was moved up to Danville.
Ramos struggled somewhat with Danville, going .278/.308/.403 in the 20 games he played with the team to wind down the season.
Offense: The thing that stands out with Ramos is the amount of hard contact he makes when he gets a hold of a pitch. He has a quick, powerful stroke that can yank misplaced fastballs down the line for doubles and homers. Ramos can get fooled by good off-speed pitches, but he seems to be a fast learner and should improve in this area with experience. Ramos is not especially tall at 6′-1″ but is solidly put together and could still add some height. Ramos has average speed on the bases and has not tested opposing catchers very much.
Defense: That lack of foot-speed likely will constrain Ramos to a corner outfield spot, and he only played left field in 2017, but he is gifted with a very good arm and he should be able to handle right field if called upon to do so.
What’s Next: Depending on how the Braves evaluate him in instructionals and in the spring, Ramos could either get a quick promotion to Rome for 2018 or remain in extended spring training to wait for another assignment to Danville. In either case, Ramos is an intriguing under-the-radar young Brave to keep an eye on.
49. Derian Cruz, 2B
Age: 19 | Bats: S
.211/.256/.287 | 50 wRC+ | 2 HR | 14 SB | 4.8% BB | 26.9% K
Final 2017 Assignment: Rookie League – Danville
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2015
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 41
History: A big-bonus international signee in 2015, Cruz opened the 2017 season in Rome despite struggling the year before in Danville. It was too much, too soon for Cruz as he hit a measly .167/.207/.237 for Rome in 29 games with a defensive performance at shortstop that was somehow even shakier. Cruz was mercifully sent back to extended spring training to regroup, and he joined Danville when their season started in late June.
Cruz didn’t hit much better with Danville, going .235/.281/.315 through the end of the season. Cruz was moved off shortstop after the mid-July promotion of Kevin Maitan to Danville and he played second base the remainder of the season.
Offense: A switch-hitter, Cruz demonstrates occasional gap power from both sides of the plate, though more often from the right side. Unfortunately, Cruz isn’t able to showcase this enough as he has difficulty making solid contact. Cruz will swing at almost anything near the plate, often resulting in weak contact to the infield. Cruz almost never draws a walk either, and his plus speed is often wasted because he can’t get on base. Cruz does have the tools to be a solid hitter, but his poor approach and pitch recognition currently won’t allow him to bring them into games consistently.
Defense: As with his hitting, the tools are there for Cruz to be a good defender, but his lack of fundamentals limits him. At shortstop, Cruz will often take poor angles to ground balls leaving him in a poor position to throw to first. When he makes an error he seems to have a hard time shaking it off, and he will start to play more tentatively, making it more likely he will make another miscue. Moving to second base late in the season helped stop the errors thanks to the shorter throw, but his inexperience with the position shows when he has to make a decision with the ball and in his poor footwork around the bag.
Cruz’s speed and strong arm makes me think he may be best suited for center field.
What’s Next: Cruz hasn’t really shown enough to think he’s ready for a return engagement with Rome, and the wave of infielders in the low minors have a chance to overcome him if he doesn’t turn his game around quickly. Look for him to continue is journey in extended spring training with another return engagement in Danville unless he really turns heads this spring. Cruz will start the 2018 season still only 19 years old, and the Braves invested $2 million in him so they will likely give him every opportunity to turn it around.