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Erasmo Ramirez needs his velocity back

If Ramirez can bounce back to his 2017 form, the Mets will have a valuable contributor.

Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 6 Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

At his best, Erasmo Ramirez has been a highly effective multi-inning reliever and spot starter, a role he first excelled at with the rays in 2015 and reprised for both the Rays and Mariners in 2017 after a down year in the interim. He’s never been a guy who strikes out a lot of batters, but he limits free passes and induces a ton of ground balls by keeping all of his offspeed stuff below the knees. In short, he’s the characteristic command-over-stuff guy, and he’s had a decent little career despite never being a top prospect.

That said, it’s now been two seasons since Ramirez was an effective major league arm. After consistently running a DRA- in the 90s (somewhere in the range of 10% better than league average), he cratered hard for the Mariners in 2018 with a 146.4 mark (almost 50% worse than league average). His 2019 was spent at Triple-A for the Red Sox outside of a brief, extremely bad three-inning cameo, and the fact that he couldn’t crack what was a paper-thin pitching depth chart for Boston tells you basically everything you need to know.

Troublingly, Ramirez’s fall from peak form has corresponded with a 1-2 MPH drop in velocity across his entire pitch mix. He suffered a strained lat at the start of 2018 and, after briefly returning, suffered an injury to his rotator cuff as well. Ramirez isn’t a guy who could really afford to see his stuff slip any further, making this chain of events particularly concerning for any projections of a return to form. Conversely, it’s possible he was never fully healthy in 2018 or 2019 - shoulders always take a while to fully heal - and he could bounce back in 2020 another year removed from injury.

As is usually the case for the Mets, a combination of poor organizational depth and a series of injuries has left their depth chart quite skinny on the pitching side. With several arms (Robert Gsellman, Brad Brach, Jared Hughes) dealing with various issues as opening day approaches, Ramirez’s chances of making the opening day roster have improved significantly. Indeed, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him snag one of those spots per Anthony DiComo.

If that happens, the Mets will be hoping that Ramirez’s decline was just a blip brought on by an extended injury recovery, one that he’s hopefully worked his way through. On a positive note, he’s looked good in summer camp after a strong showing in spring training. Keep an eye on his early season velocity readings - if they rebound, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Mets have found themselves a very useful, flexible swing arm for this wacky shortened season. If not, well then get ready for some more Corey Oswalt.