This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Looking at Jayson Nix and Alexei Ramirez
Today we will take a look at Jayson Nix of the Colorado Rockies, and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox, two rookies we have not previously covered. Next week we will examine players in the high minors who could/should be promoted to the major leagues soon.
Jayson Nix, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Nix first came to prominence as a supplemental first round pick back in 2001, out of high school in Midland, Texas. He was considered an excellent athlete, if a bit undersized at 5-11, 185, but he played well at the A-ball level, especially in 2003 when he hit .281/.351/.475 with 46 doubles, 21 homers, 24 steals, and 54 walks for Visalia in the California League.
However, Nix's propensity to strike out and lose command of the plate area hampered him at the higher levels: he hit just .213 in Double-A in 2004. This began a three-year struggle against advanced pitching, and Nix fell off most prospect charts. He made some improvements in 2007, hitting .292/.342/.451 in Triple-A, though even that is not exceptional production given the environment at Colorado Springs.
Nevertheless, Nix did get himself back on the prospect charts last year and is still just 25 years old. He's polished his defense and it now rates as excellent, with above average range, hands, and arm strength for second base. He impresses scouts with his reliability and instincts, and he's shown some mental and emotional fortitude by not giving up despite his struggles.
Nix earned Colorado's second base job with a strong spring training, but is off to a weak start with the bat, just 2-for-18 (.111) through Tuesday. Given his offensive track record, this isn't surprising. Nix projects as a .240-.250ish hitter, even in Colorado, though with occasional spikes of power and good speed (if he gets on base enough). His glovework will keep him in the majors, but in order to start he'll have to get more consistent offensively. It's for this reason that we did not rank him on our Top 100 list.
Alexei Ramirez, OF-2B, Chicago White Sox
Ramirez is a Cuban, who got noticed by scouts while playing for the Cuban National Team at the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He defected last year and signed with the White Sox in December, a four-year, $4.75 million deal. He was expected to begin the year in the minors, probably at Triple-A Charlotte, but he had an impressive spring training and made the major league roster instead.
Ramirez is currently slotted for use as a utility player, but his unusual background makes him a wild card. The 26 year old is 6-3, 185 pounds, a right-handed hitter and thrower. He's rated as a very fine athlete, with above average speed and excellent arm strength. Opinions differ on his power, rated as average by some observers but below average by others. Most scouts agree that he'll hit for average, though at this point it is unclear how well he will control the strike zone. Ramirez hit .358/.375/.582 in spring training, with three walks and 12 strikeouts in 67 at-bats. While spring stats need to be taken with large grains of salt, the BB/K/AB ratio was not impressive.
Defensive versatility is one of Ramirez's main positives. He was mainly a middle infielder in Cuba, but has enough range and arm strength to play the outfield, making him attractive as a super-utility player who can cover many different positions. That's as valuable in a fantasy context as it is in a real one, provided he hits of course.
It's hard to know exactly what to expect out of Ramirez. He could end up being a very impressive player and a big fantasy asset. Or he could fizzle out like many other Cuban players have. At this point I don't know which outcome is most likely. From a development perspective, I think Ramirez would be better off in the minors, getting regular at-bats and adapting to North American culture, but the White Sox disagree, at least for now.
Article first appeared 4/10/08