In the third edition of our Minor League Players of the Week, we also present awards to the best performers of April.

Minor League Players of the Week:

Pitcher:
Jose Ramirez, 20, RHP, A
12 IP, 12 K, 5 BB, 5 H, 1 ER

The Charleston RiverDogs have a pretty talented duo at the top of their rotation between last installment’s Pitcher of the Week winner, Graham Stoneburner, and this week’s recipient, Jose Ramirez. Only twenty-years old, Ramirez gained some steam this off-season as a sleeper prospect due to a strong year in the Gulf Coast League and a significant uptick in velocity. Jose now sports a fastball that can sit in the mid 90s versus the high 80s heater he was dealing when he first came to the Yankees. If you want to see just how much attention Jose is garnering around the league, look no further than Baseball America’s recent Prospect Hot Sheet (he’s at the bottom). Ramirez complements his fastball with a very good changeup and an in-the-works slurvy breaking ball. With every start Jose Ramirez looks more and more like a top starting prospect due to his combination of raw stuff and control at a relatively early stage in his development.

Position Player:
Kevin Russo, 25, RHB 3B, AAA
.375/.400/.625 in 25 PAs

Kevin had an impressive week at Scranton with three extra base hits, one being a home run off of the lefty wunderkind Aroldis Chapman. Russo isn’t the most exciting prospect the Yankees have; he profiles best as a utility bench player, but he isn’t an excellent defender at any position like Ramiro Pena or Alberto Gonzalez were before him. What he does have, however, is a much better bat and plate approach than the aforementioned players. Last season at AAA, he had a .828 OPS, backed up by a 10.5 BB% while playing all over the infield, excluding first base. This year the majority of his playing time has come at the hot corner in an effort to make him more comfortable there defensively, as his bat does not fit the bill of a typical third baseman (.105 career isoP).

Minor League Players of the Month (April)

Pitcher:
Jose Ramirez, 20, RHP, A
29.1 IP, 9.82 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 0.99 WHIP, 1.84 ERA

That’s how you want a young prospect to start his first full season as a professional. Since Jose was already talked about earlier, I’ll just point out that his April 26th start was against former Yankee farmhand Arodys Vizcaino. You might remember him as the prospect who was shipped to Atlanta in the Javy Vasquez trade (and somehow went from a four-star prospect to five-star prospect in that process). In any case, Jose Ramirez outdueled Baseball America’s number 69 prospect (Vizcaino), going six innings while striking out nine in route to the win. If Ramirez keeps pitching like he has, a mid-season promotion could be in the cards for him.

Position Player:
Austin Romine, 21, RHB C, AA
.354/.425/.492 in 78 PAs

There was some stiff competition here, as there were everyday players in the system that had identical or higher OPS values than Romine over the month of April, like David Adams (.917) and Eduardo Nunez (.935). However, this isn’t just a straight numbers game. Both those players have questions surrounding their defense, while Romine’s work behind the plate is one of his strongest traits. While he is by no means a finished product with his game calling and management of pitchers needing improvement, he is a far superior defender at his position than Nunez or Adams. Austin’s caught stealing percent isn’t sparkling at 22%, but a lot of that has to do with pitchers not holding runners on properly. We said in the Prospect of Replacing Jorge Posada that he needed to improve upon his plate approach and he has certainly done that thus far (12.2 BB%). Austin Romine (the third youngest everyday player in the Eastern League and more than three years younger than the average positional player) is destroying AA pitching at a higher level, so far at least, than that other Yankee catcher, Jesus Montero did last year. That’s what you call depth.