SAN DIEGO — The Mariners had a list of just two players — both pitchers — whom they wanted to select, if available, with the sixth overall pick in the Thursday’s Rule 5 draft. If neither pitcher was available, they would pass.
Fortunately for general manager Jerry Dipoto, that narrow range was still rewarded. The Mariners selected hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Yohan Ramirez from the Houston Astros organization.
Ramirez, 24, has a fastball that reaches the high 90s and has shown the ability to pile up strikeouts and pitch multiple innings in relief or start when needed. But he’s also shown an inability to harness that stuff at times with wandering command, resulting in far too many walks.
“We feel like Yohan is a guy we can give to our major league staff with the opportunity to feature three plus pitches and corral the strikes and impact our bullpen,” said Tom Allison, the Mariners’ vice president of scouting. “As we looked at these players through our evaluators … this was a guy that really lit up everybody with his physical ability. We were able to piece together what type of human he is and his work ethic and we feel like if you can add those things together, give him to our staff and he has a chance to be a successful big leaguer.”
Splitting time between High-A Fayetteville and Class AA Corpus Christi, last season he posted a 4-7 record with a 3.99 ERA in 15 starts and 12 relief appearances. In 106 innings pitched, he struck out a whopping 158 batters, but also issued 74 walks. His 13.42 strikeout per nine innings ranked third among all minor league pitchers. His .169 batting average against was fifth best in minor league baseball of pitchers that threw a minimum of 100 innings.
Ramirez has appeared in parts of four minor league seasons in the Astros organization. He was originally signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free agent on June 15, 2016. Overall, he is 16-21 with a 3.73 ERA (120 earned runs, 289 2/3 IP) with 176 walks and 323 strikeouts in 88 career games spanning five levels in the Astros minor league system.
Per MLB rules, a player selected in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft must be kept on the major league 26-man roster of the drafting team for the entirety of next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the injured list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected.
The Mariners 40-man roster is now at 39 players.
In the Class AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft, Seattle selected three players — catcher Brian O’Keefe from Cardinals organization in the first round, outfielder Jhonny Santos from the Miami organization in the second round and first baseman Dariel Gomez also from the Cardinals system in the third round.
O’Keefe, 26, had a .229/.319/.389 slash line with nine doubles, 13 home runs, 40 RBI and 37 walks in 88 games with Class AA Springfield. He will likely serve as a backup to Cal Raleigh at Class AA Arkansas.
Santos, 23, spent the majority of the 2019 season with High-A Jupiter, where he slashed .241/.325/.356 with 25 runs, eight doubles, four home runs, 19 RBI, 20 walks and 12 stolen bases in 55 games.
Gomez, 23, spent the 2019 season with Short-A State College in the Cardinals organization, where he slashed .262/.344/.417 with 14 doubles, a triple, six home runs, 27 RBI, and 28 walks in 63 games.
Players selected in this portion of the draft can play at any level of the minor league system.