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Finding the next José Ramírez

If you had to bet on a middle-infield Guardians prospect becoming a franchise icon, who would be the choice?

Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Let’s make one thing clear: José Ramírez is one of a kind and should be considered irreplaceable.

Now, with that caveat out of the way, we know that the Guardians have been accumulating middle-infield prospects for years and prioritizing players with incredible hit tools who can develop power. Almost like they are trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that is José Ramírez.

As a prospect, Ramírez showed an uncanny ability to make consistent contact and avoid walks and strikeouts, advancing him through the Cleveland system at a young age. What makes his story so special, however, is his development of power at the major-league level.

Through all of his minor-league and first 1,000 major-league plate appearances, José’s isolated power was in the .100-.110 range. Since Aug 1. 2016, he has put up a .265 ISO. Put another way, he has crushed 279 home runs in 3,700 plate appearances compared to hitting 24 in his first 2,600 professional plate appearances: an increase from .009 home runs per plate appearance to an astounding .075. He has also played gold-glove-level defense and anchored the middle of the Guardians’ order, making him a franchise icon and giving him at least an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

It would have been impossible to predict the kind of breakout from Ramírez that we have seen, and it would be ludicrous to suggest any prospect can repeat it today. But, for the purposes of this article ... it won’t stop us from trying.

José Ramírez’s minor-league stats
Ramírez’s at Rookie (18 years old): 108 wRC+, 8.2/3.4 K/BB%, .124 ISO
Ramírez’s at High-A (19 years old): 145 wRC+, 8.3/7.7 K/BB%, .108 ISO
Ramírez’s at Double-A (20 years old): 88 wRC+. 7.7/7.3 K/BB%, .077 ISO

My proposal is this: If we take José’s minor-league statistics and compare them to switch-hitting middle-infielders in the Guardians system, which of the current croup would be the best guess to follow a similar trajectory as our 5’8”, 190 lb hero?

Switch-hitting middle infield options in the Cleveland system

Angel Martinez, 21 years old, 6’, 165 lbs
19 years old at Single-A: 92 wRC+, 20.8/10.1 K/BB%, .141 ISO
20 years old at High-A: 139 wRC+, 17.5/12.1 K/BB%, .189 ISO
20 years old at Double-A: 120 wRC+, 17.5/11.1 K/BB%, .207 ISO

While he’s an exciting, switch-hitting middle-infielder, Angel Martinez’s strikeout rates are double what Ramírez’s were and he’s got a good four inches on him in height. He’s also almost doubled Ramirez’s ISO numbers in the minors. I think Martinez has a great chance to be an amazing major league player, but probably won’t be that similar to Ramírez in stature and the way he provides his value. If I had to pick a switch-hitting middle-infielder in the Guardians system whom I believe has a good shot to be a future all-star for the team, I’d pick Martinez to follow in José’s footsteps there.

Juan Brito, 21 years old, 5’11”, 162 lbs
20 years old at Single-A: 129 wRC+, 15.7/14.3 K/BB%, .184 ISO

A newcomer to the Guardians, some remarked on Juan Brito’s ability to turn on inside pitches and willingness to take walks — similar to José’s in both cases. He also stole 15 bases at Single-A and was caught nine times, while Ramírez stole 15 and was caught six times at the same level. Again, he’s taller than José and José had success at lower levels at a younger age than Brito, so it’s hard to say how similar the two of them will look. Brito is a very exciting young prospect, in any case.

Angel Genao, 18 years old, 5’9”, 150 lbs (Baseball Reference now has Genao at 6’, 165 lbs, while FanGraphs has his drafted height and weight)
18 years old at Single-A: 60 wRC+, 15.2/12.1 K/BB%, .036 ISO

Angel Genao making his debut at Single-A at 18 years old puts him in the José Ramírez level of advancement. He wasn’t as successful as Jose was but he did show the ability to both take walks and avoid high strikeout rates. Genao posted a low swinging strike percentage of 7.6%, and, while we don’t have the data for the stat from back there, it’s safe to assume that Jose’s swinging strike percentage was also very low when he was in the minors. Genao also stole 16 bases and was caught zero times in the Dominican Summer League, but hasn’t quite carried that base-stealing ability with him to the next levels at which he’s debuted. Perhaps the base-stealing abilities will return as he gets more comfortable. Let’s revisit this potential comparison after Genao, hopefully, gets a chance to experience Single-A in 2023 and see where we are. We’ll also need to re-evaluate his height to see if he is in the same general vicinity as Jose.

Dayan Frias, 20 years old, 5’7”, 150 lbs
20 years old at Single-A: 96 wRC+, 24.9/12.5 K/BB%, .090 ISO

Dayan Frias has a similar height to Ramírez but is almost two years older than Ramírez was when he debuted in Single-A. His strikeout rate also more than triples what José did at that level. However, Frias demonstrated his defense and bat can play at a high level with the Columbia national team in the World Baseball Classic, making him an exciting prospect while still being unlikely to end up in the exact Ramírez career path.

Juan Benjamin, 19 years old, 5’8”, 150 lbs
18 years old at Complex League: 135 wRC+, 19.4/18 K/BB%, .200 ISO

Juan Benjamin ended up playing 3 games in Single-A, showing the ability to control his strikeouts and take his walks. He’s Ramírez’s height and certainly has hit enough to make some legitimate comparisons. Again, this shows how absolutely rare Ramírez’s minuscule strikeout rates were as a minor-league (and now major-league) player, so it’s tough to say that Benjamin will bear much of a resemblance to José, even if he does make the majors.

Welbyn Francisca, 17 years old, 5’9”, 165 lbs

Welbyn Francisca doesn’t have any stats to analyze yet, but take a look at this write-up from FanGraphs, who ranked him as their No. 13 Guardians prospect:

Perhaps the most entertaining hitter from the 2023 international class, Francisca is a switch-hitting bat control savant. He can alter his footwork and bat path to put the barrel on just about anything. Arm strength may limit him to second base, but the bat is the carrying tool here. He didn’t get as much money as lots of the other highly-ranked players in the class, but Francisca’s switch-hitting and up-the-middle fit make him one of its better all-around profiles. He’s the sort of player Cleveland targets in the amateur space, especially internationally.

Francisca, like Ramírez, is a little stockier than the other 5’7” - 5’8” switch-hitters on this list, so our best hope for a José clone may be that Welbyn finds his way into Single-A by the end of 2023, shows some minuscule strikeout rates and solid walk-rates and makes himself a menace on the base paths (FanGraphs did put a 55 grade on his run tool). In that case, I think we’d have our man.


Martinez and Brito are very exciting prospects and Guardians fans should be optimistic that both will become successful major league players. I’m most excited, personally, about seeing what kind of player Martinez becomes. However, the most likely players in the Guardians system to potentially follow a similar developmental path while looking somewhat similar in body type and skill set to José Ramírez seem to be Angel Genao and Welbyn Francisca.

The existence of José Ramírez is a miracle and since we are talking about a perennial all-star, no one should bet on any player to become José Ramírez. While examining the stats above, his ability to compete at advanced levels at a remarkably young age and to refuse to strike out stands out at even the most cursory of glances. José is José for a reason.

But, since we’re talking about a farm system full of switch-hitting, high-contact young players, it’s always fun to dream.