Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. Also, the article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's all in the name of fun Treat prospect rankings accordingly.
Rangel Ravelo - First baseman/Corner outfielder
Signed as a minor league free agent entering 2017
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
Here's the thing about ranking thirty-five prospects: you can pretty well do whatever in the hell you want with the thirty-fifth prospect on the list.
Truth be told, any one of the million players that I listed in the "March Of The Prospect" article could have been 35th. At this point on the list, it's really just a dice roll. I went with Ravelo at 35 because, honestly, why in the hell not?
During an episode of Prospects after Dark, the lovely and talented Alex Crisifulli asked a very relevant question when I was talking about Ravelo. That question was simple: "How in the world is a nine year veteran of the minor leagues still credited as a prospect?"
Well, Alex and audience, all that I can really say is "STOP ASKING ME TOUGH QUESTIONS THAT I'M NOT SMART ENOUGH TO ANSWER WHY ARE YOU TEARING THIS FAMILY APART."
Of course, the real answer to the question posed by Mr. Crisifulli is "baseball is just weird sometimes."
Over the years, we've seen players like Ryan Ludwick and Jose Martinez take a little extra time to find their way to the majors. Both Ludwick and JMart dealt with injuries that changed their career trajectories as well as their prospect status. However, what they both possessed was a hitting skill/tool that allowed them to work past those issues on their way to a delayed and unexpected major league impact. Ravelo possesses a similar tool, albeit less "LOUD."
All of this posturing is just to say that Ravelo isn't really a prospect as classically defined. He's too old for that and he's been around for too long. But what Ravelo is, is a player that's never made a major league debut with an advanced bat and feel for the strike zone that would have had his number called in the last couple of years if circumstances were different.
Ravelo can play a corner outfield, but he doesn't do it particularly well. That limits him to first. With Matt Carpenter holding down first base for the last couple of years (Paul Goldschmidt now) and players like Patrick Wisdom, Jose Martinez, Matt Adams, and Luke Voit as players ahead of Ravelo on the depth chart (and on the 40-man roster) over the years, Ravelo has always been the odd man out. Sometimes, it just works that way.
The other thing about including Ravelo in this countdown is that there isn't much scouting to do. He is a very simple and easy player to give you a rundown on. And, honestly, when you are doing thirty-five evaluations in forty-something days, a coward like myself is really just looking for something easy. Sorry, not sorry. OK, I'm sorry.
Defensively, Ravelo is a very good first baseman. He's pretty good at picking the ball out of the dirt and he has pretty solid range. He's athletic, but he isn't fast or quick. He does do the most that he can with his skills that he possesses. He's also very good around the bag, footwork-wise. In my mind, he's on par with Matt Carpenter at first but with better picking-abilities. Here's a great play that he made during the winter in the Caribbean League:
I don't have much to say about the type of outfielder Ravelo is except that "he's fine." Which I guess is to say "you don't want him playing a corner outfield spot if you don't absolutely have to."
Offensively, the issue with Ravelo is that he doesn't hit for power. If he did have the capability to hit for power then we would have seen him already. Unfortunately for him, that's just not his game. Instead, Ravelo does a tremendous job of controlling the strike zone. He's somewhat lacking in the bat-speed department but he does a good job of barreling the ball and using all of the field. As a matter of fact, his spray chart is almost evenly distributed with the 30%/30%/30% split, but still shading "pull" as 39% of his contact going pull-side. His swing and stance does kind of remind me of Juan Gonzalez, BUT ONLY THE SWING AND STANCE I'M NOT COMPARING HIM TO A FORMER MVP. Take a look at this double down the line:
While Ravelo has a swing that seems suited for putting the ball in the air, he just makes too much contact that results in groundballs. I believe that this is because of the bat speed that he lacks and that he is clearly a contact-first hitter. I'd really like to see this nine-year veteran of the minor leagues sellout for power a little bit in 2019 because, honestly, why not at this point? As he enters the 2019 season, his third year as a minor league free agent signed by the Cardinals, power and opportunity are all that's kept him out of the majors. It'll be power that creates that opportunity so It's time for him to bring it.
I offer the caution with Ravelo that you shouldn't get too caught up in his stats. His wRC+ of 125 in 2017 and 133 in 2018 are "cooked." You often see this type of offensive explosion when an older player plays consecutive seasons at the same league. 2018 was actually Ravelo's fourth turn at AAA and that changes how the numbers can be, and should be, interpreted. Both his swing and approach are solid enough that he won't embarrass himself if he is called upon, but don't expect that AAA-type of run production if/when he does eventually get the call.
THE BOTTOM LINE
First, how cheesy is the "THE BOTTOM LINE" header? I feel like such a "Hot Take Artist" for using such a sports-radio-generic header.
Anyway, the bottom line with Ravelo is that he isn't a prospect in the traditional sense but he is the type of player that could make a major league debut. Moreover, he should make a major league debut. He profiles as more of the Jeremy Hazelbaker or Nick Martini-type than he does the Ryan Ludwick or Jose Martinez-type. Ravelo could be an interesting emergency option at first or a corner outfield spot if things get super-weird for the Cardinals during the 2019 season. His ability to make contact to all fields while not striking out makes him an interesting name to keep an eye on while, probably, holding low expectations for his eventual and potential contribution.
MAY 1st UPDATE
Of course Ravelo got off to an awful start. Why wouldn't he? Truthfully, John Nogowski has passed him up on the depth chart, and that is sad. I probably won't put Nogowski on the list just yet, but he deserves a hat tip. Here in a few days when I update the list, Ravelo will fall off of it. He is starting to find his way out of the funk, so hopefully he get his stuff together and get back on the list for June.
These articles? Well, you can't do them without the stats from FanGraphs.
Thanks For Reading!!