St. Louis Sends Outfield Prospect James Ramsey to Indians for Justin Masterson

Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; St. Louis Cardinals outfielder James Ramsey against the West during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Faced with a glut of outfield prospects and a void in the major league rotation, the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to send James Ramsey to the Indians in exchange for Justin Masterson.

Masterson, 29, is currently mired in the worst season of his career; through 19 starts, he owns a 5.51 ERA, has walked 5.1 batters per nine, and has averaged barely over five innings per outing. But just a year ago he was Cleveland’s most dependable starter, going 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and earning his first all star nod. He will be a free agent at the end of the year.

Ramsey, 24, was St. Louis’s first round pick in 2012, and currently ranks as their 6th best prospect, according to’s Jonathan Mayo. As an outfielder, though, he was expendable. Three of the Cardinals’ other top 10 prospects are outfielders, including the famed Oscar Taveras, who Mayo recently ranked as the #2 prospect in all of baseball, and Stephen Piscotty, who came in at #57 on the top 100 rankings.

A four sport star in high school, Ramsey is an all around athlete whose quick footspeed and above-average arm profile best at center, but could play up in right. According to scouting analyst Bernie Pleskoff, he is a line-drive hitter to all fields with patience, but his power potential should be limited by his relatively small stature (6’0, 190 lb).

Ramsey went yard 16 times last year, though, and he has 13 home runs in just 241 at bats with Double-A Springfield this season. He’s been able to defy the scouting report in this regard, adding the long ball, while continuing to show plate discipline (.389 OBP, 11% walk rate) and spray the ball around the diamond (.300 average). It remains to be seen how that power will transfer over at the highest level.

Strikeouts have been his biggest roadblock. The FSU standout whiffed 121 times last season and he’s gone down on strikes in 23.5% of his plate appearances thus far in 2014. To contextualize that, Fangraphs classifies a K rate of 20% as “below average,”  a rate of 25% as “poor,” and a anything below 27.5% as “awful.”

A propensity to swing and miss isn’t as much of a roadblock in today’s as it once was, but it will still cut into any player’s ability to hit for average. There are currently thirty qualified major league hitters with a k% worse than 23.5%; Mike Trout is the only one with an average of .300 or more.

Ramsey has played the entirety of this season at Double-A, but that is only because the Cardinals’ Triple-A outfield is already stocked at in left, center, and right with prospects. He should immediately move to Columbus, the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate, and with strong play, could be in line for a September call up.