Though players like Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty have dominated St. Louis Cardinals prospect discussion in recent years, 2012 first-rounder James Ramsey, the 23rd overall pick from Florida State, has also seen plenty of success. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder, who is ranked as the Cardinals’ number six prospect by MLB.com, emerged as a power hitter in 2013, hitting 16 homers while splitting time between three levels, but he’s put it all together this season, hitting .302 with 11 homers and a .951 OPS en route to a Texas League All-Star berth. We got a chance to talk to Ramsey and hear his thoughts on a variety of different topics.
AA: First of all, we saw you miss a few weeks after crashing into the wall to make a catch. Can you give us an update on your health?
JR: Yeah, I’m feeling good, much improved, thank you for asking. You know, it’s just one of those things where it needed time. I had to work with the training staff, you know, just really try to evaluate my progress with my arm. Now I’m back and healthy and very glad to get back on the field.
AA: Your offensive numbers have really picked up during your second season in Springfield, to the point where you’re near the top of the league, in a league that’s known as more of a pitcher’s league. Are there any major adjustments that you made this offseason to make those improvements?
JR: I wouldn’t say anything major, there’s obviously some minor tweaks here and there just to continue to be the best version of myself, but I think most of it just starts with the mental side and just approaching every day as a chance to get better, having a lot of confidence in what I do, knowing that I did a lot of good things in this league last year as well, just knowing confidently that what you do can play at any level, including the big leagues, just focusing on being hungry every day when you come to the field, knowing that you can improve on something.
AA: You’re pretty well known as a powerful leader and an all-around good guy—I’ve heard people use the “Tim Tebow of baseball” comparison—can you tell us about the role your faith plays, and how you approach being a leader?
JR: Yeah, I mean, faith is a big part of who I am, it’s kind of the foundation that everything else sits on, it not only helps me balance my life but allows me to have something that, regardless of what’s going on in my life, you know you kind of have that going for you. You know, it’s just a great opportunity to be in baseball, because it’s a profession that there’s a lot of people that are lost, and don’t exactly have anything that isn’t baseball that their life is surrounded around. I think as far as that goes, it’s just taking a great opportunity to be a light to others. I definitely get questions of why I’m able to act the same every day and why I’m able to kind of be others-centered, and that’s the reason for it.
As far as being a leader, I think it’s something that is a little bit learned, but I think it’s something I was kind of just born with. I remember growing up on teams, whatever sport I was on, whatever age group or level I was at, I just always took a liking to kind of being a leader and a tone-setter for the guys, just keeping things loose when things need to be loose, and being able to get down to business when that time comes as well.
AA: In all the photos and videos I’ve seen of you, you’re wearing goggles at the plate. How long have you been wearing those, and are they something you need to see the ball effectively or just part of the routine?
JR: I actually just got Lasik surgery this offseason. I used to wear those from when I was in college until this season, but I got Lasik back in Atlanta. They were perscription, and now I’m seeing better than I was before, so that’s been a good breakthrough for me, obviously, being able to see everything a little more clearly.
AA: I see you’ve played a few more games in center field than you have in right this year, and you’ve gotten way more time in center overall during your pro career. Would you say that you’re more comfortable in center or at a corner position?
JR: Well I think (center) is where the Cardinals want me in the long run, I think that’s where I’m very comfortable. I can play all three outfield positions, though, that’s one thing… when I went to the Arizona Fall League, I played right, center, and left an equal amount. So, I think the more you can be versatile the better. I think obviously, like you mentioned, playing primarily in center field is where I think people would like to see me find a permanent home. But I can play all three and can honestly say that I don’t really have that much of a preference.
AA: When you were drafted, you got some Skip Schumaker comparisons, with people saying you might be able to play second base. Especially with the amount of outfielders in the Cardinals system—Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Mike O’Neill, just to name a few—is a future position switch something that’s crossed your mind, or that anyone in the organization has discussed with you?
You know, I haven’t had anything expressed to me of that manner. Honestly, I can do whatever it takes to help the team win, and like I mentioned earlier, that versatility is definitely there. You never know what will be asked of you, but whatever the front office and Mike Matheny and the rest of the staff want me to do, I feel confident knowing that I could make whatever adjustments are necessary.
AA: How pumped were you to see the Cardinals take Luke Weaver, your former Florida State teammate, with their first pick this year?
JR: Very excited. Weaver’s a great kid, he’s also a great person and a great teammate, so I think that fits exactly what the Cardinals are looking for. I think that Luke’s going to fit in well, and I look forward to him becoming a part of the Cardinals family. He’s a good traditional Florida State guy, and I’m just glad to see that continue.
AA: With you having been raised by two Seminole alums and having spent four years there yourself, how cool was it for you to see the football program return to prominence this year and make the national title run?
JR: I was there for the championship game, I traveled out to California for it. I’m really close friends with the Fisher family—Coach (Jimbo) Fisher’s sons Ethan and Trey—and I couldn’t be more happy for them. Really Florida State, just the athletics in general, I mean the softball team’s going to the College World Series this year. I was involved heavily in a lot of the different sports, supporting all those, being the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council for two years. The athletic program as a whole is going in the right direction, continues to be excellent on the field and also in the classroom and the community, so that’s something that I take a lot of pride in, being an alum.
AA: One last thing, St. Louis related… the Rams took Lamarcus Joyner in the 2nd round this year, did the two of you ever interact at FSU?
JR: Yeah, Lamarcus is a friend of mine, he’s a stud. I definitely look forward to seeing him play on Sundays. You talk about a guy that has extremely great work ethic…he’s a guy that hasn’t been given anything growing up and has had to earn everything he’s gotten, so, you know, it was great to see his hard work finally rewarded.