Trio of arms making an impact in the bullpen
It has been 11 months since Daniel Juarez last gave up an earned run. The last time it happened, Daniel Vogelbach was still a Pirate. Juan Soto was still a National. Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez were still in Double-A. And Juarez was still in Low-A.
“The goal for [my] success has been the same, focusing on executing every pitch, every time, pitch by pitch,” Juarez said through Juan Loyo, Brooklyn’s development coach who was acting as the translator. “Focusing on the pitch and trusting what [I’m] going to throw every time.”
The last time Juarez gave up an earned run he wasn’t even a Cyclone, but he was pitching for current Brooklyn pitching coach Victor Ramos, who held the same role for the St. Lucie Mets last season. He said he has known Juarez since 2019, which is when the Mets signed him as an 18-year-old from Venezuela.
“Something special with that kid’s fastball,” Victor Ramos said. “Every time he throws it, it’s either a weak fly ball in the infield or a swing and miss.”
Juarez pitched 39 innings for St. Lucie last season over 26 games and posted a 1.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Those are really good numbers, but nothing compared to what he would do once promoted to Brooklyn.
He joined then-bench coach Chris Newell, who was then the bench coach, and the Cyclones in late August of last season, appearing in five games and not giving up a run over 4.1 innings. He started back in Brooklyn in 2023 with Newell, now the manager, and has been absolutely lights out.
“He came to us last year towards the end, and he was a scared little pup,” Newell said. “To the point where we were like, what is going on with this kid? How was he up with us? And then coming in to start the season this year, that opening series, he had a fist bump after a great catch. … It was a side of him I haven’t seen since I’ve known him. And he’s done it a few more times. He goes out there, and the kid gets outs and knows he’s going to get outs. And that’s why he gets outs, because he knows it.”
Through 12 appearances and 15.2 innings pitched this season, he is yet to give up an earned run — the only Brooklyn Cyclone to do so this season. Juarez is one of only three players in the South Atlantic League who has pitched at least 10 innings with a 0.00 ERA. He also boasts a 0.70 WHIP, which is also the best on the team.
Not far behind him is Paul Gervase, who has a 0.52 ERA courtesy of giving up just one earned run in 17.1 innings to start his 2023 season.
Gervase started his collegiate career at Division III Pfeiffer University, but only stayed there for one season.
“After that year, me and my dad sat down, and he was like hey, this school is expensive. They don’t have scholarships. If I’m gonna help you pay for this, then you’re gonna work harder.”
He said they then started doing two a days every day during the summer and re-tooled his mechanics with the help of Brandon Young Physical Therapy in his hometown.
“Went to a couple different junior colleges, then I was blessed LSU, the greatest college baseball program in the country, recruited me, and I got to spend an awesome year there,” Gervase said.
He was the closer for LSU during the 2022 season, putting up a 1.85 ERA over 39 innings for the Tigers before being knocked out of the playoffs in the regional round by now-fellow Cyclone Tyler Stuart and Southern Miss.
A Detroit Tigers fan growing up whose favorite player was Justin Verlander, Gervase then was selected in the 12th round of the 2022 MLB Draft by Verlander’s current team.
“He’s a goofy guy in a good way,” Newell said. “Every day he comes up to me and he’s like skip, if you need two shutout, I’m here. I’m here, don’t worry, I gotcha. He always wants the ball, he’s always ready, and I think at the end of the day that’s going to be his best trait moving forward.”
Listed at 6-foot-10, Gervase throws from a lower release point than you would expect for someone his height. Victor Ramos described it almost as if he’s getting on his knees and pitching, which can add a lot of deception.
“Special release, special velo, good extension, tall guy. He’s able to manage a fastball-slider combo which is above average on a daily basis for this league and maybe other leagues,” Victor Ramos said. “He’s a hard worker, very professional. Coming out of that experience from LSU I think helped him a lot, how to be a professional, how to go to business on a daily basis.”
Walks can still be an issue at times with Gervase, surrendering almost one per inning through his first 11 appearances. However, while his BB/9 is bottom-5 on the Cyclones roster, his K/9 is top-5, as is his ERA and batting average against.
“Nobody can hit me, that’s my mindset when I go out there,” Gervase said. “That I’m the best guy on the field, and that hitter, his job is a lot harder than mine. Because if he goes 30% of the time, then he’s successful. 30%, that means you gotta get 30% three times against me to score. So for me, I just try to think of it like that, and I know that I’m good enough to go out there and dominate.”
Joining Gervase and Juarez in the top-5 in ERA is Wilkin Ramos, who the Mets took in the first round of the minor league phase of the most recent Rule 5 draft. Originally signed by the Oakland A’s in 2017 and then traded to the Pirates in December of 2018, Wilkin Ramos was in the Buccos organization from the 2019 season until he was selected by the Mets this offseason.
“[I] got excited, because [I] recognize that it’s a new way, a new path,” Wilkin Ramos said through Loyo. “The goal is the same, to get to the big leagues now with this organization. But on the other hand, [I] also thank the Pirates a lot, because they gave [me] the opportunity to be in baseball and for all that they teach.”
He had a successful 2022 season with the Pirates’ Low-A team, putting up a 3.88 ERA and 1.61 ERA through 51 innings, but he’s taken a significant step this season with the Cyclones. Through his first 11 appearances, he’s cut his ERA down to 1.83 and his WHIP down to 1.17 through 19.2 innings.
Victor Ramos said the key for Wilkin Ramos is his making sure his control stays steady, and so far he’s done a good job in that department. He said he’s been more mature than he expected going into the season in multiple ways, whether it be his throwing programs, load management or ability to work in high-leverage situations — and he’s been able to do all of that while pounding the zone and throwing strikes.
“He’s been taking care of the details, small things, and at the same time he’s been able to throw strikes with nasty stuff,” Victor Ramos said.
Victor Ramos said his delivery is “something special,” and Newell touted his reliability out of the pen.
“Goes out there every day, and we know what we’re gonna get out of him,” Newell said. “Gets outs, gets huge outs.”
The Cyclones bullpen has the second-best ERA in the league as of May 24. Daniel Juarez, Paul Gervase, and Wilkin Ramos, who have combined for a 0.85 ERA over 52.2 innings pitched, are a huge reason why.