J.P. France & Rafael Ramirez are the 31st chapter of our 158-part offseason series.
J.P. France is a six-foot, 216 lb. right-handed pitcher from New Orleans, LA. Born on April 4, 1995, he was an Astros 14th-round choice in 2018 out of Mississippi State, 432nd overall. Doug DeCinces (41.7 WAR) & Kent Hrbek (38.6 WAR) lead the seven major leaguers who have made the bigs after being chosen 432nd. France signed with the Astros for a $1,000 bonus and reported to the Tri-City ValleyCats in the Short-Season-A NYPL. He would move on to the Middle-A Quad Cities River Bandits later in the year.
France spent 2019 with the then-High-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers, where he ranked fourth in the Carolina League both with 8.97 K/9 and with 7.89 H/9. After taking 2020 off with the rest of the country, he split the 2021 campaign between the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks and the Triple-A Sugar Land Skeeters. He led the short-lived AAA-West League with 11.99 K/9, 7.51 H/9, and a 3.59 ERA.
This past year, France spent all year at the Triple-A level with the newly christened Sugar Land Space Cowboys, starting in 15 of his 34 pitching appearances. In 110 2⁄3 frames, he went 3-4 with three saves, a 3.90 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 8.1 H/9, and a 1.355 WHIP. On July 16, France pitched seven innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven in an eventual 1-0 victory against the Reno Aces. His 81 GameScore was a season-best, although he earned no decision for his effort.
France will presumably be in the mix for a roster spot during 2023 Spring Training.
Rafael Ramirez is a six-foot-one, 185 lb., right-handed infielder from Azua, DR. Born on November 9, 2004, he signed his first professional contract with the Astros in January earlier this year.
Ramirez reported to the Rookie-level DSL Astros Blue in time for their season. On June 9, he fell a triple short of the cycle, collecting a pair of RBI in a 10-9 loss to the DSL White Sox.
Ramirez had a hard time hitting, with a .155/.253/.254 slash line, but it’s not all bad news. He struck out just under a quarter of the time and drew walks about nine percent of the time. He also hit three homers with 17 RBI and went seven-of-10 stealing bases.
Defensively, Ramirez played 162 1⁄3 innings at third base (.872 fielding percentage), 101 2⁄3 innings at shortstop (.900 fielding percentage), and 50 2⁄3 innings at second base (1.000 fielding percentage). Clearly he needs more time at second. Despite his anemic slash line, Ramirez is young enough yet to find a decent stroke, with surprising and mostly untapped raw power. Look for him to spend another season with the rookie outfit.