After a storybook senior season at Florida State University, it's been back to baseball reality for James Ramsey
. The Palm Beach center fielder wouldn't have it any other way, though.
"There's joy for me in the challenge," Ramsey said. "I never thought it would be easy. My numbers aren't what I'm used to, but I'm not disappointed. I know it's a process. I'm learning every day. This is a tough league, and I appreciate the opportunity to start off here."
Ramsey, taken by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, had three hits in his debut July 2. But he's had as many downs as ups since against Florida State League pitching.
The left-handed hitter from the Atlanta area ended July on a strikeout binge, fanning 17 times in his final nine games. He whiffed four times in one game and three times in another.
"The one frustrating thing is that I'm getting myself out more than I ever have," Ramsey said. "I haven't felt overpowered, but there are a lot of more polished pitchers at this level and I'm helping them out right now."
Ramsey went 3-for-18 in the first five games of August to drop his average to .252 in 32 games. He had an on-base percentage of .342 thanks to 17 walks, however, and was 9-for-9 in stolen base attempts.
There was no question that Ramsey was holding his own. He just wasn't excelling the way he did in his final season at FSU.
Ramsey hit .378 and led the Seminoles to the ACC championship and College World Series while being named ACC Player of the Year and a first-team All-American.
But the onetime infielder was hardly a can't-miss Major League prospect entering college, even after leading his high school to Georgia's Class AA state title.
Ramsey started just nine games as a freshman at FSU and wasn't taken by Minnesota until the 22nd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, despite hitting .364 as a junior with the Seminoles.
After a stellar summer in the Cape Cod League, Ramsey returned to FSU and improved his Draft stock dramatically while captaining the Seminoles to the College World Series. His father, Craig, had done the same in 1980.
An honor student with strong Christian beliefs, Ramsey was the face of the Seminoles and some likened his charisma and conviction to quarterback Tim Tebow.
Ramsey was the second of two first-round Draft picks by St. Louis, going three spots behind Texas A&M pitcher and Palm Beach teammate Michael Wacha.
Ramsey signed for a bonus of $1.6 million and headed out to start his Minor League career. But it's a long way from the spotlight of the College World Series to the semi-privacy of Roger Dean Stadium during the long Florida State League season.
"The lack of so much attention is a nice change," said Ramsey, who lives about a mile from the ballpark with a couple of teammates.
But regularly playing before less than 1,000 is quite a change from the packed houses at Dick Howser Stadium in Tallahassee and the College World Series in Omaha.
"The atmosphere certainly isn't the same," Ramsey said. "I knew that would be the case. But you still have to be ready to play every game and go all out."
Unlike college, winning isn't the ultimate goal, either. The Minor Leagues are about player development.
"I'm used to everything being result-oriented," Ramsey said. "Here it's the process that counts. That's an adjustment. I have to remember not to get too caught up in one at-bat or one game."
On Monday, Palm Beach got just its second scheduled day off since Ramsey joined the team.
"It's definitely been a grind," Ramsey said. "It's different getting used to playing every day. But it's fun any time you can be out on the field. It's a blessing to be playing baseball and getting a chance to work toward your goal."
Scoreless streak: Jupiter's Jose Fernandez has given up just six hits over three straight five-inning scoreless outings since July 26. The last was Sunday against Charlotte, when he allowed a hit and a walk while striking out five. Fernandez, the Marlins' first-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA in seven starts for Jupiter after going 7-0 with a 1.59 ERA for Greensboro of the Class A South Atlantic League. The 20-year-old Cuban is the Marlins' No. 3 prospect and ranked No. 91 on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
On-base machine: Palm Beach outfielder Mike O'Neill leads the Florida State League batting race by a large margin with a .341 average and is closing in on the franchise record for hits in a season. Juan Lucena had 141 hits in 2006 and O'Neill had 125 in 107 games through Sunday. O'Neill had also drawn 68 walks, and his .442 on-base percentage was by far the best in the league.
More struggles: Brevard County left-hander Jed Bradley fell to 5-10 after giving up six runs over less than five innings in consecutive starts. The first-round choice by Milwaukee in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Georgia Tech has enjoyed little success since starting the season pitching 23 innings without allowing an earned run. Bradley has a 5.53 ERA for the year and opponents are batting .311 against him. He's the Brewers' No. 3 prospect and ranked No. 80 on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
Turnaround: Daytona second baseman Ronald Torreyes finished May batting .184, but he's hit .318 since to raise his average to .271. He was 14-for-25 over a recent six-game stretch. The 19-year-old from Venezuela has 19 doubles, four triples, six homers and 42 RBIs for the season and had also stolen 13 bases in 17 attempts. He was signed by Cincinnati and came to the Chicago Cubs in the trade for Sean Marshall.