Dalton Johnson

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

Giants' Heliot Ramos could make MLB debut in 2020, Gabe Kapler says

The start to MLB's ramp-up to the season certainly hasn't gone smooth. Four Giants already have tested positive for the coronavirus, and workouts at Oracle Park were suspended Tuesday pending the results of tests conducted this past weekend. 

If there actually is a season this year, Giants fans could get a glimpse of their exciting future. Manager Gabe Kapler already has raved about 18-year-old Marco Luciano, catcher Joey Bart is set to learn another position to help his major-league chances in the near future and a 20-year-old outfielder could make his MLB debut this season. It certainly didn't take long for Heliot Ramos to impress Kapler.

"I'm never one to rule anything out, and Ramos has shown especially well in these first couple of days," Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Ramos, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, might have been their most impressive prospect last year. He spent the entire season as a 19-year-old and made it all the way to Double-A Richmond. Through 77 games in Class A San Jose, Ramos hit .306 with 13 homers and 18 doubles before playing his final 25 games in Richmond. 

He only played two games with the big league club in spring training, but he did crush a two-run homer against the Colorado Rockies. On Monday, he opened eyes yet again with his approach at the plate. 

"He had another couple of good at-bats (Monday), just missed a hanging slider ... the whole camp kind of opened their mouths like, 'He really just missed putting that ball in the seats,' " Kapler said. "His engine is really incredible. Excellent bat speed, good throwing arm, smart kid, really great to have around." 

[RELATED: Giants could have some tough decisions with outfielders]

Ramos likely would have started the season in Triple-A Sacramento this year, or even played a few more games in Richmond. Now as he's part of the Giants' 60-man roster, he'll be in Sacramento at the Giants' sister site when the MLB season begins.

But at only 20 years old, Ramos could be in San Francisco playing for the Giants as soon as this season. 

"Wouldn't rule anything out," Kapler said. "Likelihood is there's probably a little more development there."

Patrick Mahomes contract could put pressure on 49ers signing George Kittle

Patrick Mahomes contract could put pressure on 49ers signing George Kittle

There have been two themes to the 49ers' offseason: Defending Jimmy Garoppolo and figuring out George Kittle's contract extension. 

Kittle is set to become a free agent following the upcoming season. The 49ers, of course, would love to lock him up before the star tight end ever hits the open market. But the coronavirus pandemic might have put a halt to negotiations. 

"It's not simple because of the times that we're in -- the pandemic, how revenues around the NFL could be dropping significantly next year and how it's tough for the 49ers to commit huge money to a player when you don't know what the salary cap is going to be," NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco said on the latest 49ers Insider Podcast. 

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

That didn't stop the Kansas City Chiefs from making Patrick Mahomes the first half-billion dollar man, though. Mahomes signed a 10-year contract extension that could be worth up to $503 million. Kittle and his agent, Jack Bechta, certainly took note of the megadeal. 

Mahomes joined Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and a select few to sign big contracts since the pandemic. It might be time for Kittle to be next. 

"Well, George Kittle and George Kittle's agent right now are going, 'It didn't seem to impact the Kansas City Chiefs and their decision making.' ... I think it puts the onus on the 49ers to now say that they are making a commitment to their best player," Maiocco said. 

[RELATED: How Mahomes' huge extension compares to Jimmy G's deal]

Kittle is a special player who deserves a special contract. He is the rare unicorn in the NFL, serving as a dominant blocker and receiver. While he isn't going to receive a Mahomes-esque contract, Kittle is due a big, big payday. 

That might need to come sooner than expected now, too. 

"If the Super Bowl champs can say we're going to give a record-breaking contract to our best player, then it sure seems to me there's pressure on the 49ers to do the same thing and give a record-breaking deal -- albeit at the tight end position -- to their best player," Maiocco said. 

The pressure already was on in Santa Clara to avoid a Super Bowl hangover. Now, the same goes with keeping Kittle a 49er for years to come.

How Giants prospect Marco Luciano has impressed manager Gabe Kapler

How Giants prospect Marco Luciano has impressed manager Gabe Kapler

The mind of a sports fan is simple yet complex. They demand wins in the now, however, they can't help but dream of who their favorite team's future star will be. 

For the Giants, it could be an 18-year-old powerful shortstop who already is making noise in Summer Camp as the major league roster preps for the upcoming 60-game season.

Catcher Joey Bart creates quite the buzz as he appears to be right on the cusp of the bigs despite Buster Posey still being entrenched as the Giants' everyday catcher. But it's Marco Luciano who seems to have true superstar potential. The Atlanta Braves have Ronald Acuna, who made an instant impact at 20 years old, and the Giants only can hope Luciano soon can do the same in San Francisco. 

On Sunday, Luciano, who is on the Giants' 60-man roster, gave coaches a glimpse of what the future can hold

"Kind of taller -- little lanky still -- not fully mature in the lower half, but incredibly twitchy," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said Monday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. "Incredibly athletic and rangy to both his left and his right. In the batter's box, high level of comfort and confidence."

Oracle Park can be a nightmare for hitters at times. It's one of the biggest ballparks in baseball and the San Francisco weather can huff and puff its way to keep the ball in the yard. Not many hitters have their way with this pitcher's paradise. 

Don't tell that to Luciano, though. 

"As a teenager, driving balls out of this ballpark, making this ballpark look small -- and quite frankly, I've known this ballpark a long time and it's pretty impressive to see how he stacks up with mature major leaguers at this point in his development," Kapler said. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Luciano, who played all of last season at only 17 years old, hit .322 with 10 homers and a 1.055 OPS in the Arizona Rookie League. He then finished the year with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes before being shut down with a leg injury. 

Wherever you look, Luciano is one of the Giants' top prospects along with Bart and Heliot Ramos. Some outlets even have him as San Francisco's best young player in the farm system, and it's easy to see why. Players with his kind of power and potential at such a young age don't come around too often. 

Kapler also wants to make sure expectations don't become unrealistic for Luciano. 

[RELATED: Three interesting observations about Giants' 60-game slate]

"There's reason to be excited about him," Kapler said. "Now the one thing I'll say is, it's not unusual to see very athletic, very talented, young players come through minor league systems. I think he's more talented than most, but at the same time this is a game that's about performance through the minor leagues and he's somebody to keep an eye on, certainly somebody to be especially excited about and he's got a ways to go in his development." 

There won't be a minor league season this year. Instead, Luciano will continue to develop in Sacramento after the MLB season begins. But for now, he'll just keep impressing in San Francisco, giving the Giants more of a reason to dream.