Down on the Farm

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos reflects on recent hot streak with San Jose

Everything felt right. There wasn’t anything off with his swing, he wasn’t pressing mentally, and yet, he only had one hit in his first 17 at-bats. 

All it took was a home run on April 9 to get Heliot Ramos, the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, back on track. Since then, he's hitting .349 (15-for-43) with five home runs.

“I knew that I was doing everything right,” Ramos said on Tuesday’s Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. “In my mind, everything was right. My confidence was good. My swing was good. I just needed the ball to get down. I just keep on swinging.” 

As he kept swinging, hits started to show up in the scorebook. What has been just as important, however, has been him not swinging. 

Ramos registered just 35 walks last season as a member of the Augusta GreenJackets and finished his first full season in the minor leagues with a lowly .313 on-base percentage. He worked all offseason tracking pitches longer and laying off breaking balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball, and it has paid off big time. 

Through 18 games in High-A with the San Jose Giants, Ramos already has 14 walks and his on-base percentage is over 100 points higher than last season (.418).

“I can see the ball well right now,” Ramos said. “I feel good. I’ve been feeling good. I learned a lot from last year. I hope this is something that can keep going good for me.” 

Not only has Ramos shown improved patience at the plate, but the center fielder is also driving the ball all over the yard. He’s batting .262 with a .991 OPS, and 11 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. Despite being the fifth-youngest player in the California League at 19 years old, he’s second in home runs (5), fifth in slugging percentage (.574), fifth in on-base percentage, fourth in walks, and third in OPS. 

San Jose was supposed to be a preview of what’s to come for years in San Francisco this season with the duo of Ramos and top prospect Joey Bart. A fractured hand for Bart has derailed those plans, but it hasn’t slowed down the younger of the two. 

Ramos no longer has the protection of Bart hitting right behind him. The teenager is seeing more off-speed pitches and is now the primary threat offensively to opposing teams. And yet, he’s flourished at the plate. 

[RELATED: Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see']

Since Bart broke his hand on April 15, Ramos has gone 8-for-26 (.308) with two home runs, two doubles, three RBI, and four runs scored. He’s growing every game as a player, both mentally and in the box score, and it could all be thanks to a disappointing season where he hit .245 with 136 strikeouts in 124 games last year. 

“Stay positive,” Ramos said when asked what he learned from last season. “That was the main thing I learned. Stay positive and never give up. Keep working hard and everything’s going to be okay.”

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see'

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos' advancement 'really encouraging to see'

Heliot Ramos looks more like a college safety playing football than a center fielder in the minor leagues. From his beard to his build, this isn't your average 19-year-old. 

Giants farm director Kyle Haines agrees.

“The physical tools are obviously there," Haines said on Tuesday's Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast

Ramos, the Giants' first-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, is listed at 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds. In person, it appears his muscular build appears even thicker, and at his young age there's still plenty of time for growth. His stature and potential turned the Giants on to draft him No. 19 overall, but it's his growth at the plate this season that has the franchise so excited. 

All offseason, Ramos worked on reading off-speed pitches better and laying off balls in the dirt while playing Winter Ball. Last season, he finished with a disappointing .313 on-base percentage. This year, Ramos is up to a .414 on-base percentage and has 11 walks to 13 strikeouts.

His ability to track late movement has stood out to Haines early in the year. 

“Those are characteristics that you usually see out of veteran hitters, and that was really encouraging to see that he’s started to acquire that skill," Haines said. 

Through 13 games, Ramos is batting .250 with 1.005 OPS for the High-A San Jose Giants. He's tied for the California League lead in home runs with four, is fourth in RBI (nine), fourth in total bases (26) and fourth in OPS. 

After starting the season 1-for-17, Ramos has 10 hits in his last 27 at-bats, good for a .370 batting average during that stretch.

“We’ve seen a huge advancement in his approach at the plate and I think that’s why you’ve seen the homers spike up a little bit," Haines said. 

It's hard to remember just how young Ramos is. When the Giants drafted him, he was only 17 years old and yet, he made a public goal of wanting to reach the major leagues in three years. Joey Bart is the talk of the Giants' farm system for all the right reasons and appears to be on the fast track to the bigs. But Ramos isn't too far behind. 

“He’d be a sophomore in college. He’s two years younger than Joey Bart," Haines reminded us. "We talk about Bart’s fast movement and then you stop and you’re thinking, ‘Hey what a minute. Heliot’s two years younger than what Joey is.’ It’s really encouraging to see … it’s exciting.” 

[RELATED: Bart, Ramos' San Jose Giants debut shows promise]

Ramos is the fifth-youngest player in the Cal League. He'll be a teenager all season long. The Giants, and fans alike, are seeing potential turn into production in only his second full season in the minors.

Why Giants believe Joey Bart can have 'great comeback' from his injury

Why Giants believe Joey Bart can have 'great comeback' from his injury

The San Jose Giants' game Monday was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Excite Ballpark. Perhaps for the first time ever, the whole Giants organization must be wishing a game was postponed by rain.

Instead, the tarp came on, and the game was delayed an hour with first pitch at 7:30 p.m. Field conditions remained wet, and the worst scenario occurred for Giants top prospect Joey Bart in the fourth inning, when a fastball hit him on his left hand and fractured the second metacarpal.

Bart will be in a cast and is expected to miss the next 4 to 6 weeks. The Giants are disappointed in the news, but they believe there's still plenty of positives for the catcher to take away off the field.

“It’s a setback, and it sets him up for a great comeback," Giants farm director Kyle Haines said to Joe Ritzo on Tuesday on the Inside The San Jose Giants Podcast. "It’s something that he’s gonna have to go through a lot of adversity, and this is something that will set him back and challenge him mentally. It gives him opportunities to maybe grow in other ways off the field, just with his knowledge and maybe take a step back.

"Maybe we can take some positives from this and teach him some things that aren’t necessarily between the lines and help his development there." 

The talent is there for Bart. The Giants knew that long before taking him with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. His mental makeup, however, is what's really impressed Haines and the rest of the Giants’ front office. 

“He came here really eager to show people what he could do on the field,” Haines said. “Joey stepped on the field, and from Day 1 has wanted to be a leader and key part of this team and help this team win.”

At the time of his injury, Bart was batting .270 with two home runs, eight RBI and an .882 OPS. He's also already thrown out seven base runners and picked off several more. How he's handled San Jose's pitching staff is what really encourages Haines. 

"It’s fantastic to watch him interact with the pitchers and learn them,” he said, “because he takes a lot of pride in his defense and his ability to work with pitchers, which is such a rare thing to see with someone who has such stardom to him.” 

Bart's arm strength stands out right away. It's been a real weapon in his first nine games behind the dish this season. Though his defense is highly regarded, Bart's receiving skills can use work at times. And he's done just that, constantly seeking advice and reviewing film on his defense.

Haines said Bart's receiving alone saved runs for San Jose in the team's opening series in Visalia. 

“He takes a lot of pride in saving his team extra base runners and runs with his receiving alone," Haines said. "It’s a rare quality to have because everyone goes to the batting average and things that look a little flashier, but he loves diving in deeper and asking, ‘Hey, how can I help this team?’ “

[RELATED: Bart, Ramos' San Jose Giants debut shows promise]

There's no doubt Bart still is on the fast track to the big leagues. Giants manager was Bruce Bochy admitted Wednesday, though, that he doesn't expect Bart to make his big league debut this year, in part because of his injury.

To make up for lost at-bats, Haines said Bart could be given an Arizona Fall League assignment after the season.

For now, the Giants will play it safe with their top prospect. From his skills to his intangibles, though, it's clear a healthy Bart will be in the bigs in no time.