SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Giants announced their first round of non-roster invitees last month, there weren't any hugely surprising names on the list. The biggest questions might have been about a couple of top prospects who would not be in camp.
Joey Bart and Sean Hjelle were among those invited, but the Giants did not include Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop, who generally get ranked with Bart and teenager Marco Luciano in the top four on prospect lists.
Ramos (2017) and Bishop (2019) are former first-round draft picks, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the organization doesn't have a blanket policy of inviting first-round picks to camp the next year. Instead, as the Giants put together a spring roster, they worried more about having coverage.
They have plenty of outfielders in camp fighting for spare at-bats and reps, but you always need six catchers early on and that can be hard to find. That's one reason Bart was in camp last year a few months after his own draft and Ricardo Genoves, a 20-year-old catcher who hasn't played above Low-A ball Augusta was added as a non-roster invitee this time when Aramis Garcia got hurt.
"It's different with catchers, fairly or not," Zaidi said. "You need six guys in camp and that creates the opportunity a little earlier. For Joey, it was also about giving him a camp with (Bruce Bochy) and with Boch's catching history. I think there are extenuating circumstances."
Ramos spent nearly all of 2019 with Bart. They started the year together in San Jose and got promoted to Double-A Richmond at the same time before playing together in the Arizona Fall League. While Ramos will be in minor league camp this spring, Zaidi said the Giants might try to bring him over for some Cactus League games, and he said the 20-year-old center fielder "absolutely" will have an opportunity to reach the big leagues this year.
"We had guys last year work their way through two or three levels of the minors leagues so it's certainly something that he could do," Zaidi said. "I think both with him and Joey, just the injuries kind of slowed them down a little bit and maybe backed up their timetable for when they could potentially get to the big leagues this year, but we've talked about promoting guys aggressively when they kind of perform up to levels that warrant a promotion, and that'll be the case for both those guys."
Ramos dealt with a knee injury early last year but still put up a .306/.385/.500 slash line in San Jose. He had a .242/.321/.421 line in the much tougher Eastern League. Overall, Ramos hit 16 homers in his second full professional season and showed the kind of improved plate discipline the new regime has demanded of all prospects.
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The Giants should have plenty of opportunities later in March to bring Ramos over as a bench option in Cactus League games, and there's one player in particular who will be fired up to see him. Bart said he has formed a special bond with Ramos.
"He's really good, really good. I wish he was here but I know he'll be around," Bart said. "That kid is very special. I wouldn't say that about a lot of guys. If I see a guy that's really good it really opens my eyes. I don't say that about a lot of guys. He's strong, he hits the ball so far and so hard and he really doesn't even know what he's doing.
"The kid is just so strong and he's getting to be a lot smarter of a player. He's got great instincts, and that's something you can't teach."