Maybe it's because he was drafted in the middle of a shocking 98-loss season. Maybe it's because the Giants had the No. 2 pick a year after that, and in addition to Joey Bart they signed a Dominican shortstop, Marco Luciano, who quickly became their most exciting prospect in a decade. Maybe it's because minor injuries have kept the organization's top outfield prospect from ever putting up a huge minor league season.
Whatever the reason, Heliot Ramos has flown under the radar.
Ramos is a 21-year-old outfielder who has made steady progress for an organization that doesn't produce homegrown outfielders. He's a former 19th overall pick who reached Double-A as a teenager, and he has consistently been a top 100 prospect.
While others might get more attention from fans, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about the season that's ahead for Ramos, and both president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler brought him up Friday on a pre-spring training Zoom call with reporters. Ramos isn't under-the-radar in the halls at Scottsdale Stadium.
"I'm definitely excited about seeing more of Heliot Ramos," Kapler said. "I've heard so much about him from (farm director Kyle Haines) and others in player development. I'm just excited to see that engine in action."
It's a complete package that should have Ramos on the fast track this year. He has always flashed 30-homer potential, and in 2019, Ramos hit 16 homers in 102 games for San Jose and Richmond despite being five years younger than most of the other players on the field. What was so exciting for Zaidi and the new regime, which inherited Ramos, was the improvement in plate discipline.
After striking out 136 times and walking just 35 in Low-A, Ramos was at 85-to-32 in High-A in 2019 before a promotion to Double-A. He predictably struggled as he got accustomed to the higher level, and the pandemic cost him a chance to spend all or most of 2020 facing advanced pitching. Zaidi said he thought Ramos might have been as hurt as any top Giants prospect to miss a full season.
"He was on a path to potentially play in the big leagues in 2020, and we just know that he's motivated and how highly we all think of him from an organizational standpoint," Zaidi said. "It's going to be fun to see him out there."
Ramos spent three weeks at Summer Camp last July but this is his first time in big league camp at Scottsdale Stadium. While the games will be shorter, he still figures to get plenty of reps. The Giants want to move starting center fielder Mauricio Dubon around the diamond during Cactus League games and their big league roster is filled with veteran outfielders who will be focused on staying healthy through March.
Ramos and fellow camp invitee Hunter Bishop should get a lot of opportunities to show that they're the future. Both have remained in center field, and part of the goal this spring will be evaluating how they line up defensively. Most scouts believe Ramos will ultimately outgrow center and end up in a corner, but for now center is his quickest path to the big leagues.
The Giants did not add a proven center fielder this offseason, and if Ramos gets off to a hot start in Double-A and quickly earns that promotion to Triple-A, there won't be much ahead of him on the depth chart if help is needed at the big league level.
That might be a conversation for later in the summer. For now, the Giants want to let their top prospects settle in after a lost year. Zaidi reiterated that they will be conservative with their placements out of camp but then promote aggressively during the season.
"I anticipate this being a year when guys will have the opportunity to work their way through multiple levels to sort of make up for lost time," he said. "We won't put guys in overly challenging situations out of the gates because I think all these guys need to get their footing under them and get back into the rhythm of the season before we put those kinds of challenges on their plates."