Giants

Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The statement was bold, but Giants officials loved it. 

Heliot Ramos, 17 at the time, visited Oracle Park a few weeks after he was taken in the first round in 2017 and announced that he hoped to be back and in the lineup in three years.

A few feet away, manager Bruce Bochy sat with some members of the front office. They smiled and said they hoped the confident young outfielder would reach his dreams. 

The three-year mark comes next summer, and it turns out Ramos' lofty goal might have actually been pretty reasonable. The Giants hope he'll start next season in Triple-A, and president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said recently the hope is that Ramos and Joey Bart debut next season. 

As he leaned back on a bench outside Salt River Fields in Scottsdale earlier this week, Ramos -- who is playing in the Arizona Fall League -- flashed a wide smile as his teenage words were repeated back to him. 

"I hope so, but I've got a different mindset now," he said. "I've learned how baseball works. I always knew it was hard because I've seen it with my brother (minor leaguer Henry Ramos), but I'd never experienced it myself."

It's a difficult journey through the minors, but more and more, hitters are breaking through before they're even legally old enough to drink. Since Ramos sat in that dugout three years ago, players like Juan Soto (currently 20), Ronald Acuña Jr. (21), Fernando Tatis Jr. (20) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (20) have become fixtures in MLB lineups. 

 

It's a big part of the game now, and that age gap is what made Ramos' 2019 season so exciting. Overall, he hit .290 with a .369 on-base percentage, .481 slugging percentage and 16 homers in a season that was shortened to 102 games because of a knee sprain. 

But Ramos was more than three years younger than the average hitter in the California League, and five years younger than average in the Eastern League. Even now in the Fall League, where the top prospects are often younger, Ramos -- who doesn't turn 21 until next September -- is 3.2 years below the average age of hitters. 

Ramos has struggled in the Fall League, picking up just seven hits in 41 at-bats, and his numbers took a dip in Double-A. He had a .742 OPS in 25 games there but said he loved the challenge. 

"It was pretty cool," he said. "I liked the competition there. I liked the players there. It was really good and I liked my time there a lot. The pitchers, they execute more than at other levels. The stuff might be the same, but they execute better and they know what they're doing."

The jump from Double-A to the big leagues can be a short one, but Ramos still has some work to do. His plate discipline was much better in his second full season, but he did strike out in 30 percent of his at-bats. The Giants have kept Ramos in center field, which he is happy about, but he'll need to continue to prove that's his future home. 

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Still, it was a promising season, one in which Ramos formed a close bond with Bart, who could hit directly behind him or in front of him at Oracle Park one day if all goes according to plan. Ramos once set out a grand vision, and he's getting close to reaching that goal. But he said he's not getting too caught up in the idea of advancing at such a young age.

"It's the same game for everybody," he said. "You just have to make adjustments. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, you just have to play baseball. It's the same for everybody."