Giants

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos hits first homer of Arizona Fall League

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Ali Thanawalla

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos hits first homer of Arizona Fall League

While fellow Giants top prospect Joey Bart is tearing the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League, the desert hasn't be quite as kind to Heliot Ramos. 

The 20-year-old entered Saturday batting just .158 in nine games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. Ramos has been on the wrong end of some bad luck, though, having several hard hits caught in the AFL. The same happened his first at-bat Friday night in a line drive right at the shortstop, but later in the game, he hit one far enough and hard enough that nobody could catch. 

Ramos, the Giants' No. 2 prospect, showed off his impressive opposite-field power with his first homer in the Fall League. 

For a prospect as young as Ramos -- he was 19 years old the whole 2019 season -- the center fielder has advanced power to the opposite field. Of his 13 homers in Class A Advanced San Jose this season, eight were to center or right field, via BaseballSavant. 

As far as Ramos' tough luck goes, he's sticking with his plan despite some underwhelming stats. 

"It's been kind of tough, but I feel like I've been doing a pretty good job," Ramos said to MLB.com's Jim Callis. "... Can't do nothing about it if you hit the ball hard and they caught it."

[RELATED: Bart’s insane AFL stats could speed up his Giants future]

Ramos does have 10 strikeouts to only one walk so far. He says he's recognizing pitches better, however, and that has been a big emphasis of his game the past two offseasons. 

Though the numbers aren't encouraging on paper, the AFL is all about more development for Ramos. He's on the fast track to the big leagues and has all the tools to be a future star. Right now, he just needs to focus on fine-tuning his raw skills. 

Why Giants need to upgrade shortstop in 2020, according to MLB.com

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USATSI

Why Giants need to upgrade shortstop in 2020, according to MLB.com

Shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik formed a Giants double-play duo up the middle for nearly six seasons.

One half of the pair already is gone after San Francisco released Panik in August, and he joined the Mets shortly after. Could Crawford be on his way out, too? 

MLB.com's Will Leitch identified the problem areas for each team going into next season, and his position for the Giants comes as a bit of surprise. 

"Brandon Crawford is under contract for next year, but the Giants need to build from the inside out, and shortstop is a position they’re starting from too far behind on," Leitch wrote. 

Crawford, who turns 33 years old in January, has one season remaining on his six-year, $75 million contract and is coming off the worst season of his nine-year career. The two-time All-Star hit just .228 with 11 home runs and a .654 OPS. 

His 0.6 bWAR was the lowest of his career since 2011, the season in which he debuted with the Giants. To make matters worse, the three-time Gold Glove winner had an oddly down year defensively. 

For the first time in his career, Crawford wasn't worth a positive defensive run saved, according to FanGraphs. He finished at exactly zero, down from six in 2018. Crawford's .972 fielding percentage also was his lowest since 2015. 

But if the Giants do try to dangle Crawford on the trade market this offseason, they could have a solid replacement in Mauricio Dubon

The 25-year-old Dubon might be better pegged as a second baseman, though he has shown the ability to play shortstop just fine. Dubon, acquired from the Brewers at the MLB trade deadline, hit .279 with four homers, three stolen bases and a .754 OPS in 28 games for the Giants. 

[RELATED: Giants excited about future with infusion of young talent]

Dubon played second base in 22 games compared to 10 as a shortstop when he joined the Giants, but has played 475 games at shortstop to 113 as a second baseman in the minors. He is an in-house option right away if Crawford winds up on a new team. The free-agent market is thin this offseason at shortstop outside of Didi Gregorious, too. 

If Crawford does remain the Giants' shortstop, they certainly need him to have a bounce-back season next year. 

Why Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar could be a non-tender candidate

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USATSI

Why Giants outfielder Kevin Pillar could be a non-tender candidate

The Giants are facing a series of difficult decisions this offseason. They must search for a new manager and general manager, and they also must decide whether to re-sign longtime ace Madison Bumgarner.

There also are a handful of players who are eligible for salary arbitration with San Francisco, including early season acquisition Kevin Pillar. The outfielder started 150 games for the Giants after being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays in April.

MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand recently included Pillar on a list of 12 MLB players who might not be tendered a contract offer before the Dec. 2 deadline.

Here is why:

Traded from the Blue Jays to the Giants one week into the season, the 30-year-old Pillar posted a 93 OPS+ -- his highest mark since 2015 -- with an underwhelming .293 on-base percentage. While Pillar remains a good outfielder, he’s no longer the elite defender he was earlier in his career. Pillar earned $5.8 million in '19, but heading into his third and final year of arbitration-eligibility, it remains to be seen whether the Giants will find his potential price tag too high for their liking. 

Pillar’s veteran presence was valuable for the Giants during a season when a litany of prospects came up to make significant contributions in the majors.

Despite the many defensive web gems Pillar has produced throughout his time in MLB, he never has won a Gold Glove, and he was just a hair above the league-average fielding percentage for a center fielder in 2019 (.986, league average .984).

Farhan Zaidi and the Giants' front office -- which has been increasingly reliant on advanced metrics compared other regimes -- has a difficult decision to make on Pillar.

Zaidi did mention during his end-of-season press conference that the team will be looking for players who can hit well at Oracle Park -- something the team struggled mightily with last season. Out of the 63 home runs hit by the Giants in their home ballpark in 2019, Pillar had 11 of them.

[RELATED: Giants prospect Ramos close to making good on lofty goal]

Will comfort at home be enough to justify an increased salary?

We likely won’t know until closer to that Dec. 2 deadline.