Giants

How Heliot Ramos compares to other Giants who dominated in San Jose

How Heliot Ramos compares to other Giants who dominated in San Jose

LOS ANGELES -- Heliot Ramos spent his Tuesday night about an hour away from Dodger Stadium. Ramos, the Giants' No. 2 prospect, started in center field in the California League All-Star Game, held at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino.

The road to the big leagues will be a significantly longer trip, but it definitely doesn't look the way it did before the season. While most in the organization still view Ramos as more of a 2021 option, he has accelerated the timeframe with a huge first half in San Jose. 

Asked about Ramos recently, manager Bruce Bochy pointed out that this organization has a history of fast-tracking top hitting prospects. 

"We've shown in the past that if guys are making progress -- you go back to Pablo and Buster -- we'll bring them up on a fast pace," Bochy said. 

Buster Posey played 80 games in San Jose in 2009 and made a September cameo that same season; he was a big league starter the next year. Pablo Sandoval played 102 games in San Jose in 2007 and 68 in 2008, the season he ended up in the big leagues. Brandon Belt is another example on the big league roster; he destroyed the California League for 77 games in 2010 and made the Opening Day roster the next spring. 

Ramos, still just 19, is a bit of a different case. Given his age and his ups-and-downs last season in Augusta, the Giants expected him to have a lengthy run in San Jose. He still might, but his first-half numbers compare favorably to others who were moved quickly. 

Ramos has a .389 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage in San Jose. Posey was at .428 and .540, Sandoval at .353 and .528, and Belt at .492 and .628 (he seriously destroyed that league, which is part of why expectations have always been so high). By wRC+, Ramos (161) fits right in line with what Posey (157) and Sandoval (163 in his second season there) did in San Jose. 

The 2017 first-rounder has eight homers in 37 games and has improved his plate discipline, nearly doubling his walk rate year-over-year and cutting his strikeout rate by a couple of percentage points. That was an early sign that Ramos was ready to break out

"That's really exciting and that's obviously a point that's been emphasized with him and is a point for us in player development overall," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier this season. 

[RELATED: Watch Heliot Ramos hit two-run homer]

Zaidi has a desire to move top prospects quickly and challenge them, and while Ramos was slowed by a knee injury in May, he has joined Joey Bart as Giants minor leaguers who look ready to be pushed. 

"I thought once he got into the flow of professional ball he would get on a faster pace," Bochy said. "That's what's happening now. We got a chance to see him this spring and he's got some huge potential. With that bat speed, this kid can do some damage."

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

The Giants took plenty of criticism last week for their decision to hire Gabe Kapler as manager, but the week's other big move was met with positive reviews. One of the people who complimented Farhan Zaidi's decision to hire Scott Harris as general manager was the executive who had hoped to keep him around. 

At the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters that he was thrilled for Harris and knew it "was an opportunity he couldn't turn down -- a No. 2 (job) of another storied franchise in his hometown." Harris served as assistant general manager of the Cubs before Zaidi hired him last Sunday. 

"We're thrilled for him, but it was bittersweet," Epstein told NBC Sports Chicago. "We loved working with him and he was a big part of our culture and guys around the major-league team love working with him. It will leave a pretty significant void that we'll have to fill. We'll distribute a lot of his responsibilities around to a few different people internally and re-evaluate as we continue to look outside, if there happens to be the right fit outside the organization, too."

Harris' decision was a loss for the Cubs, who have had other notable departures in the front office since winning the World Series in 2016. There has been speculation within the industry that Epstein will leave the Cubs when his contract expires, which could have led to Jed Hoyer taking over that job and Harris getting Hoyer's GM responsibilities. 

[RELATED: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?]

Harris loved his time in Chicago and called working for Epstein and Hoyer a dream situation for anybody looking to break into the game. He was hired as a 25-year-old in 2012, but seven years later Zaidi called with an offer that was too good to turn down.

"He's got incredible work ethic. He's got significant intellectual capacity, but he's very down to Earth, fun to be around," Epstein said of Harris. "He doesn't tell you how smart he is. He's one of the guys everyone loves going to to share things and pick their brain. He's got a good feel around managing up, managing down, managing laterally, (a) good feel with the players and uniformed personnel. He'll do a really good job over there."

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler spent nearly an hour discussing the more controversial aspects of the Giants' manager hire, new general manager Scott Harris sat to Kapler's left and took it all in. Other than his own introductory remarks, Harris was mostly silent, but Zaidi smiled and looked at his GM when a reporter asked Zaidi how he planned to "attack free agency."

"Scott?" Zaidi said, laughing. 

Harris took the question, but he didn't give up much more than Zaidi would have. 

"We're excited to have the three of us in place and to start having those conversations that are full of debate, that are full of challenging each other," Harris said, "To make sure that we're targeting the right players and Gabe feels comfortable deploying those players in the right way to allow them to succeed."

More than anything, Kapler simply needs better players. Zaidi and Harris jumped right in to that process, flying to Scottsdale after the Kapler press conference despite the fact that they had already missed most of the first three days of the four-day GM Meetings. Zaidi and Harris have spent plenty of time over the last month discussing their future plans, but they planned to set up meetings in Scottsdale to start zeroing in on specific free agent targets. 

Who are those players? We know one who is off the list. Closer Will Smith signed with the Braves before Kapler could even move into his office, leaving a big hole in the bullpen. That's where we'll start in this early look at what the Giants need in free agency:

Bullpen

The closer right now is ... maybe Tony Watson? Maybe Shaun Anderson? Tyler Rogers and Sam Coonrod showed flashes as rookies, Trevor Gott is healing well, and guys like Jandel Gustave, Sam Selman and Andrew Suarez should be part of the mix. But that's not a good bullpen on paper. 

The Giants will need to add, although as we saw last year, they're more likely to do so with minor additions and trades -- like the Gott move. Don't expect them to spend big on what's left of the relief market. One of the best arms still out there, Drew Pomeranz, is already familiar to them. They're more likely to find the next reclamation project than sign a player looking for big money. 

Backup catcher

Stephen Vogt is wildly popular and had a very nice year as Buster Posey's partner, but he has talked of trying to win a World Series. He is smart enough to know San Francisco is not the place to do that in 2020. 

Vogt liked San Francisco and may return, but if he signs with a contender, the Giants will need a bridge to Joey Bart. Aramis Garcia is an option, but if Zaidi wanted to go with Erik Kratz last opening day over Garcia, it seems likely another veteran is brought in a year later. 

Lefty infielder

The Giants used more platoons last season and could use a left-handed hitter to take some at-bats away from Evan Longoria and Mauricio Dubon. Longoria had a .722 OPS against righties last season and Dubon is still unproven. Pablo Sandoval did some heavy lifting at third base last season, but he'll miss most of 2020 after Tommy John having surgery and is a free agent. The other backup infield option, Donovan Solano, also hits from the right side. 

Kean Wong, claimed off waivers earlier this month, hits left-handed, but he has just 18 big league at-bats. 

Righty outfielder

Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson (if he can stay healthy) should go into next season looking at meaty roles, but the Giants don't have much from the right side other than Kevin Pillar. Austin Slater's numbers took a nosedive in the second half and Jaylin Davis struggled in a September cameo. Joey Rickard is a candidate to be non-tendered. 

The Giants need outfield help in general, but they're especially lacking in right-handed pop. Zaidi tried plenty of fringe options in 2019. He has the financial wiggle room to take some bigger swings this offseason if he wants to. 

[RELATED: Giants continue Triples Alley work, move bullpens off field]

The Bumgarner situation

If it feels like we've hit on all corners of the roster here, it's because, well, yeah, the roster has a lot of holes. 

The biggest one is now at the top of the rotation, where the Giants very well may be looking for a way to replace their longtime ace. Bringing Bumgarner back would actually pretty much set the rotation. The Giants could feel pretty comfortable going into next spring with Bumgarner, a healthy Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, followed by the group of Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Anderson and any depth options Zaidi is able to scoop up. 

But pull Bumgarner out of that group and you have a big hole, especially because Beede is still mostly unproven and Webb will have an innings limit. Internally, Zaidi and Harris likely have already decided how hard they'll go after Bumgarner. If they're not intent on bringing him back, they'll need rotation help.