Heliot Ramos

Giants prospect Will Wilson makes good first impression, hates Dodgers

Giants prospect Will Wilson makes good first impression, hates Dodgers

New Giants prospect Will Wilson came to San Francisco on Tuesday in a trade with the Angels, but that doesn't make him a fan of Los Angeles.

In fact, he should fit in quite well with his new organization -- if old tweets are to be believed.

See for yourself:

Talk about making a great first impression.

Wilson, 21, was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft and slashed .275/.328/.439 over 189 at-bats in rookie ball last season with five home runs and 10 doubles. If he can live up to his ranking as the Angels' No. 4 prospect, he'll endear himself to Giants fans even further.

[RELATED: How Giants' flexibility set up trade for top prospect]

Wilson joins a San Francisco minor league system that has been overhauled in recent years and now features highly-touted prospects such as Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Marco Luciano and Hunter Bishop. Most of them likely will be teammates at some point throughout their minor-league journeys, but the hope is that they will form the core of the next generation of Giants baseball.

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

What are Giants' plans in center field after Kevin Pillar non-tender?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The decision to non-tender Kevin Pillar, like several others made over the past year, was not a popular one with Giants fans.

Pillar was a Willie Mac Award winner who did two things that fans could easily cheer: Hit home runs and make diving catches.

Go on Twitter and you'll find fans who say they won't attend a game next season and a weird contingent that believes Farhan Zaidi is a secret agent still working for the Dodgers. But all that anger ignores one key fact. The man who decided to move on from Pillar is the same one who acquired him a week into the season for two players who are no longer with the Blue Jays and one who had an 8.11 ERA in the minors. 

The Giants hired Zaidi to make good decisions, and there's no doubt that the trade for Pillar was a brilliant one. Zaidi believes moving on after one season is the right move, too, and time will tell if he's correct. 

What we know for now is that there's no going back, and there will be a new look in center field. In a conversation on Monday afternoon, Zaidi said the emphasis will be on adding production to the corner outfield spots. It's hard to find a good center fielder in free agency anyway, so the Giants will go young and go in-house.

Here's what that might look like in 2020:

The Favorite

Mike Yastrzemski got just 30 innings in center field last season because Pillar was an everyday player, but he generally looked comfortable out there, and he should. Yastrzemski actually has more minor league starts in center field (224) than any other position, and he has over 2,000 professional innings of experience in the middle of the outfield. 

Yastrzemski probably won't be climbing many walls or diving nearly as often as Pillar did, but he did a nice job in the corners last year and was worth seven Defensive Runs Saved in right field and eight overall. 

The Giants are fully confident that Yastrzemski can handle center field at Oracle Park -- the dimensions are shrinking a bit, too -- and if the season started today he would be their center fielder. 

The Young Guys

A year ago at this time, Steven Duggar was the Center Fielder of the Future. Duggar is still just 26 years old and is expected to be 100 percent for spring training after another season-ending shoulder injury. 

The Giants can't go into 2020 counting on much from Duggar, but they certainly are hoping for a breakthrough. If he improves his plate discipline and taps into his natural speed, Duggar could be the everyday center fielder. He's the organization's best defensive center fielder and would have been even if Pillar was brought back.

Jaylin Davis is another player the Giants want to take a long look at, although he has just 30 minor league starts in center field. Davis may see time out there in the big leagues, but he's more likely to benefit from the Pillar decision in a different way. With Yastrzemski set for lots of time in center, Davis -- a 25-year-old who hit 35 homers in the minors last year -- will have an opportunity to win at-bats in one of the corner spots. The same holds true for Austin Slater and potentially Chris Shaw. 

The Wild Card

When Zaidi traded a week of strong Drew Pomeranz relief appearances for Mauricio Dubon, he mentioned that one thing the Giants loved about Dubon was his potential as a super-utility player. On deadline day, Zaidi compared Dubon to Chris Taylor, but another Dodger could be a better fit. Kiké Hernandez mostly started at second base for the Dodgers last year but also made 43 appearances in the outfield, and Dubon is expected to shag plenty of fly balls next spring. 

Given where the roster is right now, Dubon is also the starting second baseman and a strong option to split time with Brandon Crawford at shortstop. But if he can handle center field, the Giants would have more of the flexibility they're seeking. They plan to be active in the infield market this offseason. If they add another middle infielder who hits right-handed, could you see that player at shortstop against left-handers with Donovan Solano at second and Dubon in center? 

The Future

When the Giants drafted Heliot Ramos in 2017, some scouts predicted he would move to right field. But the Giants have kept Ramos in center and there's no indication that he'll need to be moved next season. There were fears that Ramos would outgrow the position as he hit his early 20s, but he appeared slimmed down in the Arizona Fall League and the Giants will keep him in the middle of the diamond for now. 

[RELATED: Dickerson returns to Giants on one-year deal]

Now, Ramos is only 20 and doesn't even have 100 at-bats above A-ball, but the new regime wants to be aggressive with top prospects and Ramos will come to Scottsdale in February with a strong chance to earn a promotion to Triple-A. The plan is for Ramos to spend all, or most, of the season in Sacramento, but a September call-up seems likely and the Giants won't hold their No. 2 prospect back if the bat proves ready earlier than that. 

If you're looking way down the line, Hunter Bishop, last year's top pick, is also a center fielder. Bishop is likely at least a couple of years away, but he should start next season in San Jose. 

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos confident as he closes in on MLB dreams

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ALI THANAWALLA

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos confident as he closes in on MLB dreams

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. 

[RELATED: What will Giants do with six arbitration-eligible players?]

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."