San Jose Giants

Why Giants top prospects Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos exceeded expectations

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Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants top prospects Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos exceeded expectations

Throughout the Giants' minor league system, a lot of champagne was popped this season. Five team affiliates are headed to the playoffs, and yet, San Francisco's top two prospects weren't a part of the celebrations. 

Catcher Joey Bart and center fielder Heliot Ramos spent the majority of their seasons with the San Jose Giants in Class A Advanced. San Jose claimed a playoff spot in the California League on the last day of the regular season Monday, but the young stars had already moved up to Double-A Richmond. 

And while the Flying Squirrels won seven of their final eight games, they went just 32-40 on the regular season and missed the Eastern League playoffs. There's a much bigger picture than reaching the playoffs in Double-A when it comes to Bart and Ramos, though. 

Both prospects entered the season with sky-high expectations. To the delight of Giants fans and the front office alike, both met or exceeded those expectations. 

Bart, 22, came into the season with a bar set impossibly high to reach. After crushing 13 homers with a .983 OPS in Class A Short Season for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes last season, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft spent nearly all of spring training with the big league club. Down in the desert, it was clear the Giants might have another star catcher in their future. 

In his first big-league camp, Bart hit .350 (7-for-20) with one home run, two doubles and seven RBI over 15 games. He impressed the club so much that he was given the Barney Nugent Award, which is handed out annually to the player who performs the best in his first major league camp.

A number of Giants fans began wondering when they would see Bart in San Francisco. Could it be as soon as this season? What happens to Buster Posey? These questions popped left and right, but the Giants made the wise decisions of lowering expectations and starting Bart and Ramos together in San Jose. 

Bart hit .265 with 12 homers, 10 doubles and a .793 OPS in 57 games with San Jose. He did so while also fracturing his left hand and getting in the squat for nearly 440 innings. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound catcher opened eyes with his defense, too, and was named Best Defensive Catcher by Cal League coaches

When he was promoted to Double-A Richmond in early August, Bart hit below .200 through his first 12 games. Then, he caught fire.

Bart was named the Eastern League Player of the Week to end the regular season. He hit .538 with a homer, four doubles, a triple and six RBI in his final seven games of the regular season. Over 22 games with the Flying Squirrels, Bart hit .316 with four homers, 11 RBI and a .912 OPS. 

Though Bart fared better in Double-A than Ramos, the younger of the two was the Giants' best prospect this season. 

Ramos, who still is a teenager until Sept. 7, experienced a frustratingly down year in 2018. He burst onto the scene shortly after the Giants took him with the No. 19 pick in the 2017 draft, but hit just .245 with a lowly .313 on-base percentage the next year for Single-A Augusta. The 19-year-old outfielder focused on laying off balls in the dirt and seeing pitches deeper while playing Winter Ball, and it showed. 

Ramos raised his on-base percentage 72 points in San Jose, up to .385. He walked 35 times in 124 games last season, and registered just three fewer in 77 games with the Giants. Though his strikeout rate was nearly identical to last season, Ramos consistently worked deep counts from opposing pitchers. 

Before being promoted to Double-A on the same day as Bart, Ramos hit .306 with 13 homers, 18 doubles and an .885 OPS in San Jose. Like Bart, too, Ramos dealt with an injury (knee) which he had to overcome.

Ramos was named the Giants' Team MVP and was recognized by Cal League coaches as well. He took home three different honors: Best Power, Best Defensive Outfielder and Most Exciting Prospect. 

At the time of his promotion to Double-A, Ramos was the youngest player in Flying Squirrels history. Though he hit .242, Ramos did knock another three homers and six doubles in 25 games with Richmond, and finished the year on a six-game hitting streak.

To put the Eastern League in perspective, too, this season was the league's 10th-lowest ERA (3.54) in league history and sixth-lowest since 1990.

[RELATED: Giants prospect Ramos ends breakout 2019 with a bang]

Bart and Ramos will continue to play together as the two are now slated to join the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League, which begins Sept. 18. They started the season in San Jose together, went up to Richmond together and now will do so in the desert. 

While the two missed out on the celebrations this season, if the Giants are popping champagne in the coming years, Bart and Ramos likely will be right in the middle of the festivities.

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos ends breakout 2019 season with long homer

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Ali Thanawalla

Giants prospect Heliot Ramos ends breakout 2019 season with long homer

Bang.

That's the sound the ball makes off Heliot Ramos’ bat.

That's also how the Giants' No. 2 prospect finished his breakout 2019 season. With a bang.

In the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels' season finale Monday, Ramos went 2-for-4 with a three-run homer that traveled an estimated 417 feet.

The Flying Squirrels didn't qualify for the Eastern League playoffs, so Ramos' season came to an end with the 7-1 win over the Bowie Baysox.

The Giants have high hopes for the 2017 first-round draft pick, who showed a lot of potential this season.

Ramos began the year with the High-A San Jose Giants, and NBC Sports Bay Area was there for his debut in Visalia in April. The 19-year-old center fielder wasn't overmatched by the older competition, either. He excelled in 77 games with San Jose, slashing .306/.385/.500 while hitting 13 homers and driving in 40 runs.

The Giants vowed to be aggressive with their top prospects this year, so with a month left in the minor league season, Ramos, top prospect Joey Bart and 2018 second-round pick Sean Hjelle all were promoted to Richmond.

Ramos held his own in 25 games with Richmond, slashing .242/.321/.421. His homer Monday was his third as a Flying Squirrel.

[RELATED: Ramos, Bart honored by coaches]

Ramos will turn 20 this weekend. The next step for him is the Arizona Fall League, which is considered a finishing school for the top prospects in baseball.

Shortly after the Giants drafted him in 2017, Ramos said he wanted to be in the major leagues in three years. If he continues his consistent play in 2020, he should make good on his goal, as a strong spring training could put him on the fast track to the bigs.

Courtney Hawkins ties San Jose Giants records, launches three home runs

Courtney Hawkins ties San Jose Giants records, launches three home runs

The fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana stole the show again this summer with the third season of "Stranger Things" on Netflix. But on Sunday in Stockton, California, it was San Jose Giants outfielder Courtney Hawkins who put on a show. 

Hawkins tied San Jose Giants records for hits and home runs in a single game while the team pounded the Ports, 15-1, at Banner Island Ballpark. The 25-year-old outfielder went 5-for-6 with three dingers and a career-high six RBI. 

"It was really fun to watch all those homers, especially that last one," San Jose Giants manager Hector Borg said to MiLB's Katie Woo. "That one was really far."

Hawkins grounded out in his first at-bat before turning the day into a minor league Home Run Derby. 

The former first-round draft pick hit his first homer in the second inning, crushing a three-run blast to straightaway center field. Hawkins led off the fifth inning with a solo shot to left and then launched another solo shot to left-center in the ninth inning. 

Hawkins has dealt with an up-and-down career since the White Sox selected him with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He was ranked as the White Sox's No. 1 prospect entering the 2013 season, but hasn't been able to live up to the hype. 

Through eight seasons in the minors, Hawkins has a lowly .226 batting average and has now hit 100 career homers down on the farm. He was released by the Reds in mid-May, but has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence since the Giants signed him. 

"I'm really happy for him," Borg said. "He works hard every day."

[RELATED: Three things we learned about Giants prospect Dubon in doc]

Hawkins is hitting .261 with 17 homers and an .807 OPS in 80 games with San Jose.

Regardless of whether a trip to San Francisco is in his future or not, Hawkins will never forget hitting a trio of homers in Stockton as a San Jose Giant.