The San Francisco Giants haven’t had a homegrown All-Star from outside the U.S. since Pablo Sandoval in 2012. But that should change not too long from now, as teenage studs like Dominicans Marco Luciano (17 years old) and Luis Toribio (18) as well as Cuban Jairo Pomares (19) develop into Big Leaguers. More advanced than those talents is Puerto Rico’s Heliot Ramos, who doesn’t turn 20 until next month but is already in Double-A. Ramos, whose first name is pronounced “Elliot,” signed for $3.1 million as the #19 overall pick in 2017 and posted a solid .709 OPS in A-Ball last year with the Augusta GreenJackets. He took it to another level in High-A this year, batting .306 with 13 homers and an .886 OPS in 77 games for San Jose. After last week’s callup to the Richmond Flying Squirrels, he is now five years younger than the average Double-A player, evidence of his ability and maturity.
The first thing you notice about Ramos is that he is an absolute tank. Standing about 6’1” and already well over 200 pounds, he has meat hooks for hands and makes the bat look like a broom handle. His stance is very wide—something he explained to me helps him see the ball well and stay balanced…he could probably generate extra power standing more upright, but Ramos is so strong that he’s a home run threat as is. The right-handed batsmen is direct to the ball for lots of contact, and with a launch angle swing, he can send one a long way:
Ramos’s is an all fields approach, with over half of his hits coming to center and right field in the 5 games I scouted him in San Jose. He has good, if not excellent bat-to-ball ability: he grinds out At Bats, fighting off the good pitches and hammering the bad ones, but he can be beat on fastballs up or inside, even relatively slow ones at 89 to 92 mph. That said, he’s always looking to make adjustments, and a couple times inside-outed a fastball for a base hit after getting jammed earlier in the AB. What I really like is that Ramos doesn’t pull off on pitches away, but lets the ball reach the plate and tries to just shoot the barrel through to right field.
Ramos sometimes looks stiff just walking around, but then suddenly he’ll take off towards the outfield with a bubbly energy, moving well for his size. Nonetheless, it’s hard to envision him staying in center as a twenty-two or twenty-six year old. Fortunately, he has the arm for right field, which is especially important at the Giants’ newly-named Oracle Park, with its Bermuda Triangle right field as deep as 421 feet. Ramos is an uninspiring 15 for 30 in stolen base attempts the past two seasons, which makes sense given it takes him a while to get going…he does do a good job of hustling for doubles and occasional triples. I’d say he’s a touch above average speed right now but ends up as a 50 runner in the Big Leagues. The big man has been wearing a brace on his left knee after spraining it in late April, but he showed no signs of favoring that leg and ran aggressively all week, so it doesn’t seem like a long-term issue.
Last but not least, Ramos shows strong character: he didn’t study English growing up in Puerto Rico but already speaks it fluidly after just two years stateside. He was nice enough to chat with me for five minutes, eagerly answering detailed questions about his swing mechanics. He’s very funny, joking with teammates and coaches between focused rounds of BP and giving you a wry smirk as everyone bakes in the sun three hours before game time. Giants fans will absolutely love Heliot when he gets to San Francisco some time these next few seasons.
Ultimately, I think Ramos will be a good .350 to .375 OBP guy who gives you 25 to 30 homers in his prime (though that will be suppressed by 81 home games at Oracle Park). I also see his BB-K ratio improving as he faces more top pitching and ages out of being the youngest guy at every level he plays. He posted 35 BBs to 136 K’s last year and is at 36-95 this year…I could see him walking at least half as often as he K’s in the Bigs. Two MLB comps are Nick Castellanos and a mid-20s Justin Upton, both big right-handed batters with power. Ramos might have the least raw power of the three, but he’ll walk more and hold his own defensively, providing a win or two beyond the 3 wins above replacement you expect from Castellanos and Upton.
So there you have it. Ramos’ abilities don’t scream perennial All-Star, but he has a good shot to make a Midsummer Classic and break the homegrown international drought that has plagued the Giants these past seven seasons. I, for one, will be rooting for him.
Follow Jacob on Twitter @TheReelJZ