SAN FRANCISCO — As he walked into the Giants clubhouse a little after 9 a.m. Sunday, Heliot Ramos ran into veteran Joc Pederson, who brought the young outfielder in for a hug. In other words, one newcomer welcoming another.
Pederson continued on his way to the field, and Ramos headed the opposite direction, through the double doors and to his locker, where he was greeted by a much more familiar sight: his No. 53 jersey hanging adjacent to Joey Bart’s No. 21. Rising through the ranks together, Bart and now Ramos mark the first of the prospects that revitalized San Francisco’s once-depleted farm system to arrive in the majors.
“That’s my boy,” Ramos said of Bart, prior to making his big league debut Sunday in left field.
Wearing gold-plated, leopard-print cleats, Ramos singled in his first at-bat and hustled all the way from first base to score the Giants’ first run of their series finale against the Marlins, then slapped another single to right field in his second at-bat. The swaggy spikes were actually property of Brandon Crawford, who had lent them to Pederson, who allowed Ramos to use them.
The rest of his gear, though, was his own. The bat and ball from his first hit, he said, he would give to his parents, mom Norma and dad Pita, who couldn’t make it Sunday but will be in the stands on Monday.
Before he stepped to the plate each time, Ramos took a deep breath, held it in, then exhaled. It’s part of a breathing exercise, similar to what Logan Webb does, that Ramos picked up in spring training this year. Any nerves he had in his first two at-bats had disappeared by the third time he stepped to the plate.
Heading to the on-deck circle, he told manager Gabe Kapler, I expected to be more nervous than that.
“Get a hit in your first at-bat, that creates a little confidence and swagger,” Kapler said. “He maintained that swagger throughout. … I don’t think you could draw it up better.”
Although Bart wasn’t in the lineup, receiving his first day off of the season, the 25-year-old catcher had already done plenty to signal that the future had arrived, earning the first Opening Day start of the post-Buster Posey era and homering deep to left field.
That afternoon, Bart caught Webb in what the Giants hope will be the first of many Opening Day starts for their homegrown battery. Only two days later, they were joined by Ramos, bearing the fruits of their 2017 first-round selection and further reaping the payoff of a restocked farm system that has more prospects on the way.
“It’s the happiest day of my life,” Ramos said. “I’ve been waiting for this.”
So, too, have the Giants and their fans.
When the Giants drafted Ramos 19th overall in 2017, he was a fresh graduate of Leadership Christian Academy in Puerto Rico, still three months shy of his 18th birthday. More importantly, the Giants’ farm system was widely viewed as barren after winning three World Series in the first half of the decade. Entering 2017, Baseball America believed only six teams had less talent throughout its system; prospect expert Keith Law, then at ESPN, ranked the Giants’ system 20th in MLB.
That June, they added Ramos with their first-round pick. The following year, they went back to the amateur draft to nab Bart second overall, their highest draft pick since Will Clark in 1985. Former general manager Bobby Evans restocked the organization’s farm system even more with the 2018 international signing class, which brought in Marco Luciano, Luis Matos and Jairo Pomares, a trio that could arrive as soon as next season.
All three started this season at High-A Eugene, along with fellow top-10 prospects Hunter Bishop, Patrick Bailey and Kyle Harrison, the Giants’ first-round picks in 2019 (Bishop) and 2020 (Bailey), and a third-rounder (Harrison) who signed for first-round money. The roster is as stacked as any other in minor league baseball.
The next wave of prospects is following the same path as Ramos and Bart, who were drafted a year apart and spent the larger part of the last three seasons as teammates at every level from High-A San Jose to Triple-A Sacramento. Together, they improved the Giants’ placement in Baseball America’s ranking to 17th entering this season (climbing as high as No. 14 last year) and all the way to ninth in Law’s latest rankings.
“It’s almost like everywhere I was at or he was at, we were there with each other,” Bart said. “We spent a lot of time together, talked a lot together. … From High-A to Double-A, Futures Game, Triple-A, now in the big leagues. … We always talked about it. … So it’s pretty special.”
The Giants opted against handing over a high-dollar contract to a free agent outfielder, in part to keep the door open for Ramos.
Kapler said Ramos is “definitely physically capable” and “definitely talented enough” to fill the role of a big-time right-handed bat. The timing of the call-up, coming only two games into the season, surprised some folks — including Ramos — but Kapler said it was “really about Heliot’s talent, the timing being right for him to make an impact on our roster, what he’s accomplished in his minor league career and what he’s accomplished in camp the last couple years.”
On Sunday, after receiving a large round of applause as he was introduced as the Giants No. 6 hitter, Ramos skipped his way to his spot in left field. When he got there, he faced the fans in the bleachers and threw his arms in the air, generating more cheers.
It had barely been 16 hours since Triple-A manager Dave Brundage had pulled him in the third inning of Sacramento’s game and given him the news.
Ramos’ first call was to his brother, Henry, who debuted with the Diamondbacks last season but is now playing in Korea. He didn’t pick up, so Ramos next rang his parents. Sometime shortly after that, he got in touch with Bart.
“As soon as they called me up, I was like, ‘Papi see you soon,’” Ramos said.
“I went to sleep thinking about it,” Bart said. “Woke up thinking about it.”
“I’m ready to be up there,” Ramos told Bart.
“I was fired up,” Bart said.
Source: Culled From Paradise Post.