Farhan Zaidi does not like to slow play his development pipeline. If the cream rises to the top, he’ll scoop it out and dollop it on a major league roster without a second thought.
Although they’re not quite ready for major league action, this morning, the Giants promoted catcher Joey Bart (#1 prospect), OF Heliot Ramos (#2), and Sean Hjelle (#6) to Double-A Richmond, a move that we should all look at as a sign the team wants these guys to reach the big leagues as soon as possible.
Here’s the official announcement:
ROSTER MOVES: Top #SFGiants prospects Joey Bart (@JBart9GT), Heliot Ramos (@HeliotRamos) and Sean Hjelle are being promoted to the Flying Squirrels ahead of this weekend's homestand pic.twitter.com/HkhRIV7cen— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) August 8, 2019
If all goes well, “soon” could be next season. The odds of all going “well” are not long, but they’re no sure thing, either.
The Eastern League can crush hitters. Big test for Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos— Dalton Johnson (@DaltonJ_Johnson) August 8, 2019
Bart and Ramos are graduating from the California league with a .793 and .885 OPS, respectively, and going to a league that is the exact opposite of Triple-A in terms of run scoring environment. The top hitter in the Eastern League (by OPS) i Ka’ai Tom, who has an .898 OPS, one of only four league batting title-qualified players with an .800+ OPS.
By comparison, Ty France leads the PCL with a .1.252 OPS and is but one of 62 qualified hitters with an .800+ OPS. Luis Castro has a .976 OPS to lead the California League and is one of 13 with an .800+ OPS. Ramos is one of those, and his .885 OPS is good for third in that league. Bart missed the qualifying cutoff as a result of missing time from a broken hand. His OPS would put him 15th on the Cal League leaderboard.
But more on their futures:
.@HeliotRamos joins Jo Adell, Royce Lewis, and Drew Waters as only high school position players from 2017 draft to advance to Double-A or higher. #SFGiants #MiLB https://t.co/vXFKTjgdoV— Munger English SM (@MungerEnglishSM) August 8, 2019
Adell is the Angels’ #1 prospect and the #4 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The Angels have been very aggresive with him as he played just six games in A-ball before being promoted to Double-A, and now he’s already up at Triple-A as a 20-year old. Ramos turns 20 on September 7th.
The Giants might not need to see Ramos play in Triple-A if he mirrors Adell and posts a .944 OPS while in Double-A, but Adell didn’t hit in the Eastern League, and as exciting and young as Ramos is, there’s some utility in being careful with a prospect while still being aggressive.
On the other hand, the Giants might need Joey Bart up sooner than Ramos is only because next year’s catching situation figures to be a little less stable than it is right now. Sure, the Giants could re-sign Stephen Vogt, but will it make sense to have a 33-year old and 35-year old as the primary catching options? Aramis Garcia has shown power, but a 99:29 strikeouts to walk ratio in Triple-A this year just won’t translate. How Joey Bart handles his promotion will be at least as important as Heliot Ramos handles his.
Sean Hjelle will have to make adjustments, too, because the Giants will need some starting pitching next season, if not before. I’m not saying Hjelle is on a fast track to Oracle, but the Giants haven’t been shy about advancing him because he’s been consistent. In 21.1 innings last year, he had a 9.3 K/9 and 5.5 K/BB. This year, across two levels and in 118.1 innings, he has a 9.0 K/9 and 4.21 K/BB.
One thing you need to know about Hjelle, in case you had forgotten, is that he’s freakishly tall. At 6-11, he’d be the second-tallest pitcher in major league history. The Statcast era demolished the idea that pitchers need to “keep the ball down” and the pitchers who’ve been able to come in and be successful or stay successful by making adjustments have done so by pitching up in the zone more. Being taller than any hitter you’ll face should make it easier to work up in the zone, but we’ll see what happens once Hjelle begins to face more advanced hitters.
Where you can find the top 10 #SFGiants prospects (MLB dot com list).— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) August 8, 2019
1. Joey Bart--AA
2. Heliot Ramos--AA
3. Marco Luciano--AZL
4. Hunter Bishop--ROK
5. Logan Webb--AA
6. Sean Hjelle--AA
7. Alexander Canario--ROK
8. Mauricio Dubon--AAA
9. Seth Corry-Low A
10. Luis Toribio-AZL
By the way, you can hear a lot more about Canario and Toribio and recent draftees on the latest episode of the Prospects Podcast with Roger.
Henry Schulman followed up his promotion tweet to add that the Giants don’t plan to call up Seth Corry this year, despite pitching very well of late. Since July 2nd, the 20-year old left-hander has started seven games, pitched 33.1 innings, allowed two runs, 15 hits, zero walks, and struck out 50.
By the way, #SFGiants have no plans to promote red-hot lefty Seth Corry from low-A to San Jose this season. They would like Corry to stay in August to continue developing his changeup, as Hjelle did down there. #SFGIants— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) August 8, 2019
It’s hard to see through the fog of the Giants about-face to awfulness and, well, the past three years of watching them play, but this is something to get excited about. This is a horizon to look towards and, yes, a light at the end of the tunnel. As the wise Mission: Impossible film series tells us, “Hope is not a strategy.” But hope can at least help us formulate a strategy for surviving the upcoming slate of Giants games. They will be bad, but not forever..
The Giants were aggressive with Heliot Ramos early on because they wanted to see if they had a Vlad Guerrero Jr.-type on their hands. They learned they did not, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a great prospect. It just means he’s a normal top prospect, progressing steadily. Same as Joey Bart, who, after a slow run following the broken hand, has gotten back to a hitting form more resembling the hitter he was before the broken hand.
These promotions represent confidence in the previous results to the extent that they can strongly suggest a similar future. Typically, top prospects don’t wind up going to Triple-A if they succeed in Double-A, and so if their situations continue, Ramos and Bart have played their way into the team’s plans for next season. At the very least, they’ve been put on the runway.
The Giants don’t need these guys to be ready next year, and so even if they’re not ready, their rate of progress coupled with the scale of their talents strongly suggests that 2021 will be something special, when Ramos, Bart, Hjelle, and possibly many more burst through.
Either way, there’s hope.