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Player Review: Heliot Ramos

Consider him persona non grata until further notice.

Heliot Ramos smiling in the dugout. Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

2023 stats: 60 PA (25 games), .179/.233/.304 (.537 OPS), 1 HR, 2 RBI, 90.9 avg exit velocity

Notable: .300/.382/.546 (.928 OPS) in 263 PA for Triple-A Sacramento, 66-27 K-BB

The best-known unknown for prospect-watching fans is a team’s internal reports and projections for a given player. Of course teams know more than we ever will, but on rare occasions it feels like their evaluations miss the mark. That almost feels like the case with Heliot Ramos this season.

There felt like a season-long disconnect between what spectators observed and what the team knew beyond the numbers, because, hey, look above — that Triple-A line looks like one from a guy who would earn himself an extended look. It didn’t work out that way; but, to be fair, it didn’t start out that way, either, nor should it have. Back in Spring Training when the San Francisco Giants optioned him, I wrote:

He turned 23 back in September, so it’s not like he has zero shot of making it back to the major leagues at some point, but it’s an open question as to whether or not that will be with the Giants. No team will trade for him after that 2022 combined line or the 3-for-16 line he posted in seven Spring Training games. Ramos will really need to turn things around when the minor league season gets going to rebuild his value. This is his second option year, so the Giants can fully hold onto him through next season to see if that happens, but I think we should all be in don’t hold your breath territory.

Last year saw the org tinker with his swing to try to increase his success elevating the ball, and so perhaps we might just be looking at a player still transitioning and, therefore, needing more time in the field to get comfortable with the new approach. Speaking of fielding, his biggest moments this spring seem to have come from poor fielding.

This was but the first of many transactions young Ramos experienced. Check out his transaction page:

That oblique strain might’ve been a season-ender. Instead, he came back stronger, really putting it to minor league pitching with extra base power. But after April, the Giants never started him in four straight games at the major league level. His longest consecutive appearance streak was from August 11-16, where in 6 games (3 starts) he went 4-for-12 with a home run, a walk, and 5 strikeouts.

At the time of this callup, I saw how Ramos fit into the team’s plan: his skill set vaguely resembled Mitch Haniger’s, which had been missing from the lineup.

Now, Heliot Ramos has the same general skill set as Haniger. A plausible right-handed power threat who might have enough plate discipline to take a walk if he’s pitched around but can also punish mistakes. The Giants tried to square a circle by adding A.J. Pollock at the deadline, thinking a veteran with the faintest echoes of Haniger’s skills might be enough to supplement the struggling lineup. Don’t believe me?

CAREER LINES

Mitch Haniger: .259/.332/.469 (9.4% XBH rate, 8.7% BB rate, 24% K rate)
A.J. Pollock: .273/.328/.464 (9.7% XBH rate, 7% BB rate, 17.7% K rate)

That’s not the same player, but that’s a similar player. Here’s Heliot Ramos after 2,300 career minor league plate appearances:

.264/.335/.439 (8.8% XBH rate, 8% BB rate, 26% K rate)

That’s not the same player, but that’s in the same general range. Now, it’s rare that minor leaguers translate those minor league numbers into similar or better major league numbers, but Ramos’s player profile fits exactly what the Giants sorely need.

So, it didn’t work out, and I suspect it’s not because I misconstrued the situation or the results. There was clearly something else at play. He got into just 10 more games (6 starts) the rest of the season for the Giants and went 1-for-18 with 7 strikeouts.

And we might not ever find out, unless the new Humm Baby coaching staff handles his situation differently. I’m not alone in seeing numbers and inconsistent playing and comparing him to, say, Casey Schmitt, and wondering what’s going on, exactly — why he’s the guy the team seemed to avoid giving innings to; but, I’m also wrong about a lot of things or don’t think I can see all the variables at play.

I went to a couple of games at Oracle this season and one of those happened to be the Saturday game in the Texas series. About the only thing I “noticed” was that Ramos didn’t really make eye contact with Gabe Kapler even when he walked back to the dugout and the two slapped hands. Does that suggest an issue? Is Ramos shy? Who knows? And it probably doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s as simple as his swing decisions. Maybe the Giants have performance parameters/projections based on an in-house almanac and a player of his position, age, and size should have a very specific range of numbers attached to him and right now they don’t line up.

So a review of this player’s season is tricky. A 23-year old posting a .928 OPS in Triple-A is objectively good, even if it’s the PCL. He managed to cut down his strikeouts a bit and improve that strikeouts to walk ratio from 2.7:1 in 2022 to 2.4:1 in 2023. Based on prior transaction patterns, Farhan Zaidi seems to have set an upper bound of 2.5:1 for prospects. Ramos’s 10.3% walk rate and 24.8% strikeout rate in Triple-A is in the Dansby Swanson-Matt Chapman range and I think the team would take a corner outfielder with that hitting profile... once they’re convinced he’s developed.

But our feelings about the player and how the team handled him this season could be exactly that: feelings. Having one option year remaining, being only 23, and having the oblique injury (and injury history) were certainly conditions that put him in a position to be the first to go or get de-prioritized.

The goal in the Kapler years was to get prospects up to help them finish their development at the major league level. Perhaps the determination is simply that Ramos still has to take one more step before that action plan makes sense. But again, from the touside looking in, it seems like the Giants didn’t want to give major league reps to one of their few minor league power prospects. What that means for his future? Only the Giants know.