The San Francisco Giants season may already have lost its luster, but 2017 first-round pick Heliot Ramos is providing plenty of reason for excitement.
Outfielder Heliot Ramos entered the season as one of the top prospects in the San Francisco Giants system, and he has further cemented his status as a big part of the team’s future with a strong start.
After a scorching pro debut back in 2017, Ramos entered last season with a chance to assert himself as one of the best prospects in baseball. Adjusting to full-season ball is one of the toughest assignments for any prospect, especially for an 18-year-old like Ramos was at the time.
As one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, he managed 11 home runs and a .245/.313/.396 slash line. Given his age, it was a solid all-around season, but he didn’t make the same strides that elite prospects like Los Angeles Angels outfielder Jo Adell did.
The Giants promoted Ramos to the San Jose Giants this spring, their High-A affiliate. Set to once again be one of the youngest players in the league, the goal was simply for Ramos to hold his own. While he missed 28 games with a sprained knee, he has returned strong and has far exceeded expectations in the California League.
In 138 plate appearances, Ramos has smashed his way to a .307/.413/.596 line. His walk-rate has doubled from last season to 13 percent and his strikeout rate remains comparable. Even with his missed time, Ramos ranks 10th in the California League in home runs. If he qualified, he would lead the league in slugging percentage, rank second in on-base percentage, and check in third in batting average.
After some recent updates, Ramos now ranks among MLB’s top 100 prospects by both Baseball America and FanGraphs. Frankly, Ramos’ performance would have him moving up rankings even if he were the league average age (22), but it instead ranks among the best performances ever by a teenager at that level.
Of the over 3,300 players who tallied at least 120 plate appearances at High-A from 2010-19, only 134 were in their age-19 season or younger. That list is filled with top players and prospects around the game including Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and Manny Machado.
There may not be a better single statistic to help understand a player’s production than weighted runs created plus (wRC+). You can read up on that here.
In short, it aggregates everything a player does offensively and adjusts for the park and environment they play in. A wRC+ of 100 means a player has produced offensive production equivalent to a league-average hitter. Every 1 point above or below 100 says a player produced 1 percent more or less than the league-average hitter.
Of those 134 teenagers who met the criteria set above, only 19 have produced a wRC+ of at least 130, or 30 percentage points more productive than league average).
Ramos is one of them. Check out how he ranks among the best of the best below:
There are reasons to believe Ramos will regress. Of the group, only Ronald Acuña Jr. had fewer plate appearances. Furthermore, Ramos has had nearly 1-in-4 fly balls leave the yard this season. That is likely unsustainable. His strikeout rate also ranks towards the top of the group, though he levels it out with the third-highest walk rate.
Most impressive of all is the fact that in a group that includes boppers like Cody Bellinger, Javier Baez, and Domingo Santana, Ramos has the highest isolated power (ISO) of the entire group at .289.
Of the list, the combination of strikeouts and power presented by Bellinger and Santana seems like the closest statistical comparison of the group, although it’s worth noting Ramos’ numbers are better than both across the board.
The San Francisco Giants outfield has been a baron abyss for fans over the past decade. Ramos’ performance should rightfully have them salivating. Of the 18 other teenagers with comparable performances, if you take out players with extensive injury problems, almost all became legitimate big league bats.
Even if his hit tool never develops above a 40 or 45, his athletic frame profiles to provide above-average corner outfield defense for the San Francisco Giants with the raw power to produce like Domingo Santana. However, Ramos’ ceiling far exceeds that, and his early-season production outpaces many of today’s stars when they were teenagers at High-A.
The next few months of Ramos’ development will be very interesting to follow. As the San Jose Giants prepare for a long stretch in the hot California League, the ball will be carrying well. However, pitchers will get another go around to make adjustments to Ramos as well, and he’ll have to deal with the drag of the season.
If he maintains this level of production, Ramos may receive a call-up to Double-A, which would present an incredible challenge.
However, the exciting young San Francisco Giants outfielder has already shown the ability to face challenges head-on and still rise above the rest.
Note: Original data acquired from FanGraphs via their minor league leaderboard.