Do the SF Giants still believe in outfield prospect Heliot Ramos?

Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants
Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

It was not that long ago when SF Giants outfield prospect Heliot Ramos was one of the top prospects in baseball. However, the shine has faded in recent seasons and he was optioned back to Triple-A on Tuesday. Do the Giants still believe in their former top prospect?

Do the SF Giants still believe in outfield prospect Heliot Ramos?

The Giants originally selected Ramos in the first round of the 2017 draft out of the Leadership Christian Academy in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He was consistently challenged by playing against older competition and often rose up to the challenge.

He was on an upward trajectory until he reached Triple-A in 2021. The former top pick struggled to adjust to the pitching at the highest level. That said, he was in his age-21 season, so some of the struggles were chalked up as being young for the level.

However, the struggles continued over the next couple of seasons, including the start of the 2023 campaign. Ramos received an early-season promotion with the Giants and this was more of the same as he recorded just five hits with eight strikeouts in 26 at-bats.

He was sent back down and sustained an oblique strain that led to an extended absence as he was placed on the 60-day injured. It felt like it might be a lost season for the former top pick.

In three seasons with the Sacramento River Cats, Ramos had struggled to the tune of a .254/.321/.402 line with a 7.7 percent walk rate against a 28.5 percent strikeout rate. Ramos demonstrated good bat speed leading to solid power output as a prospect, but those power numbers took a step back in the Pacific Coast League, which is a extreme hitter-friendly league.

Or, to put it differently, he was just not performing at the level of someone who might be a future everyday player. The 23-year-old returned from the oblique strain and immediately went on a tear in Triple-A, slashing .343/.397/.695 (154 wRC+) with 17 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, in 116 plate appearances.

It was quite simply his best stretch with Sacramento in three seasons and arguably his best stretch since becoming a pro. The strikeout rate remained high (25.9%) and his numbers were excelling due in part to a .420 BABIP, but it was a promising sign for Ramos.

The bat path issues persisted as his batted balls resulted in ground balls at too high of a rate, but he has made modest strides in that area. The Giants asked him to open up his stance this season and it looked like that was paying small dividends.

The Giants rewarded Ramos by calling him up at the beginning of August and he immediately made loud contact, including two doubles and a home run, in his first eight at-bats following the promotion. The hope was that this would lead to more playing time, but it did not. He only received seven sporadic at-bats in the week prior to his demotion.

So, where does he stand with the Giants? The first detail that needs to be mentioned is that he was a holdover from the prior regime. Farhan Zaidi was not with the organization when he was drafted, so there is no attachment in that sense.

Plus, the Giants have been starving for offense. They have a handful of outfielders with proven track records, but even players like Joc Pederson and Michael Conforto have been inconsistent this year. Mitch Haniger and Mike Yastrzemski have spent considerable time on the injured list, whereas Austin Slater just broke out of an 0-27 slump on Wednesday.

Despite this, Ramos still has not received an extended look. In fact, the Giants acquired A.J. Pollock before the deadline to give them a boost on offense. Pollock tallied six hitless at-bats before landing on the injured list.

The Giants have even relied on Brett Wisely and Bryce Johnson at different points in the season. In some sense, I can understand this because Wisely and Johnson are considered center fielders, whereas Ramos is more of a corner outfielder.

It feels like there had to have been more at-bats for someone like Ramos. I realize that the Giants are in the midst of a playoff push, but a subplot of this season will be how the younger players develop. They have committed to that with certain players, but not Ramos.

Now, there are only six weeks left in the season. And, the Giants have already burned two of Ramos' optioned years. He will have one more remaining, but it feels like the Giants have invested so much in Ramos over the years, that it is only reasonable to see what he can do. Though, the lack of opportunity is likely how the Giants view him, which is to say, that he is not in the team's long-term plans.