SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Heliot Ramos is fortunate. Not only because he’s been gifted with the raw power to hit a baseball over the batter’s eye in center field at Fitch Park. And not just because the Giants deemed him worthy of their first-round selection this past June, or because they subsequently paid him a signing bonus of $3,101,700 to sign.
No, Ramos is fortunate because his family is one of the few in Puerto Rico that has electricity after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last month. He’s fortunate because, although it might not be as often as he’d like, he can still call his family back home to check in for updates.
Ramos, drafted by the Giants out of the Leadership Christian Academy in Guaynabo, P.R., with the 19th overall selection, left the Arizona League toward the end of its season to return home to help. Like many others, he got stuck in the airport on his way back to Arizona for the fall instructional league, but that’s just a minor inconvenience compared to the reality so many others are facing.
“Everybody’s good. Everybody’s doing good, but the country is really bad,” Ramos said on Friday. “We are getting better everyday and just keeping positive.”
Now that he’s back, Ramos is continuing to hone the skills that have gotten him this far. He’s working on improving his routes and jumps in the outfield. He’s learning to take the plus-plus speed that helped him run a 6.4-second 60-yard dash as an amateur and turn it into piles of stolen bases. And he’s working hard to hit breaking balls.
He’s working to add polish to his game just like everyone else in the instructional league, which is full of some of each system’s youngest players. But Ramos’ raw talent gives him a a better starting point than most of the players scouts and coaches see every afternoon on the backfields.
“Just the way he hits the baseball, it’s so much more mature than the typical player who just turned 18 years old,” said Ramos’ manager, Kyle Haines. “I mean, you just don’t find players that young who can hit baseballs the way he does. And then when you realize he could be a near top-of-the-scale runner at times—sometimes you see guys hit the ball like that and see guys run like that, but you don’t see that combination very much.”
Certainly Ramos’ brief pro career has had its share of highlights—he hit .348/.404/.645 with 11 doubles, six triples, six home runs and 10 stolen bases in 12 chances. That performance earned him the third spot on this year’s Top 20 Prospects list in the Arizona League.
But his favorite moment in his baseball life came last July at Wrigley Field for the annual Under Armour All-America Game, where the best of the best show their skills in one of the major leagues’ most iconic settings. He went 3-for-3 that day and fell a double short of the cycle, but that wasn’t what helped push that experience to the top of his list.
Instead, it was the way he was treated that made the biggest difference. When he and roommate Alex Toral got to their room, their beds were decked out in enough swag to clog up every teenager’s Instagram and SnapChat feeds for a week. And when he got to the game, he fell in love with his glistening gold batting helmet.
“It was impressive,” he said. “It’s very good. They do everything for the players. They treat us like major league baseball players. It was like, ‘Whoa.'”
When the instructional league ends in a couple of weeks, Ramos will head to Florida to continue training for next season. But in a few short months with the Giants, he’s already made a big impression.
“It’s been really nice,” said Haines, who managed during the regular season at Double-A Richmond, when referring to his brief time with Ramos this fall. “It’s also nice to be with him on a daily basis as a person. I know he’s determined to be not just a major league player but also a very good major league player for the San Francisco Giants.”
The Giants trotted out a veritable parade of arms on Friday, with nine pitchers going an inning apiece. The best, however, was saved for last. Lefty Garrett Williams got the ninth inning and made quick work of the Rockies prospects he was facing.
The 2016 seventh-round selection out of Oklahoma State, who had significant control issues during his college career, breezed through his inning on 10 pitches, including a lively 93-95 mph fastball, one slider at 84 mph and a changeup at 89 mph. He dropped the slider in on the hands of lefthander Ramon Marcelino for a strikeout.
The Rockies, too, showed off a pair of impressive arms. Lefthander Breiling Eusebio featured a low-90s fastball from an easy delivery, and coupled the pitch primarily with an excellent changeup with late fade and bite in the low-80s.
After Eusebio exited, he was replaced with righthander Robert Tyler, the Rockies’ supplemental first-round selection last year out of Georgia. He needed just 11 pitches to cut through his inning. He primarily worked with a 92-94 mph fastball that showed a healthy amount of natural cut. He also threw two sliders in the mid-80s in the midst of his shutout frame.