Why Ramos' latest Giants audition lasted just two games originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
It was a huge surprise when the Giants called Heliot Ramos up from Triple-A on the first weekend of the season, but it was all part of a plan they felt could set him up for a breakthrough 2022 season.
Coming off a promising spring, Ramos was promoted early so that he could get some at-bats against left-handed pitchers and keep the momentum going, and he went 2-for-3 in his big league debut on April 10. Those might end up being the only hits Ramos collects in the big leagues this season.
The 23-year-old outfielder was optioned back to Triple-A on Monday afternoon when Austin Slater came off the injured list. The latest call-up lasted just two games, but that was telegraphed from the start. As he spoke about Ramos and a disappointing season on Saturday, manager Gabe Kapler was brutally honest.
"It hasn't been great," Kapler said. "I think we were hoping and I know Heliot was hoping for a year that put him in the big leagues potentially regularly from the middle of the summer on. I know that was his ambition. In fact, I think even dating back to spring training his thought was I'm going to make an impact and stick on this team early in the season. He just hasn't performed at the minor league level to warrant that.
"I think even (Saturday's) call-up -- we definitely are excited about seeing him, he has a great chance to make an impact, it's another opportunity for him -- but we can't lean on what we want the organization to be able to lean on in these times, which is really, really good performance at a level (that) earns these opportunities. That's quite frankly not where we are today with Heliot."
This front office and staff have been deliberate with promotions for young players, particularly hitters. As Farhan Zaidi has said often, the Giants want to see hitters "dominate" a level before they are moved up. In his first full season in Triple-A, Ramos hasn't been able to reach that standard.
He returns to Sacramento with a .223 average and .637 in Triple-A this season. In a hitter-friendly league, Ramos has just nine homers and is slugging .333.
With Slater on the IL, the Giants hoped that Ramos could get a boost from two days against left-handed starters over the weekend against the Dodgers. But he went 0-for-7, dropping to 2-for-20 on the season. Before those at-bats, Kapler said the organization still has plenty of faith in Ramos, but he has to take advantage of opportunities.
"We really want to keep getting him these opportunities and I do believe, Heliot believes, and everybody around here believes that he's plenty talented to take advantage of these next couple of days," he said. "Even with that talent, it's no guarantee of success. Frankly, directly, the year hasn't been great for him."
The silver lining to all of this is that Ramos is just a few days past his 23rd birthday. He was nearly five years younger than the average player in Triple-A this season, and if he needs motivation heading into the offseason, he needs only to look at close friend Joey Bart. A fellow first-rounder, Bart had such a rough first half that he at one point returned to Triple-A to join Ramos, but he has had a promising second half.
If the down year has impacted Ramos' infectious personality, it's not showing. He was his usual laid-back self on Sunday night, even with a demotion looming.
Ramos said he is working on staying more relaxed at the plate and being more selective. The Giants have worked with him on swing changes and have seen some improved plate appearances in Triple-A. Ramos said his offseason goal is to "just stick with the plan."
"Stick with what I learned," he said. "Just stick with everything and have a positive mindset and go and compete."
Ramos hopes to play Winter Ball to keep in shape and get additional plate appearances in front of family members and friends, but the Giants have not reached a final decision yet. Kapler said it's something that's on the table as all sides aim to get Ramos in a better position to succeed next season.
The roster need to get younger and more athletic, and as Ramos showed with a running catch Sunday night, his speed and instincts are still there. Now, it's about forcing the issue and proving to the Giants that he's ready to be part of the solution.
"Had he performed at a very good level in Sacramento relative to the league, he would have already gotten more opportunities here," Kapler said. "He's been fine in his brief showing here and he's a very, very exciting and talented player, but when he comes here and sticks it's going to be because he performed very well in Sac and or he just got off here."