Depth Charts: RF
I have to start today’s post on a note of tragedy. As many of you no doubt saw, Monday night reports circulated that Gustavo Cabrera had passed away from complications of COVID at the age of just 25. Cabrera was a supremely talented athlete who played the game with joy and passion. He was one of the top rated players in the J2 class of 2012 and the Giants gave him a $1.3 million signing bonus, but his career was short-circuited by a ghastly accident that nearly severed his hand and ultimately forced him to quit playing the game he loved at too young an age. The first time I saw him play I was moved to write about how happy it made me to watch him on the field. It is bitterly unfair that he had to endure such tragedy in his short life, and now has been taken away from the world and those who loved him. It’s yet another reminder — an unwanted reminder — of the calamity our world has suffered through over the past year. Please, everyone, do your part. Get vaccinated. It matters.
My heart goes out to those who cared for them. Rest in Peace, Gustavo. Belt them far and high in the green grass of the after-world.
And with that heavy note hanging over me, I turned to a new generation of players who inspire joy in those who watch them. And I have to say, this is a perfect Depth Chart to cheer me on this morning. To be perfectly honest, this is my favorite one, really. There are many terrific prospects in the Giants system. There might not be any that I enjoy watching more than Heliot Ramos and Alexander Canario. They’re my guys!
I’ve told this story before, but in 2018, I headed to spring training intent on getting my first live glimpse of Ramos taking BP. But as I walked up the first morning to the group he was in, my attention was immediately captured by Canario instead and I had a sudden and very visceral “WHO IS THIS GUY?!?!?” response. Canario took almost lazy swings, but they produced thunderous, booming sounds upon contact and the balls soared through the skies. His bat speed was simply astounding and generated extraordinary power. The next day I saw him produce the same easy power in a game and I was smitten with young Alex Canario (that was a good day — it was also the first time I saw the post-TJ, extremely impressive looking Logan Webb):
That’s not to say that Heliot fell in my estimation! The burly youngster didn’t necessarily do anything in camp that spring to draw attention to himself, but he carried himself with an ease and confidence, he glided around the OF on defense, he displayed his powerful arm. At just 18 he oozed potential.
It’s been three years since that spring and Ramos has been through ups and downs, he’s been pushed hard, and he’s mostly risen to meet the challenges. After scuffling through a rough full season debut in 2018, he improved every element of his game in a breakout 2019, during which he became the first teenager to play for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
And now, at just 21, he’s on the precipice of a big league debut and looks poised to break the Giants long-time drought of homegrown OF stars. Let’s rank my second deepest position in the system!
Ranking the Prospects!
While I kept Hunter Bishop in the CF list this year, I am, obviously, pushing Ramos to Right Field because that really is where the powerfully built Ramos profiles best. That’s true even though he might well see time in CF with the Giants and, given their current situation, that might be the best available place for him to break in (though Austin Slater seems to be making an argument against that). Indeed, besides the few hundred plate appearances the Giants would certainly like to see Ramos get in the upper minors, one of the biggest obstacles to his big league debut might well be the talent the Giants have in their big league outfield (current numbers notwithstanding).
Ramos has mostly been seeing time in RF in the alternate camp scrimmages and long-term that is the best fit for him. He possesses one of the best arms in the organization and shows good instincts for jumps and routes — perfect for a big right field like Oracle Park. And, of course, he has the power stroke and hard-hitting ability teams like to see from their corner outfielders. One of the hallmarks of Ramos’ game has always been the feel he shows for opposite field hitting — and the strength he has to go the opposite way with power. I showed his rookie spray chart the other day, but if you look at his career spray chart, it just jumps out at you how well distributed all of his hits are around the field, and just how much opposite field power he’s shown in his career. Considering that ALL of the below has been done while Heliot was a teenager, this is an extremely encouraging sign for the kind of power he should show in the future.
Ramos has continued to just hit, hit, hit in the alt site scrimmages, just as he did in big league camp and should hopefully hit the ground running wherever he ultimately gets assigned. Before 2021 is out, we should get see Ramos’ truly exciting Giants debut, and fans are going to get their money’s worth when it comes.
A lot of folks have downgraded Canario’s prospect status this winter due to his offseason surgery on a shoulder that has troubled him for some time now. I had originally heard from sources close to Canario that he anticipated a June return, but it looks like his rehab is progressing even quicker than expected, as he’s already seeing game action with his campmates, and once again showing off his prodigious power stroke.
There’s no doubt that Canario has “boom or bust” potential as a prospect. It’s right there in the stat line — dude posted a cool 1.000 OPS in 2019, split between the AZL and NWL. He had an Isolated Slugging over .300 (crazy high!) and his HR/FB rate was nearly 20% — a fantastic ratio, especially given that he hits lots of fly balls. That’s the BOOM part. The bust part comes with his sky high strikeout rate, which reached 32% with Salem-Keizer. That’s the part the Giants have been working with to combat. Canario’s issue stems from over-agressiveness, especially in the “shadow” zone — pitches that are on the edge of the strike zone but not particularly good to swing at. He does actually have excellent plate coverage however, and the Giants were working with him at Instrux to create solid plans to take to the plate and stick to them — in other words, look for pitches he can drive and wait for them. I do think, as Josh Norris said on my podcast, the fact that he was able to hit for so much power in 2019 while playing with a bothersome shoulder should certainly be considered in his favor.
When he does make contact, he tends to do damage, so keeping him focussed on those pitches is key to his development. Probably only Marco Luciano has the pure bat speed and raw power of Canario, so getting that potential out of him would reap serious dividends.
Defensively, though Canario has played CF a good deal as a pro, his reads haven’t been strong enough to keep him there long term. He has good speed but, like Ramos, he profiles best in RF where his plus arm would really play. The power should fit anywhere, though. When he’s healthy enough to join an active roster, Canario should join a stacked San Jose lineup that could include Luciano, Luis Matos, Luis Toribio, Grant McCray, and Garrett Frechette in a dazzling display of young hitting talent.
Beyond the top two, what separates RF from CF in my eyes, is the plethora of big-league ready depth pieces that the Giants have acquired over the past two years. We’ve already seen all of LaMonte Wade, Jr., Jaylin Davis, and Luis Alexander Basabe at the big league level. Though all three currently reside on some form of the Injured List, and likely none will be ready to play when Sacramento starts its season, each has skills that can help the Giants win and they could each see time in the Giants OF before the year is over. As is true of Ramos and Canario, all three of these players have spent time in CF — in Wade Jr.’s case, even in San Francisco — but they each profile best in a corner. Wade, Jr. and Basabe probably fit the organization best at the moment, as they both have strong strike zone awareness and tend to give pitchers spirited battles. Davis has more pure power than the other two, and is a terrific athlete, but he’s struggled to make contact so far in his short big league career and he’ll need to overcome that issue to make a return. None of the trio has had a great deal of success yet as a pro, but all have shown flashes of big league ability. Wade, Jr. especially showed promise in his Giants’ debut before quickly finding himself on the IL.
Of course, some folks love the appeal of the shiny, new, far away prospect, and might prefer the CF group of youngsters like Grant McCray over this older group hanging on the fringes of the active roster. It’s harder to dream on players when they reveal their flaws, but that’s what the big leagues will do to most everyone. Having a solid core like this close at hand (when the physical issues are dealt with) is a good thing for an org. (oh, and, for those of you who like the young kids, you’ll enjoy our next and final installment of Depth Charts).
I’ve written about Diego Rincones before and I noted there that he probably makes more sense in LF long-term as he tends to carry some weight with him and isn’t necessarily the fastest of outfielders. Rincones is a surprisingly good athlete, though, and possesses the best OF arm in the system, so in RF he remains for our exercise.
Rincones shows a tremendous feel for barreling pitches and, though he hasn’t shown the kind of power you like to see from corner outfielders, his career arc thus far isn’t all that dissimilar from Austin Slater’s coming up, if you adjust for the fact that Rincones has been playing pro ball since he was 16 and Slater went to Stanford. If the Dodgers can turn weak-hitting Zack McKinstry into a power-hitting wunderkind, then the Giants ought to be able to do the same with Rincones, damnitall! It’s an unreasonable proposition, but one that is our right as fans to demand. When do our development miracles begin?
The Richmond depth chart is a bit of a muddle and I’ve mentioned both of these players at other positions. Bryce Johnson is a more natural CF but spent plenty of time in RF with Richmond in 2019 and can play all three spots. Given the amount of IL spots being taken in Sacramento’s potential OF, he might also get the call up their to start the year. Sandro Fabian played in lower levels in RF and has an outstanding arm and great instincts for fly balls, but his footspeed makes him a better fit in LF.
Armani Smith, Grant McCray, and Najee Gaskins have likewise been mentioned in CF and LF Depth Charts, but could well see some time in RF, especially if Canario isn’t ready to return on Opening Day. There isn’t too much excitement at the RF slot in the XST/rookie camp group, so I thought I’d highlight the lowest level for this one, where the Panamanian Mauricio Pierre should man the position for one of the Giants two DSL clubs. You probably remember Pierre from our “scout’s eye view” report on him from Lukas McKnight and Tom Shafer.
Well, we’ve made it to the top of the hill. Just one depth chart remaining! Next time out, we’ll look at the organization’s incredible array of shortstops, including the finest prospect in the system.
Previously on “Depth Charts”
Notes from Camp
The Giants prospect twitter account continues to put out great video footage from camp games. Yesterday that included footage of the best pitching prospect in the system, Kyle Harrison, who has clearly added to his lean tissue muscle (as Gabe Kapler would say) and has bumped up his velocity significantly since high school.
Other pitchers getting highlighted included Sam Long, who the Giants do appear to be stretching out for a starting role (excited!).
And Kai-Wei Teng also looks to have picked up some velo since last we saw him. With Teng’s repertoire and feel for pitching, a tick more fastball can really make a difference.
And Patrick Bailey went deep yet again. I’ve heard from a friend that Bailey just oozes confidence and carries himself like a rock star. So far in camp he’s showing that rock star appeal.
And finally, Susan Slusser has a wide-ranging and insightful conversation with Kyle Haines on her latest “Giants’ Splash” podcast. Hopefully this will satisfy your podcast needs for this week — scheduling issues will cause me to skip a week of the There R Giants podcast.