SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants are looking to the future, but the cornerstones of their next contender may not be far from Oracle Park in 2019.
Farhan Zaidi believes that Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos both should begin the season in San Jose, which would give the A-ball affiliate its most exciting lineup in years, and give a jolt to more than just the fan base.
"That would be a treat for, quite frankly, us in the office, to be able to drive over to San Jose and see these guys play," Zaidi said at the Winter Meetings. "I'm excited to see those guys play because even though San Jose, relatively, is a pitchers' park in the Cal League, the Cal League is a terrific environment for position players. I think those guys really have a chance to take off starting the year there."
It was a lock that Bart, last year's first-round pick would start the year in San Jose. He tore up opposing pitching in his first stint as a professional, hitting 13 homers in 45 games for Salem-Keizer last season. But there was some question about Ramos' immediate future after he posted a .709 OPS in his first full professional season. Still, he was in Low-A ball as an 18-year-old, and the Giants liked the way he handled himself. Barring a rough camp, he'll be in San Jose with Bart.
The question now is how long both will stay an hour away from Oracle Park. Zaidi said it's hard to "see those guys not spending at least half the season there," but at the same time, the new man in charge has a reputation for moving top prospects quickly. Zaidi believes in challenging his best players.
"My personal philosophy is to keep them moving," he said. "Those guys are exciting, impact players, and as soon as they're ready to play at the Major League level for us, we want to have them in that position."
Bart, 22, should be the first to the big leagues after being taken second overall last summer. The path has already been set by the man he is expected to follow in San Francisco. In his first full professional season, Buster Posey played 80 games for San Jose and then 35 for Triple-A Fresno before getting 17 big league at-bats in September. If Bart has a huge minor league season and the team is out of the race, there's a chance the catcher gets a look in September.
Ramos has more work to do, but much of that is age-related. Taken 19th overall out of high school in 2017, he won't turn 20 until September 7. The Giants are hoping to see him improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio (he whiffed 136 times last season) and tap into more of his natural power, but the talent is certainly there, and Ramos should benefit from a move to a more hitter-friendly league. There is little blocking him in the big league outfield, and when Ramos is ready, the Giants will be. They won't rush him, but they certainly will test him.
"You want to find the right balance between moving guys aggressively and challenging them, versus creating too much pressure and moving them too quickly, where you can have a negative impact on their careers," Zaidi said. "We're going to try to walk that tightrope a bit with those guys, but we're certainly not going to hold them back if they show dominance at that level early in the season."