Spring training is in full effect and it’s wonderful having baseball back on our screens. We can kick back, revel in these 6pm starts here in the UK, and get unnecessarily riled up over meaningless results.
So far I’ve avoided getting too worked up over spring statistics and performances. I’ve enjoyed just seeing the Giants back on the field in all their splendour. With that said, today we’re looking at a few of the players on San Francisco’s roster who make us feel good about the game and remind us why we love baseball in the first place. Let’s begin with:
Ramos is arguably the most exciting prospect in Giants camp this spring. The Puerto Rican outfielder was drafted by San Francisco in the 1st round (19th overall) of the 2017 MLB Draft and has wowed observers with every passing day since.
When he stands out there in the green expanse of the outfield, he makes an impression. Ramos is a large man. Officially listed at 188lb, the 21-year-old reportedly claimed he now weighs closer to 230lb, and boy does it show. Make no mistake folks, it is pure muscle that Ramos has added to his frame.
That was abundantly clear when he faced off against Reds pitchers on Sunday 7 March and destroyed them for a pair of home runs that defied gravity.
His first was against Sean Doolittle, who needed to do a little more if he wanted to get a breaking ball past Ramos. Instead, Ramos saw Doolittle hang one up in the zone and crushed it over the left field fence in a decisive manner. Later on, Ramos showed his opposite field power can be just as effective, as he sent the ball high into the right field bleachers after left-handed reliever Reiver Sanmartin missed his spot.
Ramos was making Giants fans dream again just two days later on Tuesday 9 March, when he took a pitch from Brewers’ left-hander Leo Crawford deep and way beyond the flag poles in left-centre field for a mammoth home run. Even if the wind gave the ball a slight push, this Ramos moonshot was the definition of a no-doubter.
Of all the prospects who were most impacted by the crazy 2020 season, Ramos might have the best case. If he had spent last year progressing between Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento as anticipated, Ramos would have stood a very strong chance to make the Opening Day roster this year. As it is, he could probably do with a little more seasoning in the minors (he has just 106 plate appearances at the Double-A level so far).
However, Ramos has already proven his precocious talent is the real deal, and if he continues to crush the ball over the next few months, fans will be eager to see him get a 2021 call-up to the show. Ramos is a pure joy to watch, so hopefully, we aren’t left waiting too long to see that bat in the Giants’ everyday lineup.
There might not be a better feel-good story in spring training than Long’s. The 25-year-old left-handed pitcher has evolved from an essentially unknown non-roster invitee into a major contender for a spot in the Giants’ bullpen.
Long could have the opportunity to play for his childhood team, fulfilling a long-held dream. He grew up in nearby Sacramento and would often make the short journey to see his Giants. Long spent his college years pitching for Sacramento State, and his home is not far away from the River Cats’ ballpark, home to the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate.
Long began his professional career with the Rays after becoming an 18th round draft pick in 2016 but found himself released unexpectedly in 2018. Incredibly, Long spent his break from baseball helping to save lives, when he took summer classes to train as an EMT (emergency medical technician), with a possible future as a firefighter. Long also worked on a degree in communications but the itch to pitch hadn’t left him. Hard work and a viral video helped Long secure a deal with the White Sox in 2019, where he split time between starting and the bullpen in Kannapolis, Chicago’s A-ball location.
Like most of us, 2020 disrupted Long’s plans and he couldn’t pitch last year. But when the Giants called and offered him an opportunity to pitch with big leaguers in 2021 spring training, Long never hesitated. It was like a homecoming for the Norcal native.
Long made an immediate impression with his new team, pitching in relief against the Reds on Sunday 7 March. He needed just three pitches to strike out Nicky Delmonico to get the Giants out of a jam before he returned in the eighth inning and struck out three more Reds. Long mixed in a disarming changeup, nasty curveball, and 96mph fastball to announce himself on the big stage.
San Francisco has a bunch of veteran bullpen arms this spring so it will be tough for Long to break camp on the Opening Day roster. We must also consider that he’s yet to pitch above A-ball in his professional career. However, Long couldn’t have made a better first impression and even if the Giants can’t utilise him right away, they hope to bring him into the fold sooner rather than later. Long is one to watch.
Last but certainly not least we come to Vosler, a 27-year-old infielder who caught Giants fans by surprise when he became their first offseason signing in November 2020. More surprising was his signature on a Major League deal, despite having never made a Major League appearance in his career. The Giants saw something promising in Vosler, and after a hot start to spring training, fans are beginning to see what all the fuss is about.
Vosler has mostly played third base in his career so far but has seen time at first and second base as well. The Giants have even experimented with him in left field, so keen to get him into the lineup wherever and whenever possible. Vosler has been making great contact at the plate this spring no matter who he faces, getting the bat on the ball with regularity and torching pitchers.
Vosler spent his years in the minors with farm teams belonging to the Cubs and Padres, and enjoyed a successful 2019: a .291/.367/.523 slashline (BA/OBP/SLG) with 20 home runs, for a 113 wRC+, per Fangraphs. There was a bit of swing and miss in his approach that season, with a 23.9% strikeout rate, but the Giants hitting coaches will already be hard at work to remedy that.
Vosler does have an option remaining, so could open the season at Triple-A Sacramento if he cools down a bit between now and Opening Day. Giants fans, already enamoured with Vosler, will want to see this feel-good story continue and see him make the roster. Our hopes of another gem plucked from the minors, similar to Mike Yastrzemski, are alive and well.
Ash Day is covering the San Francisco Giants as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29