Squir­rels could of­fer a pair with prom­ise

Bart, Ramos, two of Gi­ants’ top prospects, likely for Richmond

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY JOHN O’CON­NOR

The Richmond Fly­ing Squir­rels are un­de­feated, 1-0.

The San Fran­cisco Gi­ants’ Double-A team hasn’t of­fi­cially played a game and may not for an ex­tended pe­riod be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. The Fly­ing Squir­rels’ sea­son was orig­i­nally slated to be­gin on April 9 at Bowie.

Be­fore the health cri­sis caused base­ball to sus­pend op­er­a­tions, a group of San Fran­cisco mi­nor-lea­guers rep­re­sent­ing Double-A Richmond

was formed dur­ing spring train­ing in Ari­zona by the Gi­ants’ player-de­vel­op­ment staff, as is done an­nu­ally. The team was in­volved in one ex­hi­bi­tion, the first of many sched­uled, fol­low­ing a series of work­out days.

The Gi­ants beat Cleve­land 9-6 in a Double-A pre­sea­son game, and then all play­ers in the San Fran­cisco chain left the com­plex in Scottsdale, Ariz., for their homes or other

ac­com­mo­da­tions. They await in­struc­tions as to when and where they will re­con­vene.

“What we’re fac­ing now is a lit­tle bit crazy,” said Jose Al­guacil, the Fly­ing Squir­rels’ man­ager.

When his team of­fi­cially gets to­gether at some point, it is ex­pected to have two of the Gi­ants’ top prospects, catcher Joey Bart, 23, and cen­ter fielder He­liot Ramos, 20, for their first full East­ern League sea­sons.

Bart, a Ge­or­gian who at­tended Ge­or­gia Tech, and Ramos, who’s from Puerto Rico, to­gether spent about a month with the Squir­rels late last year af­ter be­ing pro­moted from Class A San Jose and im­pressed.

Each is a former first-round se­lec­tion of the Gi­ants.

“I think that’s def­i­nitely in the cards. Those are re­al­is­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties for both guys to be part of the Squir­rels this year,” Kyle Haines,

San Fran­cisco’s direc­tor of player de­vel­op­ment, said Sun­day. “Fi­nal de­ter­mi­na­tions have not been made, obviously.”

San Fran­cisco’s 40-man spring ros­ter in­cludes 15 former Fly­ing Squir­rels.

Al­guacil, 47 and a na­tive of Venezuela, led the Fly­ing Squir­rels to a 72-68 record in 2015, man­aged at Triple-A Sacra­mento in the Gi­ants’ sys­tem dur­ing 2016, and spent the past three sea­sons as San Fran­cisco’s first-base coach un­der man­ager Bruce Bochy, who re­tired fol­low­ing last year.

Haines said the pri­mary in­struc­tion given to the sys­tem’s play­ers when they left spring camp was “self-quar­an­tine and so­cial-dis­tance them­selves … we don’t have any idea when the sea­son’s go­ing to start. We just want to make sure we’re tak­ing care of ev­ery­one’s safety and well-be­ing right now. Base­ball is very sec­ondary.”

Al­guacil’s body and mind tell him he should be on a field hit­ting ground balls, or help­ing a short­stop prospect with his foot­work around sec­ond base. In­stead, “I’m here in Ari­zona, wait­ing to see what hap­pens like ev­ery­body else is,” he said Sun­day.

Haines, the Fly­ing Squir­rels’ man­ager in 2017, con­tin­ues to keep in touch with as many play­ers and staff mem­bers as he can.

“The or­ga­ni­za­tion doesn’t stop be­cause we’re not in each oth­ers’ pres­ence,” Haines said. “We’re al­ways brain­storm­ing, try­ing to find ways to teach bet­ter. That never stops in my brain, I know that.”

As the last week in March ar­rives in a nor­mal year, the Gi­ants and other ma­jor league or­ga­ni­za­tions be­gin to make de­ci­sions about which play­ers will be as­signed to which teams, from the big league club on down in the sys­tem.

“The ros­ters are al­ways made with pos­si­bly even years of in­for­ma­tion,” Haines said. “But the im­pres­sion in spring train­ing is huge. We didn’t even get into ros­ter bat­tles at the point when we broke up.”

Un­der cur­rent cir­cum­stances, Al­guacil and other mi­nor league man­agers are aware of which play­ers gen­er­ally were pro­jected to be on their ros­ters. Many of them com­peted in Richmond’s lone ex­hi­bi­tion game. But per­son­nel changes in­evitably oc­cur as a re­sult of spring train­ing per­for­mances, in­juries and other fac­tors, leav­ing Al­guacil with only a vague idea of who will end up as Fly­ing Squir­rels when the sea­son even­tu­ally be­gins.

“We don’t know what will hap­pen. Peo­ple are talk­ing about an­other month. Who knows?” Al­guacil said. “I don’t have any an­swers.”

Gi­ants’ mi­nor-lea­guers are work­ing out on their own. Al­guacil and Haines pre­sume that there will be a sec­ond ses­sion of spring train­ing, at some stage, which will al­low play­ers to restart the process of pre­par­ing for a sea­son.

“That seems like prob­a­bly the most log­i­cal next step,” Haines said. “Now when that next step oc­curs is any­body’s guess at this point.”

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Catcher Joey Bart, 23 and a former firstround draft choice, bat­ted .316 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 22 Squir­rels games af­ter his pro­mo­tion from Class A in 2019.

Jose Al­guacil, the Squir­rels’ man­ager, was San Fran­cisco’s first-base coach the past three sea­sons.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

JOE MA­HONEY/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

ABOVE: Out­fielder He­liot Ramos, 20 and a former first-round draft choice, bat­ted .242 with three homers and 15 RBIs for the Richmond Fly­ing Squir­rels af­ter his pro­mo­tion from Class A late last sea­son. LEFT: Kyle Haines, a former Squir­rels man­ager, now serves as San Fran­cisco’s direc­tor of player de­vel­op­ment.

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