Squirrels could offer a pair with promise
Bart, Ramos, two of Giants’ top prospects, likely for Richmond
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.”
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.
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.