González rewarded for huge May, joins elite company

June 9th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Luis González joined exclusive company when he captured National League Rookie of the Month honors for May.

The 26-year-old outfielder became only the third Giant to win the award, following Pedro Feliz (July 2001) and Buster Posey (July 2010). González’s accomplishment was even more impressive considering he didn’t spend the entirety of May in the Majors. As you may recall, González was briefly optioned to Triple-A Sacramento as part of a roster crunch, though he was recalled four days later after the injury to LaMonte Wade Jr.

Since then, González has carved out a regular role with the Giants, batting .322 with an .811 OPS over 36 games this year, going into Wednesday. His .368 clip in May was the third-best in the NL behind the Mets’ Luis Guillorme (.414) and the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt (.404).

“It’s exciting,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “The more track record he has, the longer this stretch of good performance, the more dependable he becomes, the more likely it is that we have not just a fill-in outfielder this year while LaMonte Wade Jr. is down, but a guy that we can count on going forward. And not just in 2022, but in years to come. It’s fun to kind of get lost in those thoughts for a little bit and think about what might be if we have a regular Major League outfielder on our hands in Luis González.”

It’s hard not to see parallels between González and Wade, a fellow left-handed hitter who burst onto the scene last year, though Kapler noted that their offensive profiles are distinct.

“LaMonte was more of what we come to expect from a Giants player,” Kapler said. “Very disciplined and looking over the baseball, with some swing-and-miss, but the ability to drive the ball to the pull side. Luis feels more like a throwback '80s hitter. Use the whole field, slap the ball down the left-field line, some ground balls that get through the hole, a bunt base hit, maybe a .300 hitter. It just looks a little bit more like a throwback.”

Like González, Wade was sent down to the Minors at one point last season, a move that did not sit well with the fanbase, though he quickly returned and proved that he was here to stay. The question now is whether González has done enough to cross a similar threshold, especially since another roster crunch appears imminent with Wade, Brandon Belt and Steven Duggar moving closer to returning from the injured list.

Young players with options are always candidates to be the odd man out in those situations, though González is doing all he can to make the decision as difficult as possible for San Francisco.

While the Giants appear to have a legitimate NL Rookie of the Year candidate on their hands in González, some of their other younger prospects, such as Heliot Ramos, have struggled to find a foothold in the Majors thus far. Ramos, 22, has appeared in only five games with the Giants this year and has scuffled at Triple-A Sacramento, where he’s batting .211 with a .626 OPS and 49 strikeouts over 44 games in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Ramos, who was brought up for one game in Philadelphia before being optioned again last week, said he’s been working with River Cats hitting coach Damon Minor to make some adjustments and is feeling better about his progress at the plate.

“It was a tough month and a half because I was trying to figure out how my body is supposed to move,” Ramos said. “I was tightening up too much. I didn’t have space for my hands. I just opened up a little bit and tried to be more free to hit the ball. See the ball, hit the ball and not think too much.”

The Giants have yet to give Ramos an extended look in the Majors, preferring to call him up for short stints against pockets of left-handed pitching, but Kapler remains confident that the 2017 first-round Draft pick will develop into a key contributor in the near future.

“We haven’t lost an ounce of conviction in his talent and his ability to make an impact at the Major League level,” Kapler said.