San Francisco Giants welcome Christian Arroyo to spring training


This is the fourteenth in a series of articles, here at Around the Foghorn, covering the 22 non-roster invitees joining the San Francisco Giants in their spring training complex this season.

Christian Arroyo, right-handed infielder beginning his third professional baseball season, is in the San Francisco Giants spring training camp, having been invited along with 21 other players, to work out with the team in the desert. A shortstop in his first two pro seasons, Arroyo will attempt to demonstrate exactly why he was selected in the first round of  Major League Baseball’s 2013 draft, surprising the experts.

Out of Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida, Arroyo indicated early on that he could compete, by being named MVP of the 18U World Baseball Championship, played in Seoul, Korea, in 2012, at which time the United States captured the Gold Medal. Arroyo played shortstop, batting .387, and was among the tournament’s leaders with 11 RBIs. He started all of his team’s thirteen games at shortstop, making two errors, and turning six double plays on 67 fielding chances.

The five-eleven, 180-pound first round selection, surprised the experts because he does not have credentials that leap out as being those of a premier ballplayer. He does not hit for power, he does not have abundant speed, and his defense, at first glance, seems to be average, at best. So one would naturally expect that this prospect has some of the intangibles that do not show up on paper.

In commenting on Arroyo’s first-round selection, Giants vice president of scouting and international operations, John Barr, said the team had been following Arroyo since early 2012, and watched him as he was named MVP of the !8U World Baseball Championship. He was the highest player on the Giants’ board when the 25th pick rolled around the following year.

Christian Arroyo; Photo Credit: Chung Sun-Jun

Barr described Arroyo as versatile enough to play other positions in the infield besides shortstop, which is good because more than one scouting report has mentioned arm strength as a reason to move him to second base. Arroyo has talked about growing up with Derek Jeter as his favorite player, which helps explain why he plays short; like Jeter, Arroyo is also well spoken.

When asked what he knew about the team that had just drafted him, Arroyo said that he had followed Buster Posey (fellow Southerner born in Georgia) and that he watched the Giants win the title the previous fall [2012].

Let’s take a glimpse at his two seasons of professional play:

2013: AZL Giants/Arizona League/Rookie/45 G/209 PA/184 AB/47 R/60 H/18 2B/5 3B/2 HR/39 RBI/3 SB/2 CS/19 BB/32 SO/.326 BA/.388 OBP/.511 SLG/.898 OPS/ 94 TB/GDP 1/HBP 2/SH 0/SF 4/IBB 1

2014: Salem-Keizer Volcanoes/Northwest League/Level A-/58 G/267 PA/243 AB/39 R/81 H/14 2B/2 3B/5 HR/48 RBI/6 SB/1 CS/18 BB/31 SO/.333 BA/.378 OBP/.469 SLG/.847 OPS/ 114 TB/GDP 3/HBP 2/SH 0/SF 4/IBB 1

2014: Augusta GreenJackets/South Atlanta League/Level A/31 G/125 PA/118 AB/10 R/24 H/3 2B/1 3B/1 HR/14 RBI/1 SB/2 CS/4 BB/22 SO/.203 BA/.226 OBP/.271 SLG/.497 OPS/ 32 TB/GDP 2/HBP 0/SH 1/SF 2/IBB 0   

2013/2014 combined: Defensive stats/130 G/622 Ch/177 PO/A 423/E 22/DP 77/Fld% .965

What Arroyo clearly had going for him at his first two stops was his ability to hit for average. He is a line-drive hitter, with one occasionally clearing the wall, but both his average and his on-base percentage took a serious hit when he went from the Volcanoes at the A- level, and to the GreenJackets at the A level.

What happened was he sprained his left thumb and went on the disabled list in early May.

Research indicates that trying to swing a baseball bat with any authority with a sprained thumb, will result in skewed stats. Every time.

Therefore, the numbers that might be interpreted as adjustment issues to a higher level of play, are more likely to be the result of trying to swing a bat with a thumb that is not one hundred percent.

In also commenting on Arroyo’s selection as a first-rounder, Mike Rosenbaum, who writes for MLB Prospects Leader, described a few of those traits that Arroyo possesses. He lists quickness and speed to handle the infield at higher levels; Arroyo could adjust to other infield positions, relying on excellent instincts and high baseball IQ; finally, he has solid hands and gets rid of the ball quickly. Rosenbaum was one profiler who described Arroyo’s throwing arm as strong enough to handle any infield position.

The bottom line is that Arroyo is in camp to show what he has. He is still not even twenty-years-old, so he has plenty of time, compared to a few of the non-roster invitees who have been on the quest for a decade or longer (Justin Maxwell, yesterday’s prospect).

What Arroyo needs to do is provide firsthand, some of those intangibles that made him a first-round pick. After all, not all MLB ballplayers have the minor league stats to justify their having experienced success at the big league level.

It frequently comes down to the intangibles, such as drawing a two-out walk in the ninth inning of a National League Division Series game, the way Joe Panik did in Washington DC, allowing him to score the tying run in a contest the Giants would win in eighteen innings.

Possessing intangibles gives a player the ability to fashion a miracle out of a mud splat, the way Panik did when he speared a hot grounder in Game Seven of the 2014 World Series, in the third inning, and glove-tossed it to Brandon Crawford, who threw it on to first for the contested second out of the double play.

Whether Christian Arroyo has those tools in his possession or not, may become more apparent this spring, as he competes in the most intense venue he has ever experienced. And he has to be thinking to himself, that if spring training is the most intense venue he has ever experienced because he is playing with major leaguers, then what would it be like to play in October?

He can just ask Joe Panik.