MLB

Terrible start forces Giants to make correct move earlier than planned

You knew a shakeup was coming; the question was whether it would be reported before they landed in San Francisco, after a low-water mark kind of series at high altitude, or a few hours before they played the Dodgers tonight. The answer was this afternoon, as the Giants promoted Christian Arroyo and Drew Stubbs.

Chris Marrero was designated for assignment and Aaron Hill was placed on the disabled list. Apparently the Giants still hold some hope for Gorkys Hernandez, who looked a lot more spry than Gregor Blanco at the end of last season, but has looked like the worst position player in the majors so far this season.

Arroyo won’t turn 22 for another month-plus, which puts him in the same category age-wise as several Giants greats.

That’s not to say Arroyo will, or should be expected to, measure up to any of those players in the early going. And an unfair comparison like the one I mentioned above is exactly why the Giants wanted Arroyo to get some more seasoning in Triple-A, so he wouldn’t have to deal with crazy comparisons or the burden of trying to lift a broken team out of the cellar. But the Giants were desperate enough to accelerate his path quite a bit, as Arroyo will start at third base and bat sixth for the Giants against the Dodgers tonight. Stubbs will start in center and hit eighth.

Arroyo looks like he could play one of the kids in a remake of “The Sandlot,” but in my brief exposure to him it was obvious that he has major league swagger. In his first interview with the media, shortly after being taken 25th overall in 2013, he seemed ready for the spotlight that would come less than four years later.

https://youtu.be/_2E4MRWgwe8
https://youtu.be/P3eS9H3SH9U

How a prospect handles his first post-draft interview session has nothing to do with his skill level, but the Giants pay attention to stuff like personality. That’s often why they promote guys seemingly out of nowhere, like Pablo Sandoval in 2008 (three days after his 22nd birthday) and Matt Duffy in 2014. I also remember seeing Kyle Crick in the same interview setting two years earlier, after the Giants drafted him early out of high school, and he was visibly nervous. Andrew Susac, on the other hand, relished the attention. Arroyo just seemed comfortable in his own skin.

The next time I saw him was the following spring, during the Giants’ annual “futures game” that pits a split-squad group of big leaguers against a team of Giants prospects. Arroyo’s team lost 8-0 to the older team (which started Madison Bumgarner), but it only took a few innings for Arroyo to impress me.

Christian Arroyo: He didn’t do anything flashy, but I really liked what I saw from the Giants’ 2013 first round pick. There were some questions (that he didn’t seem to appreciate) after getting drafted about whether he’ll remain a shortstop for the duration of his baseball career, and one look at him shows why. He doesn’t have a prototypical shortstop’s body. Brandon Crawford doesn’t either, but Arroyo is built kind of like Buster Posey. But Arroyo looks like he belongs on a diamond somewhere. How he fields his position, swings the bat (he had a single in two plate appearances) and comports himself all scream big leaguer. I can see what the Giants like in this kid — he looks ridiculously young (he’s still 18), but on the field he seems older. He definitely isn’t shy, although I already knew that from his first interview after getting drafted.

And here’s a report from someone who knows a lot more about baseball, and has seen a lot more of Arroyo, Brian Sabean:

“He should be knocking on the door within a year,” Sabean said. “I wouldn’t want to perhaps bring him up this year, because I think he still needs some more development time. That might be rushing things. But nothing would surprise me.

“As much as we’ve had a lot of success when we call up a position player, it’s still an inexact move. You really don’t know what to expect. They all have gone above and beyond the call of duty, whether it’s a Duffy or a Joe Panik. Perhaps because (Arroyo) was raised in that culture, too, it can only help him.

“But mostly, you have to be impressed with what he’s been able to do at a young age.”

Similar to Buster Posey in 2010, he Giants didn’t want to rush the best position player in their system this season. (Chris Shaw and Bryan Reynolds seem promising and they’re actually older than Arroyo, but they were taken in the first round two and three years after Arroyo, respectively.) Mike Krukow mentioned the Giants wanting to see how Arroyo handled a slump in Triple-A. But when you get outscored 20-3 over the weekend, and Arroyo raises his average to .446 with a 4-for-6 Sunday that included a walk-off hit, they had no choice.

I get the concern over Arroyo’s call-up, and the chance that he’ll struggle early and have to bounce back and forth between San Francisco and Sacramento. The easy comparison is Matt Williams, who played in exactly one Triple-A game in 1987 before being called up to replace Jose Uribe, who was injured. Williams — chosen third overall by the Giants in 1986 — had only played in 73 minor league games before his MLB debut, but he couldn’t hit a lick and was sent down in early July with an ugly slash line of .192/.242/.353. It seemed like every other at-bat ended in a strikeout or double play. He bounced back and forth throughout the 1988 and 1989 seasons as well, finally sticking with the big league club after he mashed in Triple-A Phoenix (26 homers in 76 games). Williams then hit 16 home runs for the Giants after July 23, and the Giants would go on to win the pennant.

The Giants would be ecstatic if Arroyo could come anywhere close to replicating Williams’ overall career numbers. But from what I’ve seen, I don’t know if Arroyo will be quite as hard on himself as Williams was before he became an established big leaguer. Williams also went to UNLV, while Arroyo has spent his early adult years as a minor leaguer with 378 games as a professional to his credit. But whether that matters is anyone’s guess.

It would’ve been nice if the Giants were dominant this season and didn’t need reinforcements, but without Monta Bumgarner (the Jeff Kent jokes are too obvious and have been made by just about everybody, so I have to mix it up a little) the Giants are low on energy and right-handed power. Who’s the Giants’ leading home run hitter from the right side? Bumgarner, with two. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, as well as Hill and Marrero, each have one. That’s it. It’s probably foolish to expect much from Stubbs, 32, who’s been inconsistent over his eight-year career and hasn’t had a productive major league season since 2014. But I have good feelings about Arroyo — maybe not as an intimidating slugger, but as a hitter who’ll make loud contact and erase a little of the gloom and doom that has enveloped this team since Opening Day.

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