San Francisco Giants Riding the Pine: Christian Arroyo

The San Francisco Giants pride themselves on building their core from scratch, and Christian Arroyo projects to be the final piece of their homegrown infield, but with Eduardo Nunez currently occupying third base, the first-round pick’s plans for 2017 remains uncertain.

With the 25th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the San Francisco Giants shocked an overwhelming majority of draft experts by selecting Christian Arroyo straight out of high school.

Prospect pundits such as ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America questioned Arroyo’s skill on both sides of the ball. Law, who had Arroyo ranked 99th in his list of the 100 best prospects, commented “his offensive upside is somewhat limited,” while Baseball America, which had him 102nd in their rankings, claimed he was not quick enough to play up the middle.

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At the time of the selection, San Francisco’s head of scouting John Barr countered the arguments of outside voices, commenting on the shortstop’s potential with the bat, as well as his versatility to play both middle-infield positions.

The middle infielder’s production in high school allowed San Francisco to justify the selection. In his senior season, Arroyo bat .524 with 11 home runs over 105 at-bats. Arroyo also played for Team USA at the 2013 18-U Baseball World Cup and hit .387 with 11 RBIs, leading the United States to a gold medal and earning MVP honors.

Overall, Arroyo has hit well in the minors since signing his first professional contract with a .294 batting average in 1527 plate appearances, but as a young prospect, he has endured a learning curve.

San Francisco’s first-round pick initially succeeded in his first taste of professional ball, tearing up the Arizona Fall League with a slash line of .326/.388/.511, which earned him the MVP Award of the AFL, but his first full season was filled with peaks and valleys.

Arroyo struggled with the bat in 2014 as the starting second baseman for the Augusta GreenJackets, hitting a mere .203/.226/.271 with a very undesirable wRC+ of 35 in 125 plate appearances before landing on the disabled list after hyperextending his thumb.

San Francisco demoted Arroyo to the short-season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, an opportunity for the middle infielder to correct the mistakes he committed with Augusta. Arroyo admitted, later on, he was aiming for home runs even in Augusta’s vast ballpark and that he had to polish his approach. He mentioned it  too Andrew Baggarly in a blog he used to include extra bits for a Mercury News article on Arroyo back in February of 2016. 

Following a month of stagnation, Arroyo returned to action with the Volcanos and excelled with his new but temporary home. Arroyo’s refined technique immediately paid off as he ended his 58 games at Salem-Keizer with a batting average of .333 over 267 plate appearances and five home runs, upping his walk totals and lowering his strikeout totals.

Arroyo’s success continued into his time with the San Jose Giants and Richmond Flying Squirrels in the past two seasons, where he has hit a combined .288 with 12 home runs and 91 RBIs in 926 plate appearances.

In his three seasons with the farm system of the San Francisco Giants, Arroyo has proven himself worthy of the first-round pick, and at 21 he will have substantial room to develop his all-around game.

Arroyo’s game does not revolve around power, which some scouts consider a weakness considering he will likely have to transition to third base with Brandon Crawford at short, but his skill with the bat does well to mask his lack of pop. That said, Arroyo has decent gap-to-gap power, and as his body matures, him cranking out double-digit home runs would be a surprising development.

Assisting Arroyo’s natural skill with the bat is his keen batter’s eye, which excels in recognizing hittable pitches. While Arroyo already has a knack for identifying which pitches he can hit, he’ll need to take the next step by determining which pitches he can drive in the gaps. Arroyo isn’t prone to striking out higher than the league average, but he could improve the rate at which he draws walks.

Many experts attempted to poke holes in his defense following the draft, but Arroyo has improved in this department as well. His ability with the glove is fairly average, and the hot corner suits Arroyo more than up the middle because of his range.

While Arroyo has yet to play at the Triple-A level with the Sacramento River Cats, he will have an opportunity this upcoming spring to fight for a starting job with the San Francisco Giants. The expectation is that he starts the season with Sacramento, but the official fate of where he begins 2017 will remain unknown until spring training.

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