What To Do with Emmanuel Burriss

This post had to come eventually. And I didn’t want to do it. I was pessimistic, sure. At least, I thought I was. It turns out that I was a little too optimistic. But I wanted to be wrong. I really did.

Emmanuel Burriss is killing me. Wait, that’s not right. How the Giants have handled Burriss his killing me. For the second straight year, a young player was put in a position in which it was almost impossible for him to succeed. Two years ago, Burriss hit .165 in the California League. To his credit, he responded well to a demotion -- .321/.371/.381 in the Sally. That’s low-A, mind you. It was a fine performance for a middle infielder, but he was still a 22-year-old in low-A.

Then the Giants started him in Fresno last year, which was a little bizarre. It’s an assignment that you might give someone who tore up high-A, but the Giants essentially skipped him over two levels. Okay, whatever. It’s good that the organization had faith in him, I guess. He didn’t hit at all in Fresno, but it was only in 62 at-bats.

In the early part of last season, the Giants brought up Burriss so he could sit on the bench. This was one year after he couldn’t handle the California League. So instead of 500 at-bats at a professional level, which would have been ideal for a young player looking to improve his hitting, Burriss ended up with 300. And surprise of surprises, for about 190 at-bats in May, June, and August, he was good. He hit .299 with a .409 on-base percentage in 103 August at-bats. This hot streak, along with a hot spring, convinced the Giants that he was ready for the majors. The sample size was small, but not laughably so. Still, it would have been more prudent for the Giants to see a full season of Burriss hitting well above low-A.

Last night, Burriss came up with runners on second and third, and one out. He hit a ball as hard as any he’s hit this year; it was an absolute rocket. But it was right at someone, and Travis Ishikawa strayed too far, and, well, double play. Whoops. Burriss took off his helmet, and he thought about firing it into the ground. He didn’t – his composure is just one on a list of reasons why he’s one of the more likable players on the team – but the frustration was evident. He finally hit a ball well, and it was right at someone. He was as defeated as I’ve ever seen a major league player.

The Giants don’t want to make any quick decisions with a struggling young player. That’s kind of nice, actually. It was always frustrating to watch guys like Todd Linden get yanked up and down after a handful of at-bats. So the Giants are caught between two options: a) send Burriss down when his confidence is already at an all-time low, or b) keep playing a young player who never really should have been in the majors. I don’t have a suggestion. Those are two really, really repugnant options. I just know that the Giants horribly mismanaged two young shortstops last year, and Burriss’s hitting .280 in his limited at-bats was probably the worst thing that could have happened to him.

As happy as I was about the Randy Johnson signing, as happy as I’ve been about the last couple of drafts, the Emmanuel Burriss debacle leaves me sick to my stomach. I’m guardedly optimistic about Burriss’s future, and I really hope he succeeds as a Giant. I hope this post looks awfully stupid in June, even. But all the available evidence points to a young player who shouldn’t have been rushed.

No stupid jokes, no cat pictures. This situation just makes me sad in fifteen different ways. Bang up job, Giants.

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