Christian Arroyo was 7-for-13 in his Cactus League appearances before getting optioned on Sunday. He hit for power, took a pair of walks, and even stole a base. If you're not impressed by Arroyo, you're not watching him. The people who are watching him can't shut up about him, really. He's a catchy jingle that you can't get out of your head, and the jingle is in a commercial for Christian Arroyo. You already have your wallet out.
There was a sense of "Oh, he'll be back soon, anyway" from some Giants fans when Arroyo was optioned, which is what you're supposed to think about your best prospect as a fan. He melted the Arizona Fall League last October, and he melted the Cactus League in March, so it would follow that he'll might melt the Diamondbacks in July. It's a logical progression.
This is probably a good time to point out, then, that it's very unlikely that we're going to see a lot of Arroyo before September, at the earliest. Very, very unlikely. I know this is the organization that called up Madison Bumgarner a month after he turned 20, but hear me out. I'll make up a theorem.
It's the Christian Arroyo Sticking in the Majors in 2016 Theorem, and it goes like this:
If Christian Arroyo gets substantial time as a starting infielder for the 2016 Giants, he's probably having a season so good, he's become one of the very best prospects in baseball*.
Arroyo is already a top-100 prospect on some lists, so that needs some clarifying. He would have to be having a season that's so good, he would vault into the top 25 on some lists. He would have to be a 21-year-old who is absolutely dominating Double-A in a rough hitting environment.
Golly, that would be nice, and I'm certainly rooting for it, but I wouldn't gamble cash money on that particular prop bet. It's one of the possible outcomes. It's not one of the most outlandish outcomes, not at all. It could happen. But it's not the likeliest of possible outcomes, and it's certainly not something to expect.
Let's say that there's a surprise job vacancy on the Giants' roster. Pretend that Joe Panik takes some time off in the middle of the season to finish his screenplay. The Giants say sure, sure, take your time and follow your dreams, kid, which is very nice of them. Now they're without a second baseman, though. What would it take for Arroyo to fill that role, as an everyday starter at second?
Considering that Kelby Tomlinson hit .303/.358/.404 in the majors last year, and that ZiPS projects him to hit .281/.339/.415 this year, Arroyo would have to be hitting so well, the Giants would be comfortable vaulting him over Triple-A and into a starting role, over the player who filled in capably last season. The potential rewards of Arroyo in that scenario would have to be so great, the Giants wouldn't feel like they were taking a risk at all.
That would be one dynamite prospect.
We've already talked about how it doesn't matter what position Arroyo plays because time and talent usually make that decision for you, and there are certainly ways that he can force his way onto a roster soon. If the Giants need a second baseman (or even shortstop) in July, and the scouts and stats both agree that he's a mini-Duffy wasting his time in the minors, he could make the leap straight from Double-A, just like maxi-Duffy. It's possible that Arroyo hits so well in the minors, he's in Triple-A by May and getting some looks in the outfield, just in case.
But, again, those are scenarios in which he's morphed into one of the best prospects in baseball. That's something to root for. It's not something to wait for.
What's far more likely is that he goes to Double-A and does fine, with the ups and downs you would expect from a player who isn't that far removed from high school. He could do well enough to spend some time in Sacramento, and a September call-up wouldn't be an unreasonable expectation. If he does well enough, we probably won't see a lot of him. If he does really well, we probably won't see a lot of him. If he does so well that he's suddenly one of the best 25 prospects in baseball or so, we might see him sooner than expected, but only then.
Oh, there's also an asterisk to that theorem up there. It's the exception to the rule.
*Unless several Giants infielders have been all sucked into a black hole of pain at the same time.
If there are two or three or four concurrent injuries, then of course the Giants will consider filling a vacancy with one of their better prospects. But Arroyo isn't even 21 years old, and he plays the same positions as some of the Giants' best players. If he shows up ahead of schedule, either something has gone really wrong, or something has gone really, really right.
Doesn't mean you can't hope for it, of course. It would be only a little less strange than a 21-year-old with 19 career starts taking the mound for Game 3 of the World Series. It's just that it would be a surprise, and it's unrealistic to expect more than September at-bats from the Giants' best hitting prospect.