Christian Arroyo is hitting .191, with a .242 on-base percentage and .304 slugging percentage in 124 plate appearances. This is not a drill. He is hitting worse than Ehire Adrianza ever did. Worse than Joaquin Arias in 2014.
Yeah, we’re not messing around. As such, there have been a few articles (from Henry Schulman, Alex Pavlovic, and Andrew Baggarly, to start) about the possibility of Arroyo getting sent down. Bruce Bochy is quoted as saying he likes how Arroyo has handled the slump, but I’m guessing that’s because he can’t say, “Jeez, this kid is killing us.” On the other hand, the defense is solid, and it’s possible we’re overreacting to a small sample.
As much as I’m ready for the Era of the Homegrown Infield (v. 2.0) to begin, I’m not exactly sure where the controversy is. I don’t begrudge the Giants for bringing Arroyo up when he was demolishing Triple-A. I don’t begrudge them for sticking with him. But everything I wrote back in April still applies.
He doesn’t play left field
Still applies! He was brought up because the Giants’ left fielders were so awful, and the Giants made room by putting Eduardo Nuñez in left. He’s been pretty bad out there. According to Inside Edge, it’s not just that he’s having struggles with the tough plays, but that he’s not making all of the “routine” plays. Compare his routine percentage with that of Hunter Pence. Players can learn, and they can learn on the job, but Nuñez is better suited for the infield.
Nuñez is in left because the Giants need to make room for a .546 OPS. If you wanted a one-sentence summation of everything that’s gone wrong with 2017, that’ll do just fine.
The bat is likely to be “good for a middle infielder,” not “good enough to start at any position”
This will remain true for Arroyo until further notice. Is it set in stone? Heck, no. Daniel Murphy is a perennial MVP candidate now because he evolved. He could play first base and be an outstanding player, which absolutely no one expected just a couple years ago.
For now, though, Arroyo’s value will be tethered to the infield. And while I wrote “middle infielder” in that April post, that was a little much. He can be Matt Duffy, who was good enough to start at third, even when he wasn’t hitting .290.
This applies to the current situation because Arroyo in the lineup means that the Giants are moving their regular third baseman to the outfield, which essentially means that he’s taking the place of an outfielder. It’s also important that the Giants are incapable of finding an outfielder who can hit .200, but that doesn’t change that Arroyo’s bat is the rough equivalent of an outfielder in the team’s plans right now.
He might not be a true .479 hitter, everyone
Turns out those 69 plate appearances in Triple-A, while nice, didn’t have to be super predictive. He still struggled in Double-A last year. He’s still super young.
He’s still learning how to command the strike zone
Again, his career high in walks is 29, set last year for Richmond. That doesn’t mean eternal doom. It doesn’t mean that Arroyo is fated to hit .270 with a .310 OBP in his best years. It’s just that, well, he doesn’t command the strike zone like the best hitters in baseball. And when you don’t hit 25 homers or hit .330, that can create problems. Especially for someone who doesn’t turn 22 until May 30.
It’s not a permanent failing, in other words. It’s just that the Giants tried something, and it didn’t work out, and now it’s back to the original plan. That is, 2018 with a safety net. Don’t count on Arroyo to seize the third base job next year; hope for it and don’t put a huge roadblock in his path.
As to who should replace him, I don’t have a great solution. Conor Gillaspie is probably pretty bad, postseason heroics aside, and I’m not sure that Aaron Hill makes sense for a team that’s probably ruined their chances already this season. I’m all about the Jae-gyun Hwang experiment, but even I have to point out that there are red flags in his average-dependent Sacramento success. I’m not going to guarantee that the Giants will get better with a switch.
But I think it’s better for Arroyo. He came up, and he had some moments. Those are good things. I can remember two wins directly tied to his contributions, and that’s a lot more than I can say for a lot of the players who have cycled through the roster in this compostable season.
He’s still a soon-to-be-22-year-old with an average-dependent game, not a 40-homer slugger who will redefine the franchise. It’s okay to let him develop at the previously prescribed pace. As you were, in other words. As you were.
And, apropos of something, this is a good time to wonder about what the internet would have done with Matt Williams in 1987. Good times, good times.