The San Francisco Giants' top offensive prospect has spent the entirety of the 2016 season at the Double-A level with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Infielder Christian Arroyo is just weeks away from completing what many scouts and organizational personnel consider a major stepping stone, and even a future-teller for potential success in the big leagues — the first level of the upper minors.
Arroyo's third full season in the pros has been mediocre by some standards. For a top hitting prospect, numbers like a .276 batting average, .317 on-base percentage, and .313 wOBA may seem just, well, average. Good stats for an "organizational player" in Double-A, but the Giants' best guy? Universally ranked in the top-five in every team prospect list? He should be hitting over .300 right?
If you aren't worried about Arroyo, then good for you! But if you're concerned he is trending toward a bust, here's why you can feel much more optimistic.
Let's first take a look at his standard and advanced statistics through Sunday night (502 plate appearances):
- Standard: .276/.317/.376, 35 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 5.6 BB%, 13.9 K%
- Advanced: .313 wOBA, 90 wRC+, .100 ISO
On the surface, what are some conclusions we can draw from these?
Above-average marks are his strikeout rate and doubles total. Striking out once every five plate appearances is widely considered to be a league average, so with Arroyo at 13.9 percent in 2016, and 15.1 percent for his career, he's shown to be an outstanding contact hitter, at least at the minor-league level. And his 35 doubles prove the type of gap-to-gap hitter Arroyo has always been advertised as. He's tied for third in all of Double-A with the total.
Average marks are his batting average and wOBA. When you consider the majority of minor league hitter's averages tend to dip going from the California League to the Eastern League, .276 seems a little closer to .290. And at .313 for his wOBA, he's just slightly below what is considered to be an average mark — .320.
Below average marks are his on-base percentage, wRC+, ISO, slugging percentage, and walk rate. Of course the on-base percentage and walk rate go hand-in-hand. Fewer walks will obviously lead to a lower on-base percentage, but since Arroyo strikes out far less often than the average player, it evens that out a bit. And in regards to his power, Arroyo's career high in home runs for a season is nine, which he accomplished in the home run-inflating California League last year. Coming out of high school when the Giants drafted him in 2013, he was never expected to be a Troy Tulowitzski-type shortstop, but more of a Joe Panik or Matt Duffy.
Which leads me right into my next, and main point.
Let's compare the Double-A seasons of Panik and Duffy side-by-side with Arroyo, and take into consideration that Arroyo is still 21, while Panik was 22 and Duffy 23 in their first cracks in the upper minors.
- Panik (2013): .257/.333/.347, .316 wOBA, 92 wRC+, .090 ISO, 9.7 BB%, 11.4 K%
- Duffy (2014): .332/.398/.444, .379 wOBA, 136 wRC+, .112 ISO, 10.1 BB%, 15.8 K%
- Arroyo (2016): .276/.317/.376, .313 wOBA, 90 wRC+, .100 ISO, 5.6 BB%, 13.9 K%
People were a bit concerned with Panik back in 2013, as well. Hitting just .257, the organization's best infield prospect, and top overall offensive prospect (ranked 5th by MLB Pipeline), Panik's batting average had dipped 40 points from 2012 in San Jose. Just two years later, Panik tallied a 3.3 WAR as the Giants' starting second baseman while earning a spot on the National League All-Star roster and posting a .143 ISO. Certainly more power than what he displayed in a .090 season with the Flying Squirrels.
And overall, the advanced metrics of Panik and Arroyo are almost identical, with the key difference being Panik's better ability to draw walks. Otherwise, the two have essentially the same wOBA, wRC+, ISO, and strikeout rate.
Duffy's stint with the Flying Squirrels proved to be his breakout year. He skipped Triple-A and went straight to the major leagues and eventually replaced a struggling Casey McGehee at third base a year later. Duffy obviously hit for better average in Double-A, but produced a similar ISO (just 12 points higher) and comparable strikeout rate (actually 1.9 percent worse than Arroyo). Duffy's hot season combined with an above-average walk rate, resulted in spectacular metrics like his .379 wOBA and 136 wRC+. He then went on to finish second in National League Rookie-of-the-Year voting with a 4.9 WAR.
So, when putting all this into perspective, knowing that Arroyo is two weeks away from producing an extremely comparable statistical season to the Giants' current starting second baseman, at age 21, in a league where he is 3.3 years younger than league average, he should absolutely still have you excited about the potential he holds in the Giants' near future.
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