Christian Arroyo is Certainly No Average Rookie

May 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Christian Arroyo (22) hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
May 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Christian Arroyo (22) hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2017 season hasn’t been a happy one for the San Francisco Giants, but Christian Arroyo is quickly proving himself to be the real deal.

The 2017 season has been disappointing, to say the least, for the San Francisco Giants. Inconsistent performances from both the lineup and the pitching staff have made wins hard to come by. But if you need something to cling to, something happy to put a smile on your face, look no farther than the fresh-faced kid manning third base.

Christian Arroyo forced his way up to the big leagues. It became too difficult to look past the 21-year-old infielder’s .446/.478/.692 slash-line and 10 extra-base hits in only 16 games with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats while the offense continued to put together meager performance after meager performance.

On April 24th, Arroyo became a big leaguer for the first time, and the Giants wasted no time throwing him into the fire. He started at third base and batted sixth against the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Arroyo is certainly a rookie, but if this is your first taste of Giants’ baseball, it would be hard to tell that this is Arroyo’s first taste of big league baseball. When a rookie comes up for his first big league stint, they aren’t supposed to carry themselves like a 10-year veteran, especially at the ripe age of 21. But everything about Arroyo screams veteran, from his fielding, to his hitting, to his interviews off the field. This isn’t an average rookie.

He was thrown into the ocean with much bigger, and much older fish, but the kid is swimming just fine. Arroyo has looked the part of big leaguer since day one, doing just about everything right while becoming an immediate stalwart in the everyday lineup.

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Just watching his at-bats is like a lesson on hitting. An astute viewer would be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of swings where Arroyo is off-balance, and his hacks against Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw may have been the most impressive work of his young career. He has seen the Cy Young-winning lefty six times this season, and has put together fantastic at-bats each time.

His first career hit came on a first-pitch fastball from Kershaw that he ambushed, and on Monday, he was able to pick up another pair of hits while seeing 20 pitches in three at-bats. One of those hits resulted in a run, scoring Gorkys Hernandez from second base. Arroyo’s ability to wait back on the big, looping curveball and fight off pitches that he can’t drive until he gets one he can is nothing short of impressive.

Arroyo’s three hits against Kershaw already matches some big names around the game, including David Wright (21 at-bats), Danny Espinosa (23 ABs), Ian Desmond (29 ABs), and his own teammate Brandon Belt (in a mind-boggling 51 ABs).

Arroyo needed 36 at-bats to collect his first 10 hits as a big leaguer. That compares pretty evenly to Buster Posey, another rookie that had a big impact (but struggled in his first taste in 2009). Posey needed 34 at-bats. Joe Panik, a player to whom Arroyo has been compared quite often, needed 45 at-bats. Brandon Crawford, known as a glove-only player upon first call-up, needed 40. Belt needed 46.

And is as a calling card for seemingly every hitter that comes through the Giants’ system these days, Arroyo is more than capable of using the entire field. He has shown an exceptional knack for using the middle of the field. Just like Joe Panik, Buster Posey, Matt Duffy, and Kelby Tomlinson before him (among others), Arroyo is no dead-pull hitter.

In addition to looking like a future batting champion, Arroyo has played excellent defense at a position that, while has been pegged as his future, he didn’t play much in the minor leagues. Shortstop is his natural position and was his position for most of his minor league career, and only 20 percent of his minor league starts came at the hot corner. At the big league level, he’s taken to the position like a fish to water. On Tuesday, he made an outstanding diving catch on a frozen rope down the left field line and added a bare-handed play on a dribbler up the line for good measure.

No, Arroyo is by no means perfect and there is still a lot of room to grow. Someday very soon he’ll learn to lay off that breaking ball below the strikezone, and cut down on a 27 percent strikeout rate. But he’s proving that he can still do the thing that made him the Giants’ top hitting prospect: hit the ball hard. When he makes contact, he makes it loud.

Arroyo already has hit eight balls with exit velocities of 100 miles per hour or harder. His average exit velocity is just under 90 miles per hour, and only Michael Morse (with eight total balls in play), Madison Bumgarner (six balls in play), and Buster Posey (59 balls in play) are hitting it harder.

With that hard contact comes extra bases, as well. Arroyo hit only three home runs across 474 at-bats in Double-A with the Richmond Flying Squirrels last season. This season, he’s already hit five out of the park in 101 at-bats between Triple-A and the big leagues, including two at AT&T Park. For a young hitter that is built as strong as Arroyo is, the power will come. It seems it’s already coming.

Next: Giants 3 Up, 3 Down: Padres

This is a special young player that the Giants have on their hands. Even if nothing else comes from this season, it will always be remembered as the beginning for young Christian Arroyo.