The Evan Longoria trade caught many off surprise. In its wake many many have questioned who will play third in 2018, and whether the Tampa Bay Rays received enough in return for the former face of the franchise.
Neither answer is simple.
As it relates to the former, while it would be great to see Arroyo, a home grown product from Brooksville, step right in into Longoria’s spikes, that’s likely not going to happen. Matt Duffy, who was acquired from the Giants in 2016, is presumably ready to go. His 4.9 fWAR rating at the hot corner — a number that is better than Longoria’s 2017 Gold Glove campaign rating — makes Duffy the heir apparent.
Moreover, Arroyo broke his left hand on July 1, 2017 when he was hit by a pitch. He then re-aggrivated the injury in the Dominican Republic in October, and had to have surgery in which a stabilizing plate was inserted. He should be cleared for baseball activity in early January and be ready for spring training. Even then he is just 22 years-old.
And though he appeared in 34 games for San Francisco last season, he only stepped to the plate 102 times at the Triple-A level, having moved fairly quickly through the Giants organization after being drafted in 2013. Still, Dave Cameron (FanGraphs) tagged Arroyo with a $38-million surplus value, before his injury.
On Christian Arroyo
As Ian Malinowski (DRaysBay) suggested last week, “the mean projection for Longoria and Arroyo has them as likely to produce similar amounts of surplus value over the course of their remaining team control.” That is, while Arroyo might not appear in a Rays’ jersey this season, he could tally something to that of a later-era Longoria.
As it relates to the latter, Arroyo was the top prospect in the Giants system, and 57th overall. It should be noted that San Francisco has one of the weaker farm systems in Major League Baseball.
The infielder was ranked fourth in the recently released Baseball America list of prospects, down from second the previous season due to the aforementioned injury. Arroyo was given a 50 Future Value with medium risk in the 2017 Prospect Handbook:
Scouts have long been confident Arroyo will hit for average. He has a straightforward swing and has demonstrated time and time again he has the hand-eye and bat-to-ball skills of a pure hitter. At this point, the general consensus among evaluators is that 10-15 home runs is the most that can be expected from Arroyo — he’s yet to reach double digits in home runs in any season.
Arroyo earned his first big league callup in late April, although after just 70 plate Triple-A plate appearances it became abundantly clear that the (then) 21 year-old wasn’t ready to face Major League pitching. He slashed just .192 BA/.244 OBP/.304 SLG/.548 OPS/44 wRC+ in 135 plate appearances.
Arroyo is a polarizing prospect in that many believe he can be an everyday infielder, while others don’t feel he will hit enough to be more than a replacement level bench player.
As JT Morgan (DRaysBay) wrote, “if Arroyo can hit for enough batting average that makes his overall line around league average with above average defense at second base. That gives you a solid three win second baseman with six years of team control remaining. In order for the OBP and SLG to be high enough you’ll likely need to see the batting average close to .300.”
On Stephen Woods and Matt Krook
While intriguing, neither right-hander Stephen Woods nor southpaw Matt Krook project to crack the big leagues.
Woods is a hurler with control problems, but would have ranked 25th in the Giants Top 30. Chris Mitchell (FanGraphs) writes that it’s almost a certainty that the right-hander won’t crack the big leagues:
Woods pitched to a 2.95 ERA as a starter last year but did so as a 22-year-old in Low-A. Woods also walked a concerning 13% of opposing batters, which suggests luck played a role in his shiny ERA. Woods’ numbers have been fine but aren’t terribly impressive coming from a college draftee in Low-A.
Krook was graded favorably on his fastball and curveball, and boasts an above average slider. And though he has limited contact to grounders (+64.0% groundball rate through the minors), control problems have set him back:
Krook has good stuff but hasn’t had much luck using it to get batters out, writes Mitchell. Command issues have yielded walk rates well into the double-digits, including a 16% clip last year. Krook is a 6-foot-4 lefty who strikes guys out, which gives him a glimmer of hope, but 22-year-olds with crappy numbers in A-ball are a dime a dozen.
With all this in mind, the success of this deal is contingent upon Arroyo. He projects to be a league average hitter with a limited power potential and a low walk rate. At worst Arroyo will be relegated to utility infielder duty.
Critics of the deal — much like myself — would have preferred to see another quality prospect thrown in for good measure, especially since the Rays tossed in $10 to $15-million to cover a portion of Longoria’s remaining $86-million as well as a deferred $2-million trade bonus.