The online Giants community has been perkin’ this past weekend. The team won a series against the Cardinals, which featured more Lincecum goodness with a side of Bowker power, and made a roster move that has some scratching their heads and others going “meh”.
Let’s talk about the roster move that took place. The Giants have DFA’d Rajai Davis, who is most famously not Matt Morris, and purchased the contract of SS Emmanuel Burriss from AAA Fresno. Burriss was the 33rd overall pick in the 2006 June Draft, also known as ‘The Year of the Lincecum’, out of Kent State.
Burriss’ 2007 had it’s ups and downs. He started the year in San Jose in the California League and struggled offensively — in a league known for it’s offense — and was eventually rolled back a level to the Augusta team. He only hit (.165/.237/.180) in San Jose over 139 AB’s. He finished the year strongly, both in Augusta and by his AFL performance. In Augusta he hit (.321/.374/.381) with 51 stolen bases. In the AFL he hit well but I believe he only got a little over 50 AB’s since he was a late addition. The AFL is generally a league with top prospects but I think that Burriss’ numbers are a little overstated. The AFL is usually a hitters league and 50 AB’s is the equivalent of 12-13 games. So, I’m slightly skeptical of numbers coming from the AFL, even more so when the league leader in OPS is Sam Fuld. If anyone could post his AFL numbers in the comments of this post, I’d greatly appreciate it. The AFL site is really buggy and impossible to navigate.
Burriss is a contact-styled hitter without any power. Over his Minor League career, he’s only slugged .340 — not including this year’s numbers in AAA. He’s got blazing speed — rated at the fastest baserunner in the Giants system by BA — and can field SS decently. His arm is probably below Bocock’s arm but he shouldn’t embarrass himself at the position. For Burriss to succeed, he needs to slap the ball on the ground and run, taking advantage of his speed.
Here’s Burriss’ Top 10 Comparable Players by PECOTA, comments are mine.
1 Wylie Campbell – Stole 34 bases in A-ball but never made it past A+ ball.
2 Shawn Livsey – One of two 1st round draft picks on our list — Remember that Burriss was a 1st rounder — Livsey played 7 years in the minor leagues and had a career line of (.264/.350/.350)
3 Freddie Bynum – So far, the 1st on our list to actually get MLB at-bats. To this date, has had 239 AB’s in the majors, most of which came in 2006 under Dusty Baker. Bynum is the classic Dusty Baker player — much like Neifi Perez, Jose Macias, and Shawon Dunston — low on talent, but high on heart which made him one of “Dusty’s guys” which translates into way more playing time than actually deserved, driving fans crazy.
4 Chone Figgins – Probably the best comp for Burriss so far on the list if everything goes right for him. Figgins has the most MLB playing time of anyone on this list and he’s turned into a decent utility player-slash-starter for the Angels. He’s stolen 200+ bases in both the minors and the majors.
5 Juan Francia – Mark down as a ‘Never Made It’. Stole a bunch of bases in the minors — 245 over 8 seasons — but at a poor rate of 69%. Split time last year between AA/AAA for the Yankees. Has hit only 8 HR’s over 2856 career AB’s.
6 Willie Bloomquist – A Mariner fan favorite! Another slappy MI on this list that has somehow, someway has gotten actual playing time in the MLB.
7 Cleatus Davidson – Great name. Not-so-good at the baseball thing. Minor league lifer that has played 13 seasons in the minors. He snuck into the majors in 1999 for 22 glorious career AB’s for the Twins. Stole 274 career bags in the minors at a 74% rate. Hasn’t been seen in baseball since ’06.
8 Justin Baughman – Not much to say, 7 seasons in the minor leagues and 2 seasons in the majors. Speedy with a good SB% — 254 career thefts in the minors at 79% — but a weak bat. Has a career minor league OPS of .659
9 Alfredo Amezaga – Is Amezaga the 2nd most successful comp to Burriss so far on this list? You might be able to make that argument. Currently playing for the Marlins, he has 6 seasons in the majors. Utility player that played SS/2B/3B in the minors and has played CF in the majors, among other positions. It’s not pretty when a possible 2nd best comp has a career major league line of (.249/.314/.339)
10 Chris Burke – Our 2nd 1st round pick to make this list. Burke was chosen 10th overall in the 2001 draft by the Houston Astros. His 2001 season for the University of Tennessee was tremendous, he hit (.435/.537/.815) with 20 HR’s, 21 2B’s, and 11 3B’s while playing shortstop. That kind of power production form shortstop is very interesting and no doubt the reason he went so high in the draft. He struggled some initially in the minors, not reaching double digit HR’s until ’04, and eventually made the Astros team as a utility guy. He never flashed the same power or promise that he did at the University of Tennessee — Ahhh, the beauty that is aluminum bats. On this list, he’s clearly the player with the most power, hitting 30 career minor league HR’s and another 20 in the majors.
By first glance, that’s some ugly company to be a part of. The list is mostly composed of players that never made it and players that did make it but as utility-type players.
The Giants have been aggressive with Burriss, sending him to AAA this year after his mixed results of ’07, and I don’t mind that aggressiveness so much. He’s obviously the closest major-league-ready SS prospect that the Giants have, even if that says more about the lack of SS options in the Giants system than it does about Burriss as a player. But, what I do mind is the idea that Burriss will be a backup on the team, or that he and Bocock will swap time at SS.
Burriss is expected to provide some depth in the infield, specifically behind rookie shortstop Brian Bocock. Burriss and Bocock both played in Class A last season, so Giants manager Bruce Bochy isn’t expecting either of them to knock around Major League pitchers from the start.
What Burriss needs is steady playing time to help him develop and hopefully, hone his hitting abilities which at this point, are Bocockian. Consider that he’s only hitting (.258/.281/.306) in AAA right now. That’s over a small sample size of 60-some AB’s but it’s most likely the case that he has miles to go as a hitter and it’s hard to work on hitting, well, if you know, if you can’t actually get into the game and hit.
And if the Giants need SS depth, why not call up someone like Ochoa and let Burriss continue to play regularly in AAA? The other thing that drives me crazy about this scenario is Rich Aurilia. Sure, he’s not a SS anymore, but if Bocock needs a rest, he could most likely start 1-2 games a week at short. He played 12 games at short last year and I can’t remember them being particularly horrific. And furthermore, is there a more useless player on any major league roster than Rich Aurilia? He’s yet to hit a extra base hit in 55 AB’s. Yet, he still makes his way into the lineup a few times a week. If you ranked XHB’s by players with at least 50 minimum PA’s in the NL, only Brian Schneider and Rich Aurilia have zero XBH’s. It’s amazing that he hasn’t been cut yet.
I’m getting the feeling that the theme of this year is: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. Just because you can promote Bocock/Burriss to the majors, doesn’t mean you actually should. Both players are obviously not ready for this level of play. It’s like for all the years that fans griped about the abundance of veterans on this roster, Sabean is trying to reverse it all in one season. “See! I’m calling up all sorts of youngsters to play! Are you happy now!?” It almost feels bipolar. Part of this season is to nurture what prospects we have and I’m not sure sending them directly into the fire is the best way to help them progress. Sure, you could say “Either you hit, or you don’t” but you just don’t see teams call up players who are woefully unprepared for this level of play. The moves made to fill shortstop, if anything, have shown how unprepared this team was for that position. Omar was only 1,000 years-old and players do eventually break down, you would think that the Giants would have a better contingency plan than a couple of A-ball shortstops who might hit as well as Noah Lowry over a full season.
Pure Speculation edit: I forgot to add this the first time through, I’ve heard some speculation that because Burriss got called up, it’s possible that Omar’s rehab is going worse than expected. He’s already had mobility concerns, could this mean that Omar might retire before he ever gets back to the majors? It’s something to chew on and I would dislike this move less if it means that Burriss could get more starting time in the bigs.
Losing Davis to this whole situation isn’t the worst thing because the Giants have a ton of OF’s, so while his time was brief with the Giants, it’s ultimately unimportant if he stays or goes. He made some dynamite catches last year and played quite well, so I hope he catches on somewhere else. If Juan Pierre can carve out a major league career, I’m sure Davis can too.
Comment Starter: Burriss time? Yay or Nay? Too soon, or just riiiight. Help convince me that this isn’t as stupid as I might think it is.