Monday, December 19, 2011

Hot Stove Update: Projecting Emmanuel Burriss

The Giants recently raised some eyebrows they offered arbitration to Emmanuel Burriss virtually guarateeing him a spot on the Opening Day 25 man active roster. Giants VP Bobby Evans commented, "His value is catching up after all his injuries. He's getting back to his game. We've seen things we haven't seen in the past. Amazing play in the OF. Even at first base, he showed a lot of utility and value. We think he's earned it." So, it seems that Burriss is set to be one of two reserve middle infielders along with Mike Fontenot and will double as one of two reserve OF's at the same time.

The eyebrow raising part was that virtually everyone was looking for the Giants to find a reserve infielder, preferably who bats RH, with some pop in his bat. Emmanuel Burriss is about as close to 180 degrees opposite as you can get. Last year, he was so weak offensively, that despite excellent defense at multiple positions, he got sent back to Fresno to make room for Bill Hall of all people! So, have the Giants brass lost their collective minds entirely? Well, maybe or maybe not depending on how you look at it. I decided to take another look at Burriss and focus not on what he can't do, but what he can and might do.

Burriss was drafted in he supplemental first round of the 2006 draft, the Timmy draft. Burriss was a fast riser on draft boards after an effusive Baseball America article late in the spring. Here was a kid who looked like he could stick at SS who hit .360 with an OBP of .446 with 42 SB's and only 2 CS. He even showed a whiff of power with 4 HR's! Shortstops who can get on base like that and then steal bases like that don't exactly grow on trees. It looked like the Giants got not one, but two steals at the top of the 2006 draft.

Burriss signed quickly and was assigned to Salem-Keizer where he got off to a great start to his pro career with a line of .307/.384/.366 with 35 SB's. The first sign of trouble came in 2007 when he got off to a horrible start in San Jose and was demoted to low A Augusta where he got his feet back on the ground with a line of .321/.374/.381 with 51 SB's.

The Giants fast-tracked him in 2008 and he put up an interesting line of .283/.357/.329 with 13 SB's in 240 AB's for the MLB club. I had forgotten his numbers were that good! One problem seemed to be that the GIants lost faith in his ability to play SS and he played mostly 2B. He won the starting 2B job out of spring training in 2009 over Kevin Frandsen in what was a somewhat controversial decision and one that was not taken well by Frandsen.

Burriss struggled offensively in 2009 with a line of .238/.292/.267 with 11 SB's, and got sent down to Fresno in favor of Matt Downs due to his weak offensive production. He later fractured his left foot and then refractured it in the spring of 2010. He underwent surgery to have it pinned and later came back to finish the 2010 season in Fresno with a line of .282/.334/.337 with 11 SB's in 273 AB's.

Burriss started the 2011 season in Fresno, but got another chance with the Giants after Freddy Sanchez went down with a separated shoulder. In 127 AB's he put up a pathetic line of .204/.253/.212 with 11 SB's against 3 CS. His overall line at Fresno was much better at .297/.386/.389 with 24 SB's against 5 CS.

So, where does that saga leave Emmanuel Burriss in the overall scheme of things Giant? Well, for one thing, 2012 will be his age 27 season, so he should be entering the prime years of his career, whatever that turns out to be. For another, he's now put in over 1900 professional AB's not quite 1 season's worth more than the 1500 that Brian Sabean believes is necessary to prepare a prospect for the major leagues. His overall minor league line sits at .285/.348/.344 with 147 SB's against 44 CS in 1353 AB's. He composite MLB line is .250/.311/.281 with 35 SB's against 12 CS in 584 AB's. Just for fun, here is Burriss' ZIPS projection for 2012: .255/.308/.306 with 23 SB against 8 CS in 337 AB. At this point it seems like we have enough data to draw several conclusions:

1. He is unlikely to ever hit for any power, period.
2. He is able to maintain a respectable IsoOBP of about .060 which is not half bad for a guy with no power.
3. He is able to steal bases with about a 75% success rate which means his SB's are an asset to his team.

Burriss will likely won't be the first backup option at any of several positions to start the season. He's going to have to take make the most of his chances when they come, which will make it harder to to get his BA above .250 which he needs in order to have any real offensive value. Over the last 2 years, Bruce Bochy has shown an interest in using Burriss and Darren Ford almost like designated pinch runners late in close games with some isolated successes, most notably Ford's mad dash around the bases to save the 2010 Championship season. Look for Burriss to get quite a few of those chances, then possibly staying in the game as a defensive replacement. How many SB's and Runs do you suppose he might accumulate if he appeared 162 times as a pinch runner and nothing else? I'm thinking about 30/30 which wouldn't be terrible production from a bench player.

Burriss also gives Bochy an option of going with a "speed lineup" with consisting of Pagan, Burriss, Melky, Nate, Brando Belt and Brandon Crawford. Projecting that lineup over a full season I'm thinking they could generate 124 SB's:

Pagan- 35
Burriss- 35
Melky- 18
Nate- 12
Belt- 10
Crawford- 6
Sandoval- 4
Posey- 4

That would put them near the top 10 in MLB as opposed to the #24 with the 85 they had last year. For an offensively challenged team who plays a lot of close ballgames that might not be a terrible way to play it. If Freddy Sanchez can get back to his pre-injury production at the plate, he might generate more offense than Burriss, but possibly not by a lot. If Burriss could get his BA above .250, I'm thinking he could get his SB's into the 40's and generate at least as many runs as Freddy's marginally better power.

Do you think Emmanuel Burriss has any role on the 2012 Giants and beyond?


  1. HMB (Handy Manny Burriss)... The Giants have been unsuccessful in their attempts to teach him to drive the ball. He isn't a small guy, so is it hitting technique? At this point he should embrace his inner slap hitter and bunt, chop and deke. Little annoying soft liners over the middle infield, a la Jamey Carroll. He was our #4 prospect in BA/2007 and you go read that blurb here's the weakness that stands out: He has very little pop, and pitchers at higher levels may be able to overpower him.

    Here is the good stuff: He has top-of-the-line speed, outstanding range, soft hands and very good instincts. So sure he can be useful, he plays pretty good D - excellent range with some occasional butterfingers. He is fast, and seems to be a more heads up basestealer than Ford. I would hope Bochy can get a little better with the sandbag, there were times last year when everybody knows Ford was running, and sure enough, he was, and sure enough, he was out. The designated pinch runner is a double edged sword.

    But with a bunch of other fast dudes it gets interesting, because suddenly we're not the plodding station to station team. Within that framework, there are going to be a lot of chances with Huff leaving the game and Manny B rolling into it. Of course it would help if Huff was on base first. The trouble will start with Burriss when he has to take the full time reins. I think HMB is one of the nicest Gints, and I'll root for him but I doubt he can hit enough to be truly useful. But he'll be handy in the roll described. We'll just hold our breath on Franchez dives to the turf.

  2. On that note, I really think the Giants need to consider moving Freddy Sanchez down to the 7 spot. It breaks up the left handed batters. Freddy is a great natural hitter, and does a lot of the gritty play the game right things you want in the #2 spot, but his lack of power and walks do take their toll. The folks at MCC love to get on Bochy for his "CF leads off, 2b bats 2nd" mentality but it's sort of true. If 2b bats 7th and SS bats 8th, you have Freddy/Fonty in the 7 hole and Crawford/Manny in the 8 hole. Of course the problem gets bad when its Manny/Crawford 7/8 but in that case you just have to praise the defensive range up the middle and buckle in for the 1-0, 2-1 game.

  3. Just read on mlbtraderumors that Omar Vizquel would come back to the Giants. I guess i'm a complete homer, as Vizquel is my favorite player ever to wear the big league duds, but his flexibility at 3B/SS/2B, his smaller salary and his ability to be phenomenal in the clubhouse make me think he could be a great addition. Again. Thoughts?

  4. Like the Burriss speed addition, and yes, since the Giants Way is to win one run games he could be an important piece on the 25-man. I had to shudder watching Burriss hit last year. Not just no power, NO power. I don't remember him hitting a ball past an outfielder. Hopefully Burriss gets some magic inside, because he could be useful if he can get to first base.

  5. Well there's the first minor league pitching deal for the year, return of 31st round 2000 draftee Brian Burres.

    Is Whiteside a major league deal? SI reported it as a minor/major for 175K/600K if he makes it. Now its looking like its a major league deal.

    And Handy Manny is back in the fold officially at 600K.

    Beyond the Box Score has an interesting chart on pitchers who are left in FA this year. At the bottom? One Rich Harden. One of these years he's going to stay healthy, right? Right?

  6. I kind of like the Burres signing. He's got a little cutter that Trevor Wilson taught him plus a decent changeup. He's decent insurance against a 5'th starter meltdown.

  7. burres on a minor league contract is smart...giants very thin in fresno

    rangers got to him and them

    saw the stow piece on nbc tonite....i want the filth who beat him to rot in prison

    doc, i know its not your specialty, but what are the chances of recovery with severe frontal lobe damage?

    according to the report, the doctors expect him to be permanently disabled and in need of lifetime care...that really hurts

    here was a guy who wasnt just a giants fan, but worked sharks games as a paramedic, and donated his services as a medic to the sj giants

    its just not right

  8. Neurologic injuries are always tough to predict because as soon as you think you can make a definitive statement, a patient comes along who does way better than anyone could reasonably hope.

    Without knowing the details of his case, it seems like Bryan Stow has made a lot of progress at a fairly late stage of his recovery which is itself a bit unusual. One of my mottos in this business is "never say never and never say always." It has held me in good stead.

    Having said all that it does seem like a high probability that Bryan will have significant long term damage.