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Did the Giants Rush Emmanuel Burriss?

As Dave expertly detailed in this piece last year, the District of Columbia has precisely one public school alumnus who is a major league baseball player; young Emmanuel Burriss, who excelled at Wilson High, then at Kent State, before being drafted by the Giants.

Now, in his second year of proper professional baseball, Burriss is the starting second baseman for the Giants. That's a great thing for a lot of reasons; it proves that District residents still can make it to the major leagues, it proves that a determined and talented athlete can make it to the big leagues quickly without ever receiving any significant exposure, and it provides a role model for young, African American baseball players from D.C. to follow.

The question is how long they'll be able to follow him in the major leagues. As this post from the excellent Giants blog McCovey Chronicles outlines, Burriss's struggles in the early season have been many and mighty. His fielding has been steady and solid, but his hitting has been, well, almost nonexistent.

So far, Burriss is batting a paltry .182, with an OBP of .260. Both are a far cry from the .299 or .409 OBP he put up after being called up last summer, and they're way off his strong spring training numbers, too. Those were the stats that convinced San Francisco he could hack the job as a full time starting infielder, but -- again, as McCovey Chron. outlines in all too much detail -- all those numbers were put up across particularly limited at-bats. Now that the team is finally seeing Burriss hit above the A level, the results are concerning, to say the least.

Now, none of this is a definitive reason to believe that Burriss won't snap out of his slump. As we've seen more than once in recent years -- Dustin Pedroia's AL Rookie of the Year season is the most notable example -- young hitters have a tendency to be profoundly streaky. Just as Burriss is struggling to reach the Mendoza line now, he could easily go on a tear where his OBP is near .750. That's just the way young hitters are.

The bigger issue is that Burriss's swings haven't shown that potential so far, and the sample size is growing large enough to make analysts wonder if they ever will.

For the record, I'm sticking with the District's guy, and I think the Giants will, too. When a young player struggles, confidence is at least as important as anything else, and that's the one thing that Burriss has in deep reserves. After all, if a kid can dominate a game against a better equipped and more talented opponent with a hook slide across a hard-packed dirt football field, we bet he'll have plenty of faith he can still make a difference in a major league batter's box.

By Cameron Smith  |  May 1, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Giants  
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