Rays’ Christian Arroyo Knows He Has Big Shoes To Fill

Eventually stepping in to replace traded Rays cornerstone third baseman Evan Longoria will be a little more personal for Christian Arroyo than it would be for another player.

That’s because the 22-year-old prospect grew up in the Tampa Bay area as a Longoria fan.

“I know for a lot of Rays fans out there it hurts,” Arroyo said. “For me, if I was still a fan, it would hurt me, too, because I was a huge Evan Longoria fan. This is a guy who is the face of the franchise. That’s the thing about baseball. You have to make business decisions, and sometimes they hurt.”

The Rays added Arroyo as the key piece in the four-player return from the Giants when they shockingly traded Longoria, the franchise leader in virtually every counting statistic, on Dec. 20.

“I’m just trying to look at it as a good opportunity for me,” Arroyo said. “I don’t ever want to replicate myself as an Evan Longoria, because he’s a once-in-a-generation-type player . . . I just want to go out there and play my game and make myself better every year.”

The Rays envision Arroyo, the 25th pick in the 2013 draft out of high school in Brooksville, Fla., stepping into the lineup and growing into a mainstay—or “someone offensively who can be a guy who you can build around,” general manager Erik Neander said.

Tampa Bay is pleased with Arroyo’s hands, footwork and arm strength on defense, with third base his likely position. Drafted as a shortstop and also seasoned at second base, he lacks the prototype range and quickness for the middle infield. The Rays are more excited about Arroyo’s bat, given his ability to make contact at a high rate and the projection for power to come without an accompanying increase in strikeouts.

Arroyo may open 2018 at Triple-A Durham because he missed the second half of 2017 after his left hand was broken when hit by a pitch on July 1, and because, despite a 34-game cameo with San Francisco, he still has fewer than 250 plate appearances above Double-A.

“Just because you’re getting traded for a player like Evan Longoria, you still have to earn it,” Arroyo said. “My intentions are to earn a spot on the team and be a guy who can help the Rays out for years to come. Doing it in front of my family and friends makes it all that much better.”

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