SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For a city that is so rich in history, culture and sports tradition, Washington, D.C., has not been known as a hotbed for top baseball talent.
But San Francisco Giants shortstop Emmanuel Burriss is doing what he can to change that perception.
Burriss, the Giants' supplemental first-round pick in 2006 out of Kent State University, became the first product of a D.C. public high school to make it to the big leagues since 1981 when he took the field April 20 in St. Louis.
Hard to believe, but true. The 2003 Wilson High School graduate did his home city proud in his debut, hitting .283 with 13 steals in 95 games with the Giants, seeing time at shortstop and second base.
A quick riser in his two-plus pro seasons, Burriss batted .307 in his pro debut in 2006 at short-season Salem-Keizer. After a slow start in his 2007 jump to Class A Advanced San Jose, where he batted just .165 in 36 games, he rebounded quickly at Class A Augusta to hit .321 and combined for 68 stolen bases at the two stops.
That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Fresno to open 2008, but he was there only two weeks before being called up to the Majors.
Now, with the Giants looking at an "out with the old, in with the new" overhaul, they're using the AFL to look at players like Burriss to assess their '09 plans. And Burriss is not doing anything to hurt his chances of being their Opening Day shortstop.
In the first two weeks of action, he was hitting .326 with a league-leading six steals while playing every day.
It is a return trip to the AFL for Burriss, who joined Scottsdale in the second half of 2007 and hit .365 with eight steals in 17 games, mostly at second base as he filled in for the injured Eugenio Velez.
"Last year, I think it helped a lot just to be able to see the type of pitching I was going to be up against," Burriss said of his prep work in the AFL. "The speed of the game is a lot different, and being able to get used to that helped. So I think for me it was a great deal to come out here and be able to have that competition."
Though the Washington Nationals weren't around when Burriss was growing up, he didn't lack for a chance to watch pro ball, both at the Major and Minor League levels.
"My parents are big-time baseball fans, and it's only an hour drive to Baltimore to watch a lot of games," said Burriss, who is believed to be the first D.C. public school product to be drafted since 1989. "I always had baseball in my heart growing up. I went to [Double-A] Bowie a lot during the summers to see Baysox games, too."
In fact, Burriss recalled that he'd go to those Eastern League games and imagine what it would be like to make it to the professional level and come back and play for his friends and family in Bowie.
It didn't quite happen that way.
After his 2007 season in Class A, Burriss was placed on the super-accelerated track and completely bypassed Double-A. He'll take that tradeoff.
"I was looking forward to playing in Bowie, but I'd rather have my family come to Nationals Park and see me there," he laughed.
Other Giants in the AFL
2B Kevin Frandsen returns to the site of his autumn glory in 2006, when he hit .388 with four homers and 19 RBIs for Scottsdale and won the coveted Dernell Stenson Award for Leadership. Frandsen, who played at three levels that summer, including a brief big-league debut, spent most of 2007 in the Majors, hitting .269 with five homers and 31 RBIs for the Giants. But a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered during this spring sidelined him for all but the final game of the season. A 2004 12th-round pick out of San Jose State, a healthy Frandsen would factor into the Giants' wide-open infield picture in 2009. So far with the Scorpions, he's hitting .308 in seven games, showing little evidence of rust.
Also in the infield picture is 3B Ryan Rohlinger, who was moved to the taxi squad with the addition of Frandsen, meaning he only gets to play Wednesdays and Saturdays. Rohlinger spent most of 2008 at San Jose but also saw time at Double-A Connecticut, combining to hit .289 with 13 homers and 65 RBIs. He made his Major League debut down the stretch and batted .222 in two games.
OF Ben Copeland's 13 triples tied him for fourth in the Minors as he batted .276 with 24 steals between Connecticut and Triple-A Fresno. The 2005 fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh finished up with a .341 mark in 22 games at Triple-A and was hitting .270 with four RBIs in 10 contests with Scottsdale.
RHP Kevin Pucetas has put himself very much on the prospect map over the last two years, winning back-to-back league Pitcher of the Year awards. This summer, he was 10-2 with a 3.02 ERA for San Jose to nab California League honors after leading the Minors with a 1.86 ERA in 2007 at Augusta. The 2006 17th-round pick out of Limestone (S.C.) College, Pucetas' numbers in his first two Scottsdale starts were 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA and seven strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings. He fanned five over 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs in his most recent start.
LHP Alex Hinshaw got on the radar in a big way this year as he blew past opponents in 13 games at Fresno, posting an 0.57 ERA, before moving up to San Francisco in mid-May to post a 3.40 ERA in 48 games there. The 2005 15th-round pick out of San Diego State struck out 182 batters in 148 2/3 innings in the Minors. With Scottsdale, Hinshaw continued to dominate with 11 strikeouts and a 4.50 ERA in six innings.
RHP Osiris Matos is yet another of the Giants' corps of impressive relievers who have emerged in the big leagues over the last two years. With a 2.49 ERA in 42 games between two levels in 2007 and an 0.97 ERA between Connecticut and Fresno in 2008, Matos had two stints with San Francisco in his big league debut this summer. In Scottsdale, he posted a 5.40 ERA in three early outings, a span of 3 1/3 innings.
RHP Kelvin Pichardo posted a 2.48 ERA at Connecticut this season, striking out 62 over 61 2/3 innings while limiting Eastern League batters to a .214 average. That was an even lower ERA than he had in 2007, when he posted a 3.09 mark at San Jose and a 3.86 ERA at Connecticut to earn a spot on the Giants' 40-man roster. Pichardo had a 2.70 ERA in three AFL games, striking out five without walking a batter in 3 1/3 innings.