Now that the minor league season is essentially over, I absolutely have to extol the exploits of my favorite minor league player. Brewers shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia caught my attention almost as soon as the season began. Last offseason, I mentioned him among other prospects whom the Brewers were using to brew a contender, but I wasn’t expecting him to enthrall me for an entire season like he did.
Arcia was MLB.com’s No. 88 prospect during the preseason, so he is clearly talented, but he was overshadowed by the likes of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Addison Russell as the best shortstop prospects in the game. Now, Arcia is ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the game and the sixth ranked shortstop. It may be my bias, but I would put Arcia higher among the shortstops. He is one of the lone bright spots in lousy season in Milwaukee.
Yes, Arcia had a very impressive 2015 season. He hit .307 with a .347 on base percentage and slugged .453 with eight home runs and 25 stolen bases. He took a big jump forward offensively this season, as he improved in all of those categories, excluding stolen bases, for the second year in a row. He’s spent the last three seasons of his professional career in leagues that are stingy in allowing runs yet has still managed to improve.
It’s also common knowledge he is one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors.
Yes, he’s obviously been successful, but what about intangibles? It’s hard to discern whether a player has the grit and mental fortitude to succeed from numbers alone, but Arcia’s performance in 2015 suggest he has the gumption to be a valuable major leaguer. The Biloxi Shuckers, whom Arcia played for all season, had to open the season on a 54-game road trip because of construction delays on their stadium. Arcia hit .327/.379/.467 on that road trip. He also hit .461 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the Southern League playoffs and almost single-handedly lifted the Shuckers to a sweep over Pensacola.
Arcia’s profile and continued improvement suggest his time in the minors is limited and calls to mind another highly-touted shortstop: the aforementioned Lindor. The Cleveland Indians called Lindor up from Triple-A in mid-June and he is now a leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year. Lindor’s defensive sorcery is the impetus for arguably the best defensive improvement a team has ever made during a season and a big reason why the Indians are in the Wildcard hunt.
Defensive metrics for the minor leagues can be crude and hard to come by, but Arcia’s 4.77 range factor per game and .989 fielding percentage look promising next to Lindor’s 4.33 and .965. Lindor will be better, but you have to like Arcia’s potential.
Yes, Lindor is great defensively, but his offensive output is also having a huge impact. It’s flat out above expectations, as Lindor was expected to have a more Addison Russell-like impact: Entering play Wednesday, the Cubs were 27-15—a .643 winning percentage—since Russell was moved to everyday shortstop but were 49-41 (.544) with him as the everyday second baseman despite his modest offensive contribution. Lindor’s contribution hasn’t been one-sided as he is hitting .317/.354/.478 with 10 home runs.
The reason I mention Lindor with Arcia is because they have similar offensive and defensive profiles and have similar careers in similar offensive environments. Here are their career minor league statistics through Double-A:
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Arcia put the ball in play a little bit more and hit for more power, but overall the similarities are striking. There is a caveat though: Lindor is a switch hitter, so the numbers may not equate well. Lindor’s right- and left-handed production has been fairly equal in the majors, which is a promising sign.
If Arcia can make his offensive tools translate the way Lindor has, the Brewers will have a very promising future shortstop who could be ready by midseason 2016, just like Lindor was in 2015—another similarity is that Lindor debuted in his age 21 season and Arcia will do the same if he debuts next year. That gives the Brewers an optimistic outlook considering some recent trade pieces are already paying dividends. The Brewers will have to figure out what to do with current shortstop and offensive deadweight Jean Segura, but maybe a Starlin Castro-like solution where Segura moves to second or third base so Arcia can play shortstop will work well for the Brew Crew.
My final act as shill for Arcia will be to put his name among the early contenders for the 2016 National League ROY.