It is difficult to have a better year than Orlando Arcia (MillerParkProspects #1 Prospect) had at Double-A Biloxi in 2015. The Venezuelan shortstop finished in the top five in the Southern League in six offensive categories including batting average, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, total bases, and slugging percentage. He was a midseason and postseason all-star and helped lead the Shuckers to the Southern League Finals. Now he is one step away from the bigs, starting the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Despite not being a home run hitter, Arcia racked up 232 total bases, which was second most in the Southern League. His league-leading 37 doubles, 25 stolen bases (6th in league), and 74 runs (5th) were among the reasons why he touched so many bags. As the baseball proverb goes, you can’t get home without getting to first and he got to first a lot with a .307 batting average while playing more games than any other player in the top five (Arcia ranked 5th). His average was even more impressive from a sabermetrics point-of-view as he had a .326 batting average on balls-in-play.
Simply put, when he got the bat on the ball, it dropped on the outfield grass. When asked about his success at the plate in 2015, Arica is quick to credit his coaches in Biloxi.
“I’m thankful to have had [Hitting Coach] Sandy Guerrero and [Manager] Carlos Subero,” Arcia says through his new teammate (and apparently new translator) Sky Sox pitcher Hiram Burgos. “They helped me develop a lot of skills and taught me to play the game the right way.”
It would appear that the Milwaukee Brewers are aligning things in order to have their top prospect join them sooner rather than later. A pair of offseason moves has cleared a path for Arcia to be the long-term answer at shortstop in Miller Park. In November, new Brewers general manager David Stearns traded another top middle infield prospect, Luis Sardinas, to the Seattle Mariners. Then in January, Jean Segura’s four-year career in Milwaukee ended when Stearns sent him to the Arizona Diamondbacks. While Arcia is aware of the moves, he does not believe a call-up to the majors is a given.
“At the end of the day, I don’t let that into my mind so I can just keep playing the game the right way,” Arcia says. “I will keep hustling until whenever I get the opportunity, I’m just taking it day by day and will see what happens.”
If there is one knock on him offensively, and it is the smallest of knocks, it would be his plate discipline. Like any young player, the 22-year-old is impatient at times. He struck out 73 times in 129 games last season, a bit more than you would like for a potential top-of-the-order hitter. His walk-to-strikeout ratio was the lowest of his professional career (0.41). While there has been consternation in the past about whether patience is actually a virtue, it certainly will be a virtue of Orlando Arcia this season.
“I’m looking to have more discipline at the plate, seeing better pitches and hitting the breaking pitches.”
Easier said than done according to his new manager, Rick Sweet, who begins his 2nd year at the helm of the Sky Sox.
“He’s going to have to adjust to this level,” Sweet says. “This is a totally different level than anywhere he’s been.”
With that being said, Sweet believes that his personality will help him transition to any level.
“He plays with an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm,” says Sweet. “He plays hard all the time, he plays with color, he’s fun to watch.”
Something that will be fun to watch this year is whether playing at over 6,000 feet will improve Arcia’s power numbers. He has never hit more than eight home runs in a season, but if you take him at his word, even playing on the side of Mount Everest will not tempt him to swing for the fences.
“I’m going to focus on the same thing I always do, hitting the ball up the middle and to the right field side.”
With a smile and a shrug, Arcia acknowledges long balls may be an unintended consequence of playing at Security Service Field. “It’s not like I’m trying to hit home runs, but if the elevation helps that’s different.”