Happy Friday, Brewers fans. We’ve reached the end of our countdown and the top of your list of the Brewers’ ten best prospects – as of last winter, that is. Holding down the top spot of a weak bunch was a dynamic young shortstop from Venezuela. After a year of growth and upheaval which will greatly modify this list when we put it together again this winter, he remains firmly at the top of the heap.
Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
The Brewers’ acquisition of Orlando Arcia was a remarkable scouting coup for Milwaukee. In October of 2010, the Brewers signed the 16-year-old shortstop as an undrafted free agent for a mere $95,000 signing bonus. He was an All-Star in his first professional season, which he spent with the Brewers’ Dominican Summer League. He lost his age-17 season when he broke his ankle in an extended spring training game in 2012, then spent his first season stateside with Low-A Wisconsin, where a pedestrian .251/.314/.333 line failed to turn many heads, even if he was flashing a plus glove and arm. Despite the below-average offensive numbers, the Brewers continued their aggressive approach in 2014, placing him with High-A Brevard County as a 19-year-old, and Arcia rewarded them with 113 wRC+ season at the plate. The impressive offensive showing put Arcia on the national map, and he found himself at the back-end of several Top 100 prospect lists, as well as on top of the Brewers’ organizational rankings. In 2015, he exploded.
Despite entering 2015 as the second youngest player in the Southern League, Arcia mashed .307/.347/.453 with AA-Biloxi, good for a 126 wRC+. He stole 25 bases on 33 attempts and continued to flash a little bit of game power that he showed in the Venzuelan Winter League in 2014, swatting eight home runs and adding 37 doubles and eight triples. He may have been aided by some luck, as his .343 BABIP is a touch higher than the expected range, but he also showed a high BABIP in 2014 with Brevard County (.326), so it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary for him. He continued to avoid strikeout well, a theme that’s followed him throughout his career – his excellent 13.2% strikeout rate was actually the highest of his career. His walk rate dipped all the way down to a somewhat-concerning 5.8%, so we’ll hopefully see him return to the 8-9% range he entered the season with.
Arcia’s strong season – including an especially hot first month when he went completely bonkers with a .409/.468/.545 slash line – caused Arcia to soar up the rankings in mid-season updates from Baseball America 8), FanGraphs (8), Minor League Ball (11), MLB.com (12) ESPN/Keith Law (17) and Baseball Prospectus (31). A highly-regarded prospect entering the season based on his plus glove and speed, the addition of a plus bat makes Arcia's new ceiling "perennial All Star".
Arcia will start 2016 with AAA-Colorado Springs. Because everyone in the thin Rocky Mountain air looks like Barry Lamar Bonds, he will mash the home runs many scouts are hoping to see out of him. His batting average and OPS will soar, and the impatient among you will demand action. "Why isn’t Arcia in the big leagues yet!?" you’ll cry, as Jean Segura rolls over to second yet again. "What is this jabroni thinking!?" you’ll lament, as David Stearns calls up Yadiel Rivera instead to replace Elian Herrera, who sprained his ankle while falling over the tarp in Chicago (what a catch, though). You’ll cry and scream and kick and if Stearns has even a modicum of sense, you won’t get your way. Is there a possibility that Arcia grabs a mug of Folgers in September to reward a fan base that still showed up in droves to watch the Brewers lose 100 games? Sure. But no matter how great he looks with the Sky Sox next year, there’s simply no reason to start the clock on his MLB service time in a season that ended eight months before it even begins. Grab an MiLB.tv subscription, relax, and be patient as you fill your head with images of your 2017 Opening Day shortstop.