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2017 Most Valuable Brewer #7: Orlando Arcia

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During his first full MLB season, the young shortstop offered several glimpses of his future potential.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

When a top prospect first comes up to the big leagues, it’s not uncommon for that player to struggle, no matter how substantial their pedigree is. Such was the case in 2016 when Orlando Arcia made his big league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers. At the time he was called up in August of 2016, Arcia was considered a top-10 prospect league wide, labeled as a “future Gold Glover” at shortstop and sporting solid hit and run tools. It never clicked for Arcia that summer though, as he would wind up batting a meager .219/.273/.358 with 4 home runs and 8 steals in his first 55 games. Despite those struggles, Arcia still entered the 2017 season as the expected starter at shortstop.

This season, the recently-turned 23 year old let everyone know that he belongs in the big leagues. Arcia was a fixture in the lineup all season long, playing in 153 games, the most on the club. He normally batted down towards the bottom of the lineup, appearing in 112 games in the #8 spot ahead of the pitcher. Craig Counsell felt it was best for Arcia’s development to keep him in a consistent spot, and that the youngster was a good fit to round out the bottom of his starting nine.

Orlando started out a bit slowly with the bat, posting a wRC+ of 67 through the first two months of the season. He got scorching hot in June, though, posting an .848 OPS during the month. That helped Arcia build some confidence at the dish, and though he wouldn’t quite keep up that pace he looked improved on offense through the end of the season.

Arcia’s not exactly feared for his offensive prowess, but a .277/.324/.407 slash in 548 plate appearances during your first full big league season as age 22 is nothing to shake one’s head at. That output translated to an 85 wRC+, which was only slightly below the league average of 88 for the shortstop position. Orlando brandished his speed on the bases by swiping 14 bags on the year, and he even flashed some surprising power by popping 15 home runs. He had never before even reached the double-digit dinger plateau in the minor leagues.

Orlando was able to cut his strikeout rate by nearly 4% from his partial season debut in 2016, and his rate of hard contact also improved immensely as he got more settled in against MLB pitching. He doesn’t appear likely to ever be much of an on-base threat, though; he walked only 6.6% of the time, chased 38.7% of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone and posted a 12.8% swinging strike rate.

Orlando’s true calling card has always been his defense, and he treated us to several gems throughout the year. Although he made a whopping 20 errors at shortstop in 2017 (t-2nd most in MLB), he still graded out quite highly at the six according to the advanced metrics. He finished with +6 Defensive Runs Saved (t-5th among MLB shortstops) and +7.4 Fielding Runs Above Average (t-4th), making some incredible highlight reel type plays, including the one below:

When looking at Arcia’s total value through the lens of wins above replacement, he was valued at 1.2 fWAR (thanks to a subpar UZR, Fangraphs’ fielding component), 2.6 bWAR, and 3.4 WARP. That works out to a composite WAR of 2.4, meaning that over the course of his first full MLB season Arcia was a slightly better-than-average regular at shortstop. He’ll play most of next season at age 23. If Arcia can continue making improvements at the plate and combine that with his outstanding glove work, he could be a future superstar in this league. For now though, he should feel pretty good about being voted by you all as the #7 Most Valuable Brewer.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus