Across Major League Baseball, there are players that will be impacted negatively and positively due to the delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Players coming back from injury like Mike Clevinger or Justin Verlander or Eric Lauer here in Milwaukee have time to heal and come into what amounts to the beginning of the season. Other players might be impacted negatively by the delay for any variety of reasons. One of those players for our Brewers could potentially be Orlando Arcia.
Arcia came onto the scene for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016. He played in 55 games and dazzled the Milwaukee fanbase with his defensive range and potential. While his offensive numbers were lacking (65 wRC+), the thought was if he could be an average hitter or a bit below average, his defense would make up for it. There was even optimism that he would be better than average offensively.
In 2017, it seemed that the Brewers had their shortstop for the next several years. Belting 15 home runs and posting a wRC+ of 86 in his age 22/23 season reinforced that optimism. Unfortunately the past two years for Arcia have been awful. In fact, Orlando Arcia has been one, if not the, worst hitters in MLB posting a 54 wRC+ in 2018 and a 61 wRC+ in 2019.
Even more concerning, his defense seem to have suffered as well. Arcia was thought to be a defensive savant at shortstop on par with Andrelton Simmons and Francisco Lindor. That just has not been the case. Arcia posted negative UZR/150 ratings in 2018 and 2019. He did have +7 defensive runs saved in 2018, but that number came down to +2 in 2019.
Here’s how Craig Counsell answered when asked whether bringing up Tyler Saladino to share shortstop could be seen as a wake-up call to Orlando Arcia. The Brewers have been unhappy with Arcia’s defense. pic.twitter.com/bJCLnrRfkF— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) June 29, 2019
Arcia’s struggles necessitated action on the part of Craig Counsell and the front office. In 2018, Arcia was sent to the minor leagues for poor performance. To give you an idea of how bad he was, from Opening Day in 2018 to June 30 (his last day with the Brewers before being sent down), Arcia posted a wRC+ of 28. Arcia was replaced by Tyler Saladino. Injury to Saladino probably forced Arcia back into the Milwaukee lineup before the Brewers would have liked. Harkened by his opportunity, Arcia performed better, albeit not amazing, posting a wRC+ of 79 from his call back in late July until the end of the season.
Coming into 2019, Arcia had the opportunity to secure his spot in the lineup for years to come, but failed. Craig Counsell cited peripheral defenicies in Arcia’s defense that were cause for alarm and intimation of less playing time. Unfortunately, there was no one that was able to perform much better than Arcia on the roster. The result was one of the worst offensive outputs at the shortstop position of any team in baseball. To his credit, Arcia did improve defensively later in the season.
In the offseason, the Brewers acquired Luis Urias in trade from the San Diego Padres. The Brewers likely made the trade to replace Arcia at the shortstop position. At the same time, the Brewers did sign Arcia for 2020 with a 1-year, $2.2 million contract (non-guaranteed, by the nature of how arb contracts work). It was $500K lower than he was projected to receive in arbitration, meaning that it was perhaps a “take it or get non-tendered” type of deal. Arcia was put on notice.
Coming into Spring Training, Orlando likely understood his role as the Brewers’ shortstop was at the very least in jeopardy. Yet an opportunity presented itself once again as Urias, his competition for the position, broke his hamate playing winter ball and was slated to miss much of the Cactus League schedule.
Arcia took advantage. His spring numbers were some of the best in baseball. In fact he was tied for the lead in home runs with 5, second in RBI, and was slugging .926. Orlando Arcia was answering the challenge set forth by the Brewers in a big way, and making it very difficult to just hand over the shortstop position to Luis Urias.
Then the season abruptly paused, and the very hot Orlando Arcia and the rest of baseball had to stop what they were doing. Because of this stoppage it is very possible that Orlando Arcia will be one of the players most impacted in a negative way. Why?
It is very possible that Orlando Arcia remained hot and took his hot bat into the regular season. Craig Counsell generally plays the player who is performing the best at the time. The Brewers have invested a lot of time and energy into the young shortstop, and at 25 years old, he just might be putting it together. That had to be going through the minds of Counsell, his coaching staff, and the Brewers’ front office. Putting together a strong first month, for example, would reinforce that thought process. The likelihood would have been a much longer leash for the embattled shortstop for 2020. While that is still very much a possibility, the enthusiasm of the present will likely fade. Decision making based on past performance as opposed to the small sample of Spring Training would likely win out.
Additionally, Luis Urias will now be healthy to start the season — whenever that might be. With that in mind, Urias and Arcia will be starting from scratch. We cannot forget that Urias was having a pretty good winter ball season before his injury. With Urias’ potential as a hitter (remember some scouting publications gave him a 70 grade hit tool), Arcia has to demonstrate better acumen at the plate across the 2020 season. With Urias healthy along with Brock Holt, Jedd Gyorko, and Eric Sogard in line to handle whatever infield duties deemed necessary by Counsell, Arcia has to break through. There is a significant risk he will see fewer opportunities. With fewer opportunities comes lesser results for most. Arcia does not have a track record to readily overcome that possibility.
Orlando Arcia was playing himself into more playing time going into 2020. If that playing time resulted in something remotely approaching what he was doing in Spring Training, the Brewers would have to reconsider their thinking about Urias at shortstop. Whether that meant playing him at third base or something else. Nonetheless, Arcia would have to be considered strongly for the top spot on the depth chart for the shortstop position if his bat remained viable.
Orlando Arcia tweaked his swing with hitting coaches Andy Haines and Jacob Cruz. It’s early, but the initial results are prettay, prettay, prettay good. https://t.co/KPwYSqUgNW— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) March 1, 2020
While he might still hit well enough to play regularly and remain the starting shortstop, the delay in the season hurts his chances. His hot bat would have elongated his timeline in the lineup. If he played defensively in a focused way, it would be difficult to remove him from the position. Now Luis Urias is apt to be deemed the starting shortstop or at least even with Arcia. That said, maybe the Brewers’ hitting coaches unlocked something in Orlando Arcia that will not be denied.