We’ve now made it to shortstop in our Nine Positions in Nine Days. The focus on this article will be on the debut season for the now former Brewers top prospect, Orlando Arcia. Granted, Jonathan Villar started more than double the amount of games Arcia did at short. But since we discussed Villar in yesterday’s piece and considering how Arcia is set to be the shortstop of the future, this column will be about him.
In case you were wondering, here are the number of total starts at the No. 6 hole for the Crew:
Jonathan Villar (108)
Orlando Arcia (53)
Yadiel Rivera (5)
Hernan Perez (3)
If you remember, Arcia’s call-up immediately followed the trade of Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers. Many felt as if the organization’s top prospect was being rushed, as he had only pieced together a .267 batting average in hitter-friendly Colorado Springs and questions regarding his development existed. Nonetheless, Stearns & Co. deemed it fit to bring the talented infielder up to the Show.
Right out of the gates, Arcia had trouble adjusting to Major League pitching. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. In his first three weeks in the big leagues, Arcia took in 78 plate appearances. He was only able to string together a .155 average and balls that he did make contact with were weakly hit. Arcia’s SHAV (Soft Hit Average) ballooned to 41 percent. The level of talent in pitching also fooled him, as he put forth an 80.4 percent out rate during this span, many of which were strikeouts (19.2 percent rate).
Below is a heat map that breaks down where he was succeeding at the plate through those first few weeks:
Rightfully so, many pointed to this being due to the fact that he was called up too early. Some felt the only reason he was promoted was to reignite the fan base after the departing of Lucroy.
Nonetheless, Counsell and the coaching staff continued to keep Arcia in the deep end of the pool and, before fans knew it, Arcia was beginning to produce. When he first came up, Arcia’s hands were cocked near or above his shoulders as he would wait for the ball, making it more difficult to consistently drop his shoulders to create a level swing and bat path. He then went for a more quick approach with his swing by hovering his stance at a lower parallel line with his chest. Keon Broxton also made a similar adjustment and, like Arcia, saw results.
Just take a look at the dramatic color changes in this new and improved heat map:
Remember that change in his swing? It also impacted in his contact rate over the outside part of the plate.
Below his Arcia’s contact rate from Aug. 2 through Aug. 23. Outside of one small hot zone, not much contact was created on the outer half of the plate:
Compare that to the rainbow spectrum below, which details his rate of contact from Aug. 31 through the final game of the season. Along with major improvement on contact on the outer part of the zone, he also took strides in the lower third of the dish as well:
What does hitting the ball well on the outer area of the plate result in? You got it, opposite field hits. That’s exactly what Arcia produced in the time frame above, as his spray chart will solidify:
That’s 12 hits that came from straight up the middle or to right field. Hitting remains the Achille’s heel of Arcia’s game, but when he shows that he can drive the ball to the opposite field, it’s a good sign.
All in all, what initially began as a tough start to the career of Arcia turned into respectable results. He showed he can make changes in his game and see positive effects from it, which is something you want to see with any young player that’s touted like he is. He’s now no longer the team’s top prospect, as he graduated from that role. Next year will provide him his first Opening Day start as the Brewers’ shortstop for what hopefully should be the first of many. We all know the magic he can conjure with his glove. It’ll be intriguing to see if he can develop his bat to a similar level.