Last season marked Orlando Arcia’s first full season on the MLB squad, and he certainly had big expectations to fill. Brought up as the first prominently heralded prospect of the rebuild, many immediately labeled him as the shortstop of the future. A brief stint that featured him in 55 games had its fair share of bumps in the road, but Arcia re-gained his footing last season, putting forth some positive numbers. With that being said, just how good can Arcia become in 2018, and how would he get there?
There were a number of positive changes to Arcia’s game across the board last season. We’ll start with the simple stuff. In 2016, he slashed a poor .219/.273/.358. Many interpreted that as him being rushed up to the MLB level. Others shrugged it off by saying he wasn’t meant to be a strong hitter. That is true — when Arcia was gracing prospect rankings and websites, his flashy glove is what drew all the rave. Regardless of everything involved, Arcia kept racking up at-bats against MLB pitching.
And boy, did it pay off. Last year saw the shortstop post a much-improved slash of .277/.324/.407, numbers that many thought were out of the realm of expectations. His OPS leapt a full 100 points, going from .631 to .731. What’s impressive is that he grew these stats by strictly putting bat on ball. In 2016, he registered a 6.9 BB percentage. That number was literally the same last season, as it dipped a little bit to 6.6 percent. He did exemplify some improvements in discipline by not striking out as much, coming in at 18.2 percent compared to 21.8 percent in 2016 (which still is pretty high).
But jumping back to his bat contact — in terms of contact rate, his numbers were boosted in the one category you’d hope to see improvement in. He saw a jump of nearly five percent in hard hit percentage, all the way up to 30.2 percent. That was reached in large part due to Arcia putting the ball up the middle. He improved on squaring up pitches by nearly seven percentage points, jumping from 33.8 percent in 2016 to 40.4 percent last season.
Sometimes it helps to see visual representation of these statistics to help get the point across. Here’s Arcia’s line drive percentage from 2016:
And now, here’s his line drive percentage from last season:
That definitely warrants a reason to be excited. Not only is he making contact in areas of the zone where he should be making contact, he’s making contact at an exceptional rate. In his first stint up with the Crew, Arcia gathered a Z-contact % (for those who are unaware, Z-contact is the percentage of times a batter makes contact when swinging at pitches located in the strike zone) of 77.6 percent. That number ballooned up to 85.7 percent last season. You’ll see this with the blots of red taking over the middle of the strike zone.
Arcia’s rate of success at the plate for the 2018 season is split among numerous projections. The highest one that I was able to find was the Fans (5) from FanGraphs. That has him improving on his slash across the board, boosting the numbers to .286/.342/.426. Three others have him diminishing, with the numbers varying with each one. The lowest one was ZiPS, which put him at a .256/.305/.401.
As for improvement at the plate? Coupled with maintaining and building on the success he’s had with contact rates, Arcia would benefit tremendously from more walks. His 6.6 walk percentage tallied right near the bottom of the team. That leaves plenty of areas to improve. While he was in the top-5 of lowest strikeout percentage on the team (take that how you will, I’m sure you remember how many times Brewers batters struck out last season) at 18.2 percent, cutting that number down even further would expand his hitting skills.
All of this considered, it’s fair to say that Arcia didn’t get the credit he deserved last season. He was a big part of the Brewers’ success, and should be able to (fingers crossed) build upon it this season. Sure, he’s not a Francisco Lindor or Corey Seager caliber shortstop. But for this exciting Brewers team, he has enough qualities that should generate jubilance into any fan.
(Stats courtesy of FanGraphs and ESPN’s TruMedia)