By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Orlando Arcia, Shortstop, Milwaukee Brewers
2015 season (Minors): 129 G, 512 AB, .307 BA, 8 HR, 69 RBI, 25 SB, .800 OPS
Since a 96-win 2011 season, the Brewers haven’t been able to enjoy much success. After finally fully embracing a rebuild last season, the club has turned its focused toward the future, and the brightest beam shining in the distance is shortstop Orlando Arcia.
The brother of Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia, Orlando was signed out of Venezuela as a teenager in 2010 and made his pro debut the following year in Rookie ball. His development hit an early roadblock when he broke his right ankle sliding into second base at age 17 and missed the entire ‘12 season. But he returned in ‘13 with no issues in his age-18 season, and took the next step in ‘14 with 31 steals and a .289/.346/.392 slash line.
Last season was only his first year above A ball and was a true test for the top prospect, which he passed with flying colors. Arcia played in 121 games for Double-A Biloxi, stealing 25 bases and finding some semblance of a power stroke, hitting eight home runs with a .307/.347/.453 line and leading the Southern League with 37 doubles.
While only 21 years old entering this season and having not played a game above Double-A, the odds are against Arcia having a huge impact on the Brewers this year, but there are a couple of factors working in his favor. The first is, simply, his tremendous skillset. He is a plus defender with great range and a strong arm, and he has impressive plate discipline and the ability to make contact at a very high rate. Ranked as the No. 6 prospect in all of baseball, the expectations are high.
The second thing working in Arcia’s favor is that his path to the Majors is wide open with the Brewers in full rebuild mode. A few top prospects have made the jump straight from Double-A to the bigs in the past few years with some success, and he won’t even have to do that as he’s headed to Triple-A Nashville to get some work at the highest level of the Minors early on this season. Should he find early success there, there’s no star shortstop in place that would make the Brewers think twice about giving Arcia the call.
The Crew traded incumbent shortstop Jean Segura for veteran third baseman Aaron Hill and young starter Chase Anderson this offseason. The projected starter at short for Milwaukee to start 2016 is Jonathan Villar, a backup with Houston for the past three years who doesn’t offer much other than speed, which is something they know they can get from Arcia right away.
The power seems to be the big obstacle for Arcia, but at his age that can still be developed. Even so, a shortstop doesn’t necessarily need to hit a ton of home runs. He doesn’t seem far off from a 15-homer season, and with the speed, high average and on-base percentage, and defensive ability, it’s only a matter of time before Arcia launches the Brewers into their next generation.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.