Brewers’ Orlando Arcia is having a big spring — and there are reasons to believe it’s no fluke


Not too long ago, Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia was among the game’s best prospects. Baseball America ranked him the No. 8 prospect in the sport prior to the 2016 season, but Arcia has not yet come close to living up to the hype. The 25-year-old is a career .243/.292/.360 hitter in more than 1,600 MLB plate appearances.

With Arcia having not yet taken a step forward, the Brewers seemingly acquired his replacement over the winter when they picked up talented youngster Luis Urias in a four-player trade with the Padres. Urias suffered a wrist injury that required surgery in winter ball though, keeping the door open for Arcia early in the season. So far this spring, he’s taking advantage.

“This is a big spring for Orlando, certainly a big season for Orlando,” Brewer manager Craig Counsell told reporters recently, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “And this is the way you want to start it.”  

Arcia is 5 for 13 with three home runs and only one strikeout in five Cactus League games. Baseball-Reference.com’s opponent quality metric says Arcia has faced mostly Triple-A pitching this spring, though two of the three home runs have come against Sean Manaea and Yu Darvish, two pretty good big-league pitchers.

It is March 2 and spring training is full of lies. Players put up huge numbers in spring training all the time — Chris Davis is currently 5 for 7 (.714) with three homers this spring, for example — and it doesn’t always carry over to the regular season. In Arcia’s case, he’s made some adjustments that suggest there is a tangible reason behind the power binge.

Here’s what Arcia told Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently:

“It’s part of the work I’ve been doing with the hitting coaches, staying back on my back leg,” Arcia said. “Thankfully, the results have shown that. The main thing I’ve been focusing on is just staying back and finishing high on the swing and just getting into the ball.”  

Arcia’s batted ball profile has never been conducive to power. He has a career 52.7 percent ground ball rate, well above the 42.9 percent MLB average, and both his average exit velocity (87.5 mph) and hard-hit rate (30.8 percent) were in the bottom 25 percent a year ago. Arcia has a tendency to hit the ball weakly and on the ground, and that’s no way to hit for power.

Despite that, Arcia has gone on a few home run binges in his career. He famously hit three homers in a four-game span during the 2018 postseason, and last season he hit at least three homers in a 10-game span on three different occasions. Hitting three homers in his first five spring games is not that surprising. He’s done stuff like this before, in games that counted no less.

Because there is a mechanical adjustment involved — staying on the back leg is a classic adjustment designed to help the hitter drive the ball (Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has made the same adjustment, according to Newsday‘s David Lennon) — I consider Arcia’s spring power binge something to watch going forward. We can’t say he’s broken through or that it’s a fluke yet. We need more information, but the early returns deserve some attention. 

Spring training games do not count, but they do matter, and for players like Arcia more than others. Urias is coming to replace him and he’s reached a “make or break” point in his career. There’s a chance Arcia’s ultra-aggressive approach will hold him back at the plate. But, if this adjustment helps him do damage when he does connect, it’ll force the Brewers to keep him around.

“I’m anxious and curious to get to know Arcia,” new assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz told McCalvy. “Very multi-talented player. He just hasn’t reached his potential. I think there’s a star in there, an All-Star. It’s really exciting to get a player like that with his talent and see where he can go.”  





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