About one year ago the Brewers were kicking the tires at the possibility of trading young shortstop Orlando Arcia. The young shortstop was coming off an impressive 2017 where he yielded a 1.4 WAR in his first full big league stint. He did not have a massive breakout, but he was no slouch either. Meanwhile in the minors, up and comer Mauricio Dubon was impressing and there was talk that he could be the future at shortstop for the Crew. Arcia was young and still had plenty of potential that teams would surely invest in. Mid-way through 2018 I’m sure the Brewers were having second thoughts about keeping Arcia around. In the first half of the season he was batting below the Mendoza line at .197 and had a mere 28 wRC+ which was bottom 5 in the MLB. BUT, following a brief stint in Triple A, Arcia seemed to have figured things out. In fact, through the final month of the season Arcia had the 9th best wRC+ (116) among shortstops including 3 points better than Manny Machado. All the while Arcia was coming through when the Brewers needed him most, at the end of the season in a close division race. In addition he was arguably the most silent best hitter in the post-season slashing .333/.353/.606 in 34 PA over 10 games including this which was one of his three post-season dingers:
A lot of times as fans we find it easier to rip on a guy for playing poorly that we often times forget when a player does well. This is not the first time Arcia struggled, been sent down, and then came back up an improved hitter. You can look back at what he did during that struggle here. A couple of seasons ago it was a swing change. What was it this time?
One thing with Arcia in 2018 was he was very inconsistent in his stance as to if he was to be open or closed.
As you can see sometimes he was open and sometimes not. It did not matter whether the pitcher was a righty, lefty, from the windup, or from the stretch. Maybe his plate discipline changed:
As you can see, things are pretty identical here. In addition the difference in average exit velocity was only off by .6 mph. What did change however, was his average launch angle. In the first half of the season his average launch angle was 1.9 degrees. Since returning from Triple A that increased to 5.1 degrees. 5.1 degrees still is not much but it did make an impact.
He cut down his ground balls by over 10 percentage and increased his line drives. His launch angle charts from Baseball Savant show he was driving the ball much more consistently.
Another side note is that in the 2nd half of the season he hit .276 against breaking pitches compared to .188 in the first half of the season. While Arcia never has been one to walk and will rack up strikeouts, he was able to salvage 2018 by having a strong end of the season when the team needed him most. As a top prospect scouts never projected him to be much of a hitter as he was more known for his defensive abilities. This will continue to be a strength of his for seasons to come. As we see elite hitting shortstops in Lindor, Machado, and Correa, it cannot be expected of Arcia to put up those kind of numbers. Brewers would be thrilled to see a repeat of 2017 where he hit .277/.324/.407, but would be satisfied with Steamer’s current projection of .254/.302/.377 with a 1.1 WAR. Consistency is the downfall for Arcia. If he can become a more consistent hitter he will be a solid shortstop for years to come.