In the wee hours between Monday night and Tuesday morning, the Milwaukee Brewers official account tweeted that Orlando Arcia was being promoted to the show to take over at shortstop. The incumbent Jonathan Villar will be shifting to third base in deference to the slick-gloved rookie, and so this feel like a long-term move from the outset. Here’s what our team had to say about Arcia on our Brewers top prospects list:
Milwaukee might have the deepest farm in the NL Central, but there is no debate about the system's best prospect. Shortstop Orlando Arcia, milb.com's Top Breakout Prospect in 2015, has ascended from relative unknown to one of the most heralded young players in the minors. Signed in 2010 out of Venezuela for a mere $95,000, Arcia has helped reinvigorate the Brewers' once-moribund international program. As a 16-year-old in the Dominican Summer League, he hit .294 and showed advanced plate discipline. He also flashed early signs of a potential power-speed combo, which, coupled with his hit-tool, would make him an interesting prospect at a number of positions. At shortstop, where he projects to stay, his offensive profile gives him the ceiling of a franchise cornerstone and perennial all-star. At Biloxi in 2015 he slashed .307/.347/.453 with 8 HR and 25 steals. On Baseball America's postseason list of the top-20 prospects in a loaded Southern League, Arcia ranked third, behind only Minnesota's Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, and one spot ahead of Cubs playoff-hero Kyle Schwarber. Arcia has earned his place among the game's elite youngsters. Fantasy players might see him at Miller Park sometime in 2016, though no one should be surprised if the rebuilding Brewers delay Arcia's arrival until early 2017.
Heading into 2016, our team was a bit lower on Arcia than most publications, based upon our focus on fantasy value. He was a consensus top-10 prospect overall, whereas we slotted him at 18th on our pre-season list. It’s a minor difference, to be sure, and we clearly considered him an elite prospect - but this is definitely a matter of a player’s real world value being higher than his fantasy value.
Arcia opened the 2016 season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, where he was essentially the same player that we had seen in 2015 for the first month of the season. He batted .307/.341/.427 in April, with 2 HR and 4 SB in 82 PA. He struck out only 8 times in that stretch, showcasing the elite bat-to-ball skills that would allow him to maximize his offensive value as a high-contact player with speed. This led to a few early calls for his promotion in late April or early May, once the Brewers had locked-in that extra year of team control.
Since then, however, he has hit just .258/.315/.398 with 6 HR and 11 SB in 358 PA, striking out 69 times along the way. That represents a 19.3% strikeout rate, which is far and away the worst of his career (it was 13.2% last year) - and his whiff rate has increased each month this season. To make matters a bit more disconcerting, Colorado Springs is a high-offense environment, so Arcia’s production in this stretch was between 15 and 20% below-average. He did miss the Triple-A All-Star game for personal reasons, so it’s possible that there may be something going on off the field; that’s little more than conjecture, though.
All that being said, Arcia’s profile remains unchanged. He is a high-contact hitter with above-average speed and fringe-average power. With the shortstop role slated to be his going forward, he has at least a bit of fantasy value in stolen bases. Outside of that, however, I believe a wait and see approach may be best for this season.