Some executives within the Milwaukee Brewers organization believe that shortstop Orlando Arcia arrived to the team’s spring training camp out of shape in February out of shape, reports Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
That is one explanation for Arcia’s struggles in his second full-season at the Major League level, but even that doesn’t tell the whole story, as Arcia has been one of the worst hitters in all of baseball this season.
Arcia’s calling card has never been offense and it likely will never be. However, his .277/.324/.407 batting line that featured 15 homers, 53 runs batted in, and 14 stolen bases across 548 plate appearances in 2017 provide a sense of optimism that Arcia could at least hover around those numbers for his career, all while being one of the best defenders in the game.
To his credit, there have been fewer better on the defensive side of the ball than Arcia this season. Entering play on Saturday, Arcia had nine defensive runs saved on the season, giving him the 8th most in all of baseball in a tie with Cleveland Indians star shortstop Francisco Lindor. This incredible defensive output can’t negate a putrid offensive showing to this point, though.
After going 0-for-2 with a strikeout in Milwaukee’s 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday afternoon, Arcia’s batting line dipped down to .204/.238/.265, which gives him a .503 OPS. If Arcia qualified, that .503 OPS would be the second-worst in all of baseball, with only Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles having a lower OPS at .454.
Arcia’s wRC+ on the season is 35, which means that he is 65% below what a league-average hitter should be. Once again, the only player with a lower wRC+ than Arcia is Davis, who is at 24. Another telling statistic about Arcia’s struggles as a hitter this season is his ground ball rate. When Arcia has put the ball into play in 2018, it has been on the ground 60.7% of the time. Only Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies has hit more balls on the ground this year, and he has a 62.9% clip.
Ever since Arcia arrived to the big leagues in August 2016, his mechanics at the plate have been an issue, and they are really crippling him and his confidence lately. So, what can the Brewers do about it to improve things?
Milwaukee has the option to send Arcia to the minor leagues, and they even already did that this season. Arcia had to be recalled just four games after his demotion because infielder Tyler Saladino went on the disabled list, so Arcia truly didn’t work on, or improve anything during his short stint with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, the Brewers Triple-A affiliate.
It’s possible that the Brewers will send Arcia back to the minor leagues at some point, and the next possible scenario for when that could happen depends on when Saladino comes back from the disabled list, or when the Brewers deem that Brad Miller is ready to play shortstop at the Major League level for them.
The Brewers acquired Miller via trade last week from the Tampa Bay Rays in-exchange for first baseman/outfielder Ji-Man Choi to solidify their middle infield depth, and have played Miller exclusively at shortstop so far in a small sample size. While Miller will provide the Brewers with a better bat at a premier defensive position whenever they decide to select him from Triple-A, the drop off defensively will be significant, as Miller is not known as a good defender by any stretch. He has already made two errors in 19 defensive innings.
Until the Brewers get fully-healthy and deem Miller ready, they will just likely have to stick it out with Arcia batting 8th nearly everyday. It certainly doesn’t help that one of the Brewers bench options in Eric Sogard has been even worse to this point on offense with a .405 OPS and 12 wRC+. There is one direction the Brewers could choose to go more frequently at shortstop, but it’s likely to be very game-changing at the same time as well.
Utility man Hernan Perez finished the game at shortstop today for the Brewers and came up through the minor leagues as a shortstop and can now play any position that manager Craig Counsell asks of him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Perez start to draw some starts at shortstop in the next couple of games for Milwaukee.
Despite a lack of consistent production at shortstop and catcher this season for the Brewers, they still have one of the best records in baseball, and the best record in the National League at 42-28. How much longer can they handle Opening Day starters like Arcia and Manny Pina struggling is the question the remains to be answered.
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