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Arcia, Vargas and Rebellion

Last week, the Star Tribune's Phil Miller wrote a great column about Oswaldo Arcia's advice to rookie slugger Kennys Vargas: "Don't worry about [going the other way], just pull the ball and hit it over the fence."

The story, and that quote in particular, unsurprisingly drew some attention.
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports
Owing to his intimidating presence in the batter's box, Vargas has often been compared to David Ortiz. As we all know, Ortiz became a star quickly after leaving Minnesota, and later went on to criticize his former organization for pressing him to alter his hitting approach.

If Arcia's words made the Twins cringe, they've shown no signs of it. The 23-year-old outfielder has lived by that mantra at the plate all year long, and they've stuck with him. It's paying off.

Sure, Ron Gardenhire might lament the ferocious swinging at times, but Arcia was in the starting lineup on Opening Day and -- despite some truly ugly slumps -- he's mostly remained there when healthy. Because while Gardy might justifiably admonish him for swinging "as hard as he possibly can, trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles," you can't argue with the results when he makes contact.

Only three qualified hitters in the majors have struck out at a higher rate than Arcia's 30.6 percent. But when NOT striking out, he's hitting .342 and slugging .640. In recent weeks, the whiffs haven't subsided but the authoritative contact has increased; six of his 11 homers have come in the last month, even as he's struck out in one of every three plate appearances.

Vargas is experiencing success with a similar style, as his intense cuts have produced a lot of strikeouts (19, against only three walks), but they've also produced some big offensive numbers, including a .317 average with three homers and 15 RBI in 15 games.

And of course, the very model for this prototype is Miguel Sano, who last year in the minors fanned 142 times while also launching 35 homers.

The Twins are hoping that these three hitters can anchor the middle of their lineup for many years to come, so if the team seems a little more passive than you'd expect in response to Arcia's open rebellion against toning down the swing in favor of more contact, perhaps it's just because they're readying themselves for what's to come.

Hopefully by now they know better than to try and fundamentally change a promising young power hitter's ways.


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68 Comments

K% alone is no reason for concern. I don't care how many times a guy strikes out as long as he A.) gets on base at a decent clip and B.) hits the ball hard when he does make contact. Adam Dunn made a career out of it.

 

Thankfully, Vargas has shown both of those skills in his climb through the minors. Sano as well, to an even greater extent actually. I'm very bullish on both guys- adjustments will be made along the way, but I think we have a few very promising power pieces to compliment a variety of other skills on the roster.

    • hybridbear likes this

I hate strikeouts. If a player has the power of Arcia or Vargas, they can cut down their swings to avoid strikeouts and still hit plenty of home runs.

Yes, swing away in the right situation, slapping the ball to the opposite field is a veteran move. He can learn that later.

As far as I can tell Arcia has gotten better by toning his swing down, working counts better and going wih the pitch more. Again, it is not pulling the ball that is the problem.Its trying to pull the ball.  Has anyone seen Arcia try to pull a low outside breaking ball against a left hander?   Vargas is better off because he is a switch hitter but still he has had success going with the pitch also rather than trying to pull everything. Step toward the pitcher and pull naturally. Is using ALL fields really so bad?  Cabrerra and Trout (and Ortiz btw) seem to do all right with that approach.

    • birdwatcher likes this

I'll bet every hitter wishes you could just throw out all the strikeouts and then calculate the stats.  That was a brave thing for Arcia to say while playing for the Minnesota Twins.

    • Don't Feed the Greed Guy likes this
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lightfoot789
Aug 18 2014 04:08 AM

Would love to see Walker in that line up in another 2 years.His .310 OBP is definitely worse than Sano; Arcia; and Vargas, but his HR power and potential is probably better than both (Vargas and Arcia) with the above philosophy.His power might even rival Sano IMO.  That would be a crazy power lineup with the likes of Santana - Buxton - Mauer and Dozier sprinkled through it. I love the fact that the Twins are letting the young guys figure it out at the MLB level and not yo yo ing them back and forth thru the minors and MLB.  

I agree with troyhobbs. Once he learns he doesn't need to try and pull a ball that's outside, he'll be a complete hitter. That will take time though.

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SgtSchmidt11
Aug 18 2014 07:03 AM

I agree with Arcia that he should try and play his game, but on the other hand both should try and take a 2 strike approach when they have 2 strikes on them!Make the pitch be there, choke up, shorten the swing, and get some contact! 

 

Arcia only has 3 HR's with two strikes on him, so this isn't when he is seeing the ball.He needs to work the pitcher and when he gets two strikes on him, work on putting it in play.If he cuts down his K% rate by 5-10 percent he will see a corresponding rise in BA and OBP.

 

However, he should be just taking a normal approach in neutral and hitter's counts.

    • tobi0040 likes this

I personally loved the way a 23-yr-old told someone else what the team is paying him to do.  Just think how much advice Arcia will have if his average climbs over, say, .230.  I'm glad Gardy's apparently just rolled with it, though.

    • birdwatcher and Cris E like this

Have to agree with B Richard.Strike outs used to infuriorate me.However, after seeing so many DP killing rallies, I've come to accept the K's a bit more. 

 

As others have posted, these young power hitters will likely develop a better approach as they mature in the majors.If they don't they're likely gone. 

 

I think it is better to promote their strengths and then, as they get more experience, teach them the small changes that can make them better hitters, such as, dailing it back a bit on 2 strikes.

 

When I think that the good hitters are only successful 3 out of 10 AB's, having someone with the potential to hit HR's is okay especially if their OBP & OPS is not dismal.

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birdwatcher
Aug 18 2014 07:43 AM

I'm sorry, but Arcia is a very very ordinary player right now. He'd be well-served to close his mouth and open his ears.

    • gunnarthor, Don't Feed the Greed Guy, Dman and 1 other like this
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Major Leauge Ready
Aug 18 2014 07:43 AM

I was thing the same.When you have sucked as bad as Arcia you should be seeking advice, not giving it.It causes me some concern about Arcia for the future.Apparently, getting his a$$ handed to him by ML pitching on a regular basis is not a learning experience for him.  We all know the definition of insanity.In this case it is the definition of stupidity. 

    • birdwatcher and Beezer07 like this

We are still in SSS territory but I thought Vargas did a pretty good job of using the whole field as a hitter and the numbers point that out.  As a righty, Vargas has hit .300 (3 for 10) going to center or right field and is 3 for 4 when pulling it.  As a lefty, Vargas 9 for 20 up the middle or opp field and 4 for 7 pulling it.  He doesn't seem determined to pull the ball, despite the nice narrative.

    • birdwatcher, Cris E, ScrapTheNickname and 1 other like this

K% alone is no reason for concern. I don't care how many times a guy strikes out as long as he A.) gets on base at a decent clip and B.) hits the ball hard when he does make contact. Adam Dunn made a career out of it.

 

Thankfully, Vargas has shown both of those skills in his climb through the minors. Sano as well, to an even greater extent actually. I'm very bullish on both guys- adjustments will be made along the way, but I think we have a few very promising power pieces to compliment a variety of other skills on the roster.

While you are right that a high K-rate alone isn't everything, it is important to note that neither Arcia nor Vargas are high-strikeout players.  Arcia's strikeout rate in A+ and AA was 19.7 and 20.1%, respectively, while Vargas struck out at a 20.2% rate in A+ and a 16.8% rate in AA.  As a result, striking out at roughly a 30% rate in the major leagues isn't business as usual for Arcia and Vargas; to me at least, it's a signal that they might be in over their heads.

I hope we see Vargas batting 4th and Arcia batting 5th for a long long time

I hope we see Vargas batting 4th and Arcia batting 5th for a long long time

DISAGREE!! Hoping for prospects to develop and the lineup to sort out to this batting order:
Buxton CF
Mauer 1B
Dozier 2B
Sano 3B
Vargas DH
Santana SS
Arcia RF
Hicks LF
Pinto C

This is hoping they reach requisite professional skills to make this happen

(Mauer is high OBP guy, Dozier keeps up 20 HR/yr avg, etc)
    • adjacent and big dog like this
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nicksaviking
Aug 18 2014 09:12 AM

I'm sorry, but Arcia is a very very ordinary player right now. He'd be well-served to close his mouth and open his ears.

 

While Arcia's is probably not the mouth to gain advice from at the moment, it is refreshing to see someone not towing the the old company line. 

 

Recognizing a pitch will be outside and waiting on it to slap it the other way is much harder than many people seem to think.If one of the greatest pure hitters in Twins history, Joe Mauer, has to sacrifice nearly all his power in his 6'5" 230 lb frame to use all fields, we should probably expect even worse results for guys without his level of hitting talent. 

 

I'd love to see all these guys being able to go the other way while putting balls into any and every seat between the foul poles, but using all fields is just not an ability every baseball player can or should embrace.Not every player can bunt, not every player can steal a base, not every player can make a throw to home from right field.If Oswaldo Arcia is the only member of the team that's willing to stand up to the idea this particular skill is also not universal, well I guess I'm glad it's him rather than no one.I've heard enough from these voices once they LEAVE the Twins.

    • chuchadoro likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 18 2014 09:27 AM

Arcia needs to cut back on those Ks...at 30%, he's not going to keep getting extended trials... 

DISAGREE!! Hoping for prospects to develop and the lineup to sort out to this batting order:
Buxton CF
Mauer 1B
Dozier 2B
Sano 3B
Vargas DH
Santana SS
Arcia RF
Hicks LF
Pinto C

This is hoping they reach requisite professional skills to make this happen

(Mauer is high OBP guy, Dozier keeps up 20 HR/yr avg, etc)

If everything develops as it should (and that is a big if) I would putSano before Dozier. Otherwise, just the same.

I find it interesting that Arcia is actually younger than Vargas, by about 9 months.

I'm sorry, but Arcia is a very very ordinary player right now. He'd be well-served to close his mouth and open his ears.

 

He has a career OPS + of 101 and his 650 at bats have come at ages 22 and 23. If you view those 650 at bats as one full year, he has a .240 avg, 25 HR, .730 OPS.

 

He strikes out more than I would prefer and the OBP of .303 is nothing to write home about.But at 22-23 he is a league average corner OF. Every young player could listen more, but most kids his age are in AA or AAA, so I struggle to call him ordnary.

 

It will be an interesting time.We seemed to only draft or sign pitchers with good control and no k's and hitters that were slap style guys and that has changed.As these players are developed, will this coaching staff look to have Meyer and May throw in the zone more and pitch to contact?Get Arcia and Vargas to pull less, hack less, and walk more?

    • Brock Beauchamp, Cris E, chuchadoro and 1 other like this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 18 2014 10:44 AM

I don't get why we have to dog Arcia and Vargas for something that comes with their game.  They are under 25 years old - one of their best strengths is turning and driving the ball.  We should be celebrating that the Twins are working to build on strengths and improve weaknesses rather than trying to completely reinvent every guy into Slappy McGoTheOtherWay.  

 

Yeah, Arcia and Vargas aren't all-star finished products.  Give em some damn time and be thrilled at how they are managing to drive the ball with authority.  David Ortiz pointed, more than anything else, at the mental relief to not feel pressure to be something he was not.  He still had to learn to improve his game, but he also felt free to play HIS game.

 

Let's be happy these kids are coming up, playing to their strengths at a young age in MLB, and finding some success.

    • Brock Beauchamp, ChiTownTwinsFan, luckylager and 7 others like this
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Parker Hageman
Aug 18 2014 11:07 AM

Owing to his intimidating presence in the batter's box, Vargas has often been compared to David Ortiz. As we all know, Ortiz became a star quickly after leaving Minnesota, and later went on to criticize his former organization for pressing him to alter his hitting approach.

 

 

 

I wrote about this the other week but someone has already gotten to Vargas to alter his swing:

 

http://twinsdaily.co...-watching-r2950

 

I'm hoping one of the beat writers will address this. 

Threads like this seem to have two purposes - 1) to report on a simple statement made which may or may not have much impact on reality and 2) to remind people yet again that PED Ortiz didn't hit many home runs in MN.  I'm really not sure what the point is.  As to #1, the numbers show that Vargas isn't pull happy, despite the statement (and while Arcia doesn't go to left field much, he does have a good number of hits back up the middle so he's not entirely pull happy).  Additionally, there isn't a lot of reason to believe that the Twins, for years now, have been an collection of hitters who use the entire field.  This (like a lot of other memes on TD) has fueled a false narrative about "The Twins Way."  

    • birdwatcher likes this

Arcia's OPS+ of 101 is solid, and encouraging. If he can use the whole field better and cut down on the strikeouts, that number should continue to rise. The fact that he's not a very good hitter right now, yet still puts up adequate-to-solid overall numbers should be very exciting for what he could become if he listens and learns. 

    • birdwatcher and gunnarthor like this

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