(A+/AA): .320/.388/.539, 17 HR, 98 RBI, 76 R, 4/9 SB
It has been a while since the Minnesota Twins had major league ready offensive talent in their farm system knocking on the door of the big club. Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia appears to be wiping his feet at the welcome mat.
Of course, there are just a few more steps - and players - ahead of him.
One of the few areas of surplus in the Twins’ organization has been center field talent. In addition to Denard Span and Ben Revere, looming at the upper levels were Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks. Behind those two is Byron Buxton, the 2012 number two overall draft choice. If one were monitoring the pipeline, it became clear that for one position, some players were either going to move out of the middle of the outfield or be moved out of the organization.
The Twins front office cleared some room quickly when they dealt Span and Revere this offseason, opening up a vacancy in both center and right. While Benson and Hicks will audition for the role of center this spring, Chris Parmelee, a first baseman by trade but an outfielder by necessity, is the front-runner to start in right field. Parmelee’s tenure in right appears to be a less-than-permanent job placement if Arcia continues to club the ball as well as he has the past two seasons.
Arcia’s progress through the pipeline was stymied in 2011 when in early May, pain in his throwing elbow called for clean-up surgery that sidelined him for two months. Coming off of a season in which he tore through Appalachian League pitching in 2010, this injury abbreviated what should have been his first full season. Undeterred, the Venezuelan outfielder continued where he left off the previous year and mashed his way from the Gulf Coast League to the Florida State League – with a brief stop off in the Midwest League. In all, he accumulated just over 300 plate appearances and posted a respectable .866 OPS as a 20-year-old.
Asked to repeat the 2012 season back at Fort Myers, this gave Arcia some additional at-bats in the offensively-challenged Florida State League. For some, the FSL can be a humbling experience for young hitters. Between the heat, humidity, the size of the ballparks and the advanced college pitchers, players who were putting up eye-popping numbers in the rookie and low-A leagues are often brought back down to Earth upon landing in America’s coastal swamps. It’s largely an environment where the men are separated from the boys and the prospects from the pretenders.
Arcia’s half-season with the Miracle reaffirmed that he was definitely a legitimate prospect. While the average hitter in the league held a .373 slugging percentage, Arcia was one of five players in the league to have a slugging percentage over .500. Pushed up to New Britain and Double-A ball, as a 21-year-old in a league with an average age of 24, Arcia simply raked and emerged as a genuine run producer. At one point, he drove in 67 runs over the course of 69 games.
Thick in the truck and stout in the upper body, Arcia has a bulldog-like build that consumes the left-handed batter’s box. Coupled with a strong hip transition, he is able to repeatedly make solid contact and power by keeping his hands close to his body and thereby creating leverage, as shown below:
This is an example of a pitch on the middle-to-outer third of the plate. Arcia is able to keep his hands close to his body and drive that pitch to the left-center gap for a double. With the spacious Target Field the ultimate goal for any Twins prospect, having line drive power to all fields – particularly in the expansive gap-to-gap region on the ballpark – is a very coveted skill.
Like most left-handed hitters at his age, Arcia has struggled some against same-sided pitching. Over the past two years, his OPS has been two hundred points lower when facing left-handers versus right-handers. Are the Twins concerned about his splits? Not entirely says Twins’ Director of Minor League Operations, Brad Steil.
“Not concerned, but as with many young left-handed hitters, we know it’s an area he’ll need to keep working on. He did show improvement in the second half with New Britain last season.”
That’s very true. After hitting .210/.286/.306 in 70 plate appearances against southpaws with Fort Myers, Arcia hit .319/.400/.464 over his next 80 plate appearances against lefties while in New Britain. Is this small sample size success or a sign of progress?
The Bottom Line:
Will Arcia get the call at some point this year?
“Any potential contribution in the major leagues will depend on his progression and performance and an available opportunity,” Steil answered diplomatically.
Obviously there is not a need for a corner outfielder at this point. That said, could certain moves in-season prompt an opening? Perhaps trading a soon-to-be free agent first baseman or moving the current starting left fielder into a full-time designated hitter role would make room.
If Arcia continues to produce at the same pace as he did last season, it may be a “when” not “if” scenario for the Minnesota Twins.
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