The Milwaukee Brewers have dealt with the offensive struggles of shortstop Orlando Arcia for a few years now. But he’s looked completely different up at the plate so far this spring training than in years past.
Something just seems different. The Orlando Arcia that we’ve known and tolerated for the past 3+ seasons looks a lot different than he has in previous years, and no, I’m not talking about the new uniforms.
After the Brewers acquired Luis Urias in a trade back in November, the Brewers put Arcia on the hot seat. For the past three years he has had no serious challengers to his role as the starting shortstop. The Brewers brought up Tyler Saladino in an attempt to challenge him last year, but that was an unmitigated disaster.
But Urias underwent hand surgery back in January, will miss most of Cactus League play, and could miss the start of the season. Nevertheless, the move has lit a fire under Arcia, and he seems like a completely different hitter than before.
Arcia just hit his second home run of the spring already, and is hitting .400 (4-for-10) with a double and two home runs, along with seven RBIs already. He’s also only struck out once so far. There’s a noticeable difference in his swing. Just take a look at the video from Thursday’s home run.
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Now look at this previous video of Arcia’s swing.
Yes, that was a positive result, but pay close attention to Arcia’s lower half. It doesn’t move as much, it’s less violent, and he appears more balanced than what he had in 2016, and really up through 2019.
It’s clear that Orlando Arcia has made mechanical changes to his swing. They may be hard to specifically distinguish to the untrained eye, but his previously violent and wild swing has been tamed as he appears to stay balanced in the box and has improved his timing mechanism.
His leg kick doesn’t go as high as it used to, which will help him plant his front foot on time as he used to be always late on pitches because it took so long for his leg to come down.
When hitting coach Andy Haines was hired before the 2019 season, the player he said he was most excited to work with was Orlando Arcia. The Brewers hired Jacob Cruz as the assistant hitting coach this offseason, and he said the player he was most looking forward to working with was Arcia. They both know there is a ton of potential in Arcia’s swing and that with a few tweaks, they can unlock that high upside.
So far, we’re seeing the fruit of that labor. Arcia’s swing is noticeably different, and the results are already showing in spring training. If they can continue this success with Arcia throughout 2020 and beyond, Arcia can finally reach the incredibly high ceiling that the Brewers have always known he possessed. The defense is already great, but by getting that offense to come around, Arcia could be one of the best shortstops in the National League. He’s still a long ways away from that kind of recognition, however.
Keeping His Job
With Urias down for a few more weeks, this early portion of camp is crucial for Arcia being able to keep his job as the starting shortstop. Everyone knows this is a pivotal season for Arcia, one that could put him on track to being a big league regular at the shortstop position for 10 years, or one that could cement him as an over-hyped prospect that flamed out and never reached his potential.
If Luis Urias takes the starting shortstop job from Arcia, given his offensive track record, it’s unlikely he would give Arcia an opportunity to take it back, unless there’s an injury.
No team will be as patient with you and give you every opportunity to succeed as your original team. At any point over the last two seasons, any other team would’ve kicked Arcia to the curb in order to get more production at the plate. They wouldn’t have the same kind of loyalty as the team that signed and developed you.
The Brewers have given Arcia numerous chances to succeed at the big league level. Some would say a few too many chances. But they signed him as a 16 year old amateur in 2010, a decade ago. They’ve watched him grow up before their eyes and a homegrown shortstop with star potential is very difficult to find. He hasn’t reached star status yet, and perhaps he never will, but this is Arcia’s last good shot at proving he belongs as a big league shortstop.
If Urias is the starting shortstop by the end of the season, Arcia is likely to spend next season with a different organization, and they won’t watch and wait three years for him to be successful. They’ll want results right away or they’ll move on to someone else.
With this new swing for Arcia, there’s a lot of hope. I hope Arcia can turn it around this year and be a force offensively, for his own sake and for the sake of the team. Early signs are looking good, and while there’s only so much you can take from 10 at-bats in spring training, optimism is growing around Orlando Arcia.
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Perhaps it’s the new hitting coaches or perhaps it’s the competition from Urias, but there’s a renewed sense of urgency with Arcia this year and he’s been compelled to make changes to his swing. Let’s see if these changes hold up over 2020.