The Milwaukee Brewers still had uncertainty this offseason as to who would be the starting shortstop in 2021, but has the job already been won before spring training games even started?
Competition. It lights a fire under every player.
When the Brewers acquired Luis Urias in November 2019 in a trade with the Padres, it ignited a competition for the starting shortstop job, something that incumbent Orlando Arcia hadn’t faced since taking over the role in August 2016 as one of the top prospects in all of baseball.
Unfortunately, the battle never really got underway in 2020 as Urias, the challenger, missed spring training with a hamate bone injury and then missed summer camp battling Covid-19, Urias didn’t make his Brewers debut until mid-August and by then Arcia had been playing every day and playing pretty well.
Heading into the offseason, it appeared neither Arcia nor Urias had locked themselves into the Brewers starting shortstop job for 2021.
With two capable shortstops, who would the Brewers go with? Instead of getting a hard fought battle this spring, it appears that the shortstop job might already be decided, and the winner will be Luis Urias.
Let’s look at some comments from Craig Counsell about the position:
"I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘battle’, but I think Orlando (Arcia) will move around a little bit this spring. I think we’ll take a look at Orlando at third base also. So I think you’ll see him at third base a substantial amount but still see him at shortstop. That’s the initial plan. – Counsell"
So Counsell says that he’s not characterizing the shortstop position as a “battle” and then immediately says Arcia will be playing at third base a substantial amount and move around a lot more this year.
Then when asked about Urias, Counsell said this:
"We traded for him, and it’s something we want to do… so we’re going to take a look at Luis (Urias) at shortstop this spring because we need to see it – Counsell"
The Brewers want to get an extended look at Urias at shortstop and he’ll play most of the time at that position while Arcia, the incumbent, will play around the diamond and spend most of time at third base all the while Counsell saying that this isn’t a battle.
Putting two and two together, you get Luis Urias as the Brewers starting shortstop heading into the 2021 regular season. It appears from the comments Counsell has made on both players and the position overall this spring that Urias is the leader in the clubhouse for that job. They want to see him. They need to see him.
Meanwhile Arcia appears to be transitioning to a multi-positional role, playing a lot of third base to get comfortable there, also some shortstop, and possibly even some centerfield was mentioned in other comments by Counsell. Arcia did get a few innings out in center in 2020.
Luis Urias appears to be in line to be the Brewers everyday starting shortstop in 2021.
The Brewers acquired Urias to battle with Arcia for the starting job last year. To give him some competition. To light a fire under him. Based on how he looked in spring training and how he attacked the year, the move appeared to work.
Orlando Arcia put up his best season yet in 2020. But it still doesn’t look like it was enough. Arcia had a 96 OPS+ and a .317 OBP. They got the best out of Arcia they could, and it still wasn’t good enough.
He’ll fill a multi-positional role bouncing around the diamond a little, perhaps splitting some playing time with Travis Shaw at third base. But for right now, based on what Counsell has said, shortstop is Urias’ job.
Even with the shortstop position locked up, there are still a few more position battles to play out through spring training.