Instead, Craig Counsell said from the outset of camp that he wouldn’t characterize it as a “battle” for the shortstop job. He said the Brewers needed to see Urias at short while Arcia would bounce around the diamond, playing a lot of third base and potentially some outfield.
So it seemed from the beginning that Luis Urias was being given the Brewers starting shortstop job.
While shortstop was Urias’ job to lose, he has straight up earned it with his play in Brewers spring training.
Things were looking a little hairy midway through camp when Urias’ hamstring tightened up, but he’s returned and with a vengeance since then. From March 16th to the end of camp, Urias hit .380 (8-for-21) with three doubles and a home run. He’s drawn six walks, tied for 5th most on the team as well.
Defensively, Urias has played a superb shortstop. There’s never been any question about his defensive ability, and even though Orlando Arcia has done a great job defensively at shortstop over the past several years, there won’t be any sort of drop off with Urias and there may even be a slight improvement.
Speaking of Arcia, if he was in the chase position trying to earn the shortstop job back, he didn’t do a great job of making up ground this spring training. Arcia hit just .186/.222/.256 with a .478 OPS. He has three doubles, eight hits, and 14 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.
Contrast that with Urias, who’s hitting .281/.410/.469 with a .879 OPS, three doubles and a homer, and it’s clear who’s been performing up to expectations.
Even if Urias went 0-for his next-11, he’d still be hitting better than Arcia this spring.
To translate the GM-speak that Stearns was saying, he’s confirming that shortstop is Urias’ job at the moment, and he will get the bulk of the starts, but leaves it open for Arcia to take it back, either with a hot streak at the plate, a cold streak from Urias, an injury, etc.
They have depth, sure, but those two are the main guys. Arcia and Urias have been the two playing the most at shortstop throughout spring. If anyone else gets a start there this year, something will have gone wrong.
We can talk about how spring training stats don’t really matter and how only so much can be drawn from small sample sizes such as this, but these numbers highlight an important point: Luis Urias is a straight up better hitter than Arcia.
Urias has had the hitting pedigree all through the minors and as a prospect. There have been very few concerns about his ability to hit. Arcia, meanwhile, his pedigree was all around his glove. He was a great defender and could be a great player if the bat came around, if he could find consistency, if he could avoid striking out. There were always so many ‘ifs’ surrounding Arcia offensively. That was not the case with Urias.
Arcia played the best season of his career in 2020 with Urias breathing down his neck. Urias would’ve likely caught him and surpassed him if it weren’t for the injuries and setbacks he suffered last season. Arcia’s best season was still below average in terms of OPS, OPS+, wRC+, and any other metric you want to use.
There was some hope that 2020 could be a launching pad for Arcia, but it doesn’t appear to be the case. He looks just as lost at the plate this spring as he looked in 2018 and 2019.
Luis Urias has earned the starting shortstop job, and not just because Arcia failed to claim it, or because Craig Counsell just handed it to him. Urias earned the job with a strong all around performance, both offensively and defensively. He provides just as good, if not better, defense at shortstop, and has a much higher offensive ceiling and has actually shown the ability to reach it in games.
The Brewers know what they have in Arcia. They don’t “know” what they have in Urias as much and they never will unless they give him the opportunity to play everyday. He will get that and he’s earned that. What happens from here on out, will depend on who gets results.
Arcia will still see games at short, but Urias will get the bulk of the starts. The Brewers felt they needed to see Urias at shortstop. Now that they’ve seen him, he’s getting the starting job. That in and of itself, should tell you all you need to know.