Wednesday, March 5, 2014

14 Minnesota Twins to Watch in '14: Oswaldo Arcia

Ichiro, Fred Lynn, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jose Fernandez...the list goes on and on.  Impact rookie seasons are easy to remember and seem to happen with great frequency.  I guess that's why they have an award for rookie seasons.  Those five players and many others had transcendent rookie seasons, establishing their MLB credentials and setting the stage for productive careers from day one.  Of course, not all rookie seasons are quite so memorable.  Last season, the Twins had three notable rookies and the youngest rookie made the biggest impression, even though he didn't have one of those transcendent seasons. 

The 3rd most important Twins player in 2014 is Oswaldo Arcia.

Who is he? 

Arcia made a bit of an unexpected debut in 2013.  He had only played a half-season with AA New Britain in 2012 and was set to spend a sizable chunk of 2013 with AAA Rochester.  Arcia was hitting .353 after Rochester's April 13 game, when Wilkin Ramirez went on paternity leave.  That opened a spot on the MLB roster and Arcia got the surprise call, after just 9 AAA games.  He singled in his first MLB at-bat but was sent back to Rochester after his first MLB game.  When Darin Mastroianni went on the DL a couple days later, Arcia was back in Minnesota.  He would be up and down between Minnesota and Rochester all season, but he finished with a 102 OPS+ in 97 MLB games. 

In his rookie season, he was good, but not great.  He struck out in 31% of his at-bats, but he also slugged .430 at age 22.  He only walked in 6.1% of his at-bats, but he also hit 14 home runs and 17 doubles.  Arcia's plate discipline would leave him for large chunks of time, but the power that he showed was impressive.  I'm not sure anyone would argue that Arcia was good in the field.  He took strange routes, dropped routine fly balls and looked downright lost at times.  That said, he's an athletic player and with more seasoning, he could improve.  Arcia has a lot to work on in 2014, but he's just 23 and he has plenty of time to refine his approach at the plate and in the field. 

Why is he important?

Arcia has loads of potential.  He'll be 23 for most of the 2014 season and he's played fewer than 200 games above A ball.  The Twins will get Arcia's age 23-28 seasons to decide if he is a cornerstone player.  Research shows that players get exponentially better during their early 20s and that they peak between 26-28.  In addition, Arcia will be super cheap in 2014 and 2015 and he'll only become expensive in arbitration if he's good, a very fine trade-off. 

Arcia is a potential middle-of-the-order bat, and not just because his team doesn't have anyone better.  Arcia could fill that role on a Championship-level team, if he develops as hoped.  He has the potential to hit in the high .280s, with 25 home runs and 40-45 doubles.  He may never have elite on-base skills, but his walk totals should rise as he continues to add power.  At his peak, he could be a .285/.365/.500 type hitter.  I still believe that he can handle a corner outfield position as he gains experience, but if he is relegated to DH, that batting line will play just fine. 

He isn't likely to hit that well in 2014, but it's not unreasonable to expect a slight bump in his 2013 numbers (.251/.304/.430).  By OPS+, only Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau topped Arcia in 2013.  Arcia was 22. 

Paul the Positive Puma's Take:

I became fascinated with Arcia almost immediately.  I love his violent swing and I love his aggressive approach in all areas of the game.  He has charisma and he's really fun to watch.  This isn't the most objective scouting report, but sometimes you just like a player because of the way he plays.  Arcia is a boom or bust player.  He either hits the ball really hard, or he strikes out.  He either makes an exciting (although somewhat awkward) play, or he makes an error.  You don't really know what you're going to get with Arcia, and that is exciting.

His power was captured in the numbers last year.  He slugged .430, hit 14 home runs and 17 doubles, and did all of that in only 97 games.  Those numbers project to 23 home runs and 28 doubles in 162 games.  Of course, Arcia didn't earn 162 games, so those projections don't mean a lot, but it does point toward what he is already capable of, if given a full season.  I also like that Arcia is a clear part of the future and he should be around for a long time.  The Twins don't have many stars right now, so it's fun to see a future star emerge and hopefully we'll get to enjoy his entire career.    

Peter the Pessimistic Puma's Take:

I don't want to get too down on a 22-year-old making his MLB debut, but there are a lot of holes in Arcia's game.  First, his defense was bad.  You can massage it any way you like, but he looked lost in the field.  Even when he made nice plays, it was typically because he took a bad route or got crossed-up in some way.  At the plate, he was better, but his plate discipline was awful.  His strikeout rate would have been 7th highest in the Majors, had Arcia qualified.  His walk rate would have been in the bottom 50 as well.  Yikes.  I hope he can improve in those areas, because he won't have a .336 BABIP for his entire career.

I'm also worried that the Twins stunted his development during a bad season.  Arcia was crushing AAA when he was called up, but he had only played 9 games.  He needed more time, as evidenced by the fact that he was sent down to Rochester three times during the 2013 season.  I sincerely hope that the Twins didn't call up Arcia just to energize fans or spark the team.  The Twins weren't going to contend in 2013 regardless of how Arcia played.  The fans were going to see through any misguided attempts to prove otherwise.  If Arcia doesn't develop properly because Wilkin Ramirez had a baby and Darin Mastroianni got hurt, then it will go down as one of the bigger mistakes in Twins history. 

What to look for in '14:

Arcia is a young player, so growth in many areas would be nice.  He doesn't have to become a superstar in 2014, but heading in that direction would be pretty sweet.  There are three major areas where Arcia needs to improve.  He needs to cut down on his strikeouts a fair amount.  A 31% strikeout rate is only acceptable if a player can hit 40 home runs.  It would be shocking if Arcia ever hit 40 home runs in a season. 

Related to his strikeout rate, he needs to work counts better.  In 378 plate appearances with the Twins in 2013, Arcia worked the count into his favor only 55 times.  When he was ahead in the count, he hit .365/.492/.719.  When he was behind in the count, he hit .143/.149/.171.  A sizable split isn't uncommon, but that disparity is crazy.  His numbers behind in the count are just brutal.  Of course, his numbers ahead in the count are monstrous.  If he can work counts better, his overall numbers could skyrocket.

Finally, Arcia needs to refine his defense.  He's an athletic guy and he should be able to improve with experience.  The last thing the Twins want is a great offensive player in his mid-20s who can't play a defensive position.  They don't like to use a traditional DH, opting to use the DH as more of a "day off" strategy.  Arcia should develop into a great hitter, but his offense will look even better if he's playing left field every day instead of sitting on the bench waiting for his next at-bat. 

I'll be back next week with the 2nd most important Twins player in 2014.  Have a nice day, everyone!

If you haven't been paying close attention, I'm counting down the 14 most important Twins players for the 2014 season.  This was just one part in a 14-part series.  If you missed any of the previous installments, just click here as I have put them all in one nice, tidy location for you.  I'm the best.

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