Milwaukee shortstop Orlando Arcia has been on the prospect radar for a few years now, but his stock has risen significantly over the past year or so. He’s been posting impressive strikeout and stolen-base numbers since his age-16 season in 2011. Though, prior to 2015, he did so with minimal power. He only managed an .093 ISO in A-ball in 2013 and 2014, which was helped in part by his 10 triples. While still an interesting prospect, it didn’t look like he’d ever hit for much power.
The power finally began to show up in 2015, however. His eight homers matched his total from the previous two years combined, which helped prop his ISO up to .146. That power bump has carried over into 2016, as Arcia had already matched last season’s total in just 100 games at Triple-A. His strikeout and walk numbers have both ticked in the wrong direction the past couple of years, but that was a sacrifice worth making in exchange for bringing his extra-base-hit totals to more respectable levels.
Thanks to his tremendous athleticism, there’s much more to Arcia than his hitting. His excellent speed makes him a weapon on the basepaths. It enabled him to swipe 40 bases between this year and last. That athleticism also comes in handy on defense, where he’s played above-average defense at short, according to Clay Davenport’s numbers.
My new-look KATOH model is a huge fan of Arcia’s, projecting him for 7.2 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 9.9 WAR by the method that integrates Baseball America’s rankings. Those projections place him 21st overall and 18th overall, respectively, on KATOH’s list. To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Arcia’s first six seasons in the major leagues.
To put some faces to Arcia’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the speedy shortstop. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Arcia’s Triple-A performance this year and every Triple-A since 1991 in which a batter recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.
Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.
Simply put, there are a lot of ways Arcia can provide value at the big-league level. This, coupled with the fact that he’s hit a little bit as a 21-year-old at Triple-A, makes him a relatively safe bet to succeed in the show. KATOH gives him a 68% chance of logging at least 4 WAR over his first six seasons, and a 38% chance of logging at least 10 WAR. Arcia’s statistical comps tell a similar story: although there’s relatively little star power on the list, there’s an awful lot of solid-regular power.
Arcia joins a Brewers club that’s in full-on rebuild mode. Much of their roster is composed of players with little big-league experience, which has unsurprisingly resulted in a record well below .500. However, many of Milwaukee’s players appear to have bright futures ahead of them, as do many of the players in their minor-league system –including a few whom they acquired at the deadline. Arcia will undoubtedly make the Brewers a better team this year, but an extra win or two down the stretch isn’t particularly important. What’s more important is that he figures to make them better for years to come, as one of the most productive pieces on the next competitive Brewers team.
Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.
His minor-league numbers look a ton like Alcides Escobar’s when he was coming up with the Brewers. Now we just have to see if the Brewers can teach Arcia how to not hit.
Yup, he’s basically a slightly better version of Escobar. That’s not an insult considering Esky was a great fielder and an OK-ish hitter until a couple of years ago (76 wRC+ through 2014, 62 wRC+ since).
I think that’s an oversimplification. Arcia has shown better ISO numbers in the minors at a slightly younger age/level. He’s also shown better BB numbers, if ever so slightly. This makes a big difference. The book on Escobar is pretty much to go after him, he doesn’t even have gap power really. If Arcia can show even a .150 ISO in the big leagues that will go a long way to helping him BB more. I guess Escobar would be the floor, but I think the ceiling could be pedroia or even Altuve. Could take awhile though, hopefully he at least treads water a la addison russell in the beginning.