Orlando Arcia getting the nod for the beginning shortstop job in Atlanta raised some eyebrows this spring. In spite of everything, he had regarded extra like a utility infielder in recent times than a viable beginning shortstop, and it felt a bit like that ship had lengthy since sailed. The current and future was Vaughn Grissom, our high Braves prospect final yr after the graduations of Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II. Grissom didn’t precisely wrestle in his debut final fall, whomping pitchers to the tune of a .293/.353/.440 line, a triple-slash that will be viable for a primary baseman, not to mention a man who can deal with brief. But it was Arcia who ended up with the job within the spring. It didn’t even seem to be the everyday service time shenanigans, such because the Cubs swearing that Kris Bryant wanted a pair weeks to be taught to be a greater participant than Mike Olt; Grissom already had practically a 3rd of a yr of service time, which might have made it a bit arduous to take care of that façade.
Arcia didn’t disappoint in early play: In 13 video games, he hit .330/.400/.511 and regarded pretty comfy enjoying brief commonly for the primary time in a number of years. Sadly, a Hunter Greene fastball had different plans for the place; his upper-90s warmth hit Arcia’s wrist throughout an at-bat, knocking him out of Wednesday’s recreation in opposition to Cincinnati, changed by Ehire Adrianza. Preliminary x-rays didn’t reveal a fracture, however an MRI and CT scan on Thursday confirmed a microfracture, sending him to the injured checklist. This seems to be a minor damage, and it seems as if Arcia will solely miss a pair weeks of play. Cookies don’t crumble in equivalent methods, however Nick Castellanos suffered this damage in 2021 and solely missed a few weeks.
If there have been service time points concerned, the Braves may have very simply plugged in Adrianza or Braden Shewmake for a few weeks and continued to let Grissom work on his protection within the minors (he was so-so at finest within the majors final yr with the glove). However discovering time at brief for Grissom, who by all studies took his demotion with humility, was nonetheless the upside play. Simply as Arcia didn’t disappoint early on, he carried out very properly for Triple-A Gwinnett, with a 1.044 OPS in 10 video games.
Final week, my colleague Jake Mailhot talked about a few of the causes we shouldn’t pooh-pooh Arcia’s expertise. Of the numerous drained Szym tropes, one I prefer to hit on often is my perception that well-run groups at all times attempt to give gamers each alternative to show them unsuitable. There’s no less than an opportunity that I’m responsible of doing that with Arcia, too fast to dismiss his current efficiency and letting him stay within the utility infielder barrel in my thoughts. As a result of there are much more causes to be eager about Arcia moreover those that Jake talked about.
Spring coaching doesn’t imply a lot, however it means one thing. Again in 2015, economist Dan Rosenheck checked out spring coaching stats in a study he presented at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. He discovered that they didn’t imply a ton, but additionally that we must be extra cautious about laughing off the numbers as meaningless, one thing I do know I’ve been responsible of prior to now (I supplied Dan the ZiPS projections he used within the research, so I’ve recognized about his work and tried to be extra cautious since then). Dan was wanting on the “regular” stats: OBP and SLG and their varied derivatives. There was no StatCast knowledge to work with at this level, and issues like exit velocity and make contact with fee are usually much less unstable, which signifies that, no less than theoretically, spring enhancements in these numbers must be much more necessary than within the traditional sabermetric stats (I believe I’ve a research to do that summer time!).
Since Jake posted his piece, Arcia continued to hit, with a median exit velocity of 91.0 mph, pretty much as good as his stunning 90.7 final yr; coming into 2022, his profession determine was 87.1. Taking a look at percentages, his 42.5% hard-hit fee was an enormous soar over his 30.4% for his profession; that’s continued in a small pattern this yr at 51.4%, presently thirtieth of 196 qualifiers. Along with hitting for extra energy, Arcia additionally confirmed stunning strides in plate self-discipline, which was one in every of his bugaboos with the Brewers. StatCast lists 71 whole pitches for him, which isn’t precisely the biggest pool of knowledge to work with, however even over the brief time period, his plate self-discipline knowledge was extraordinarily spectacular, one thing I by no means anticipated to say about him. Of the 41 pitches out-of-zone he confronted this spring, he solely supplied at six of them (14.6%), a fee that’s in ultra-elite Joey Votto/Juan Soto territory. Even with a low qualifying standing of 100 plate appearances, the perfect in baseball final yr falls properly in need of that (Josh VanMeter at 18.9%). This wasn’t simply passivity at work, both; Arcia swung at 70% of in-zone pitches in the course of the spring, proper consistent with the MLB common of 67.5% in 2023.
What’s extra is that each scouts and stats actually preferred Arcia’s upside as a prospect. He was the ZiPS no. 26 prospect earlier than the 2015 season, then rose to no. 4, sandwiched between J.P. Crawford and Dansby Swanson, earlier than 2016. And whereas his debut didn’t go properly, a .277/.327/.407, 2.0 WAR line at age 22 in 2017 for Milwaukee was extraordinarily promising. Let’s return to the 2016 projection for a second; the place did ZiPS assume Arcia can be now?
ZiPS Projection – Orlando Arcia (pre-2016)
Possibly the error wasn’t the projections and expectations for him, however the throwing in of the towel? That 2022 projection is principally the participant Arcia really turned out to be in 2022 (the triple-slashes are superficially greater as a result of ZiPS didn’t challenge final yr’s offensive setting again then). That kinda flips the story round a bit; it will imply that Arcia isn’t a utility infielder who lucked right into a beginning job, however a former high prospect who made a triumphant comeback.
Ought to Grissom play properly over the remainder of April, it could re-ignite the place battle that gave the impression to be settled for the brief time period. However possibly that’s not true in any respect; possibly the query isn’t whether or not Arcia or Grissom lose their beginning gig after they get again, however one thing else fully? We didn’t count on the Braves to get a lot out of left discipline this yr, and to this point, they haven’t, as Eddie Rosario, Marcell Ozuna, Kevin Pillar, and a recreation of Sam Hilliard have mixed for a .466 OPS on the place. Whereas the place received’t keep fairly that weak, it was lengthy anticipated that left and DH (held down by Ozuna, who’s been terrible) had been the crew’s weak spots. What if the odd-man out at shortstop turns into the even-man in at third base (if the crew desires to revisit Austin Riley in left discipline briefly) or in left themselves? An Arcia/Harris/Ronald Acuña Jr. outfield may very well be fairly the boon for the crew’s flyball pitchers.
At its core, the Braves having a minor controversy at shortstop is barely an issue in the event that they make it one. Having an excessive amount of expertise has been an precise drawback for exactly zero groups in baseball historical past. Atlanta has different wants; Arcia’s damage and Grissom’s stint because the starter could find yourself with the “Grissom or Arcia?” reply being “why not each?”