Monday, August 8, 2011

Oswaldo Arcia: The Hitting Machine

Oswaldo Arcia was signed by the Twins on July, 4th 2007 out of Anaco, Venezuela at the age of 16. As a foreign player it is always hard to know what to expect from young players, especially players so young. The Twins saw an outfielder that had a projectable body who people thought would be able to hit. I don’t think when the Twins signed him in 2007 that anybody thought that Arcia would hit the way that he has so far in his young Twins career. He can hit for average, hit for power, plays good outfield defense, and has a good arm. A very toolsy outfielder that the Twins love to put through the system. Guys like Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Torii Hunter before them. After signing with the Twins Arcia spent the 2008 season back in the Caribbean with the DSL Twins. That is where Arcia really came on the scene as a 17 year old kid that turned heads in that season with his quick bat. Here is how Arcia did in 2008 in the DSL:

DSL: 61games .293avg 4hr 36rbi 12doub 4trip 99TB 16bb 27k 8sb .343//432/.775

Those numbers were not huge, but for a 17 year old kid those are very good numbers. The stat that impressed me the most was his 99 total bases and his .343 on base percentage. That is pretty good for anyone let alone a 17 year old. Arcia then moved to the United States for the 2009 season and played with the GCL Twins. He continued his steady progress for the team in 2009 if not eye opening at least it was solid. I will let you be the judge what you thought his numbers were like in 2009 with the GCL Twins.

GCL: 44games .275avg 5hr 24rbi 11doub 2trip 76TB 15bb 18k 8sb .337/.455/.792

Those numbers were very similar to his numbers in 2008 in DSL, but you should not take it as a step backward. Coming over to the states was a big deal as he had to learn so much that have nothing to do with baseball that it is a big learning curve. You have to learn a new culture along with facing good young pitching. He had a good obp again so there was hope that with another year under his belt that he could continue to develop. His .337 on base percentage may not seem like much but for his first year in the states that is quite impressive. In 2010 Oswaldo Arcia arrived, he went up to Elizabethton and had one of the finest seasons in Twins Minor League history. He went from an ok prospect to one of the best prospects in the organization. I have been following the Twins minor league system for a few years and there has not been a season where a player has had any better years than the 2010 season for Oswaldo Arcia.

Eliz: 64games .375avg 14hr 51rbi 21doub 7trip 174TB 19bb 67k 4sb .424/.672/1.096

Oswaldo Arcia’s 2010 is the be all end all of minor league seasons and all the numbers are impressive. However the stat that really impressed me was the 42 extra base hits which is awesome. The other stat that sticks out to me is his 1.096 OPS for a whole season. You really need to digest how good of a season that is to understand how good he was. Arcia’s season in historical reference was quite good as it is ranked as the 3rd best offensive season in Elizabethton since 1990. He only trailed Reuben Salazar’s 1999 season and Paul Russo’s 1990 season for the best individual seasons in E-town history. With that success Arcia became a top 10 prospect in just about everyone’s prospect lists for the Twins. So for the 2011 season the Twins decided the best course of action to send him to Beloit and see how he does for a full season. The problem was Arcia had injured his elbow in the offseason so he started the season as the Snappers DH and here is how he did.

Bel:20games 71ab .352avg 5hr 18rbi 8doub 1trip 50TB 9bb 16k 2sb .420/.704/1.124

Talk about building off his monster 2010 season it looked like Arcia was on the verge of doing that this year for the Snappers. He was mashing for the Snappers this spring and that was surprising as most Caribbean players usually struggle early on for the Snappers due to the cold weather. However, Arcia did well for Beloit and the thought was he could put up another great season in 2011 to match his 2010. However, the pain in his elbow became too much for him and he finally succumbed to his elbow. There were many rumors that he would need Tommy John surgery which would have ended his 2011 season. However, after multiple opinions and examinations it would be decided that the best course of action would be for Arcia to have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and miss 4-6 weeks. So after his rehab and such he was ready to come back. He put up great numbers in the GCL and the time had come for him to return the Twins surprised everybody and kept him in Fort Myers with the Miracle instead of sending him back down to Beloit. After going up to Fort Myers these are the numbers Arcia put up with the Miracle.

FM: 34games .262avg 3hr 15rbi 8doub 1trip 52TB 5bb 32k .286/ .413/.698

Arcia is only 20 years old so to be up in Fort Myers is quite an accomplishment and probably a year ahead of schedule. His numbers in Fort Myers are quite impressive for his age and even he would say that he needs to get on base more and strikeout less. But I have been quite impressed with his extra base power and look for him to get better and better next year in Fort Myers. Enough of talk from me I asked Roger Dehring from Twinkie Town for his thoughts on Arcia and here is what he had to say.

First, I asked Roger what he thought were Arcia’s strengths and weaknesses were and this is his response. “His strengths are that he can flat out hit, better than anyone else in the system. He is also excellent defensively. I really don't see any weaknesses, other than like all young power hitters he could cut down on his strikeouts a bit.” I agree with him on most of those things except he has some weaknesses in my mind in that he strikes out too often and doesn’t walk at all. He can flat out hit, but there are others that can hit as well so I don’t see it as a clear cut thing, but make no mistake he is one of the best hitters in the system.

Next, Roger was asked how high of a ceiling he has for Arcia and a possible estimated time of arrival. “I see him as potentially becoming a frequent all-star. Looking at his numbers in the minors, he compares favorably with Justin Morneau, who turned 20 in May, 2001. Justin spent the first half of that year in the Midwest League, hitting .326/.420/.728 in 236 at bats with 12 home runs. He then hit .294/.385/.522 in 197 at bats at Ft. Myers. Arcia likewise turned 20 this past May. He began his year in the Midwest League where he hit .352/.420/.704 in 71 at bats with 5 home runs. Granted, that is a smaller sample because his stay was cut short with an injury, but the production is very similar. He is now in Ft. Myers, coming off his rehab and hitting .278/.305/.411 in 90 at bats with two home runs. I expect those numbers will rise as he gets used to the level of pitching and gets healthy, but it is scary how similar the two are at the same levels.” I am very high on Arcia as well, but I think we might be jumping the gun a little bit on Arcia comparison with Morneau as I view them as completely different hitters. I view Arcia as a gap hitter who will be doubles machine while Morneau was always a homerun hitter. I would compare Arcia more to a Jason Kubel who hit doubles like they were going out of style coming up.

Then, I asked Roger what he considers Arcia’s best position and his response was, “He has played some centerfield, however, doesn't have the speed to be a top centerfielder like Revere, Hicks or Rosario. He has a very good arm, thus either corner position works with right field being most likely.” I couldn’t agree more as he just does not have the speed for centerfield, but either corner spot would work fine for him.

Roger was then asked about how Arcia’s upside compares to a guy like Aaron Hicks and his response was, “Considering that he can become one of the elite hitters in baseball, I view him as a better prospect than Hicks.” I disagree with Roger on this one because Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks are totally different type of prospects. Hicks is the toolsy outfield prospect that the Twins thought that they were getting in Arcia. However, Arcia can just flat out hit and that will be his bread and butter going forward is being able hit. I think it is a personal preference with those two as they are just so different. I think Arcia has a better chance of fulfilling his potential, but it is just a personal opinion, but if I had to say if Hicks reaches his potential then I prefer Hicks by an eyelash.

I then asked Roger, What does Oswaldo Arcia need to get better at going forward and his response was, “He needs to play! Does he need to cut down on strikeouts a bit, yes. It is encouraging that as he has moved up two levels from last year, his strikeout rate hasn't gone up. I look for it to go down over the next few years.” The thing that I think he needs to improve is to take more walks, less strikeouts, and like Roger said he needs to play. Hopefully this was just a blip on the radar with this injury, but until he plays more we just don’t know.

Next, I asked Roger about Arcia’s defense and this was his response. “ Defensively, he has reasonable speed (he isn't Ben Revere) with an above average arm. As I stated, he doesn't make mistakes as supported by having one error since rookie ball in 2008...that is two and a half years with only one error earlier this year.” I think Arcia’s defense is fine, but the big question will be how did his arm come out of his elbow surgery. He had a solid arm, but if he lost much off his arm you could have a problem as he is too young to be a DH. Too athletic to be a DH so it will be interesting to see how his elbow comes around.

The final question I asked Roger was how high he has him rated and how much can he improve in his mind. “As you know, I don't have a Top 20 or Top 50. I have a rating system that I apply to the actual performances of all the players in the organization each year. Based on what Arcia has done so far this year, I will be shocked if he isn't the top rated player in the organization at the end of the year. In preparation for this response to your questions, I did a quick mid-year test of five of the Twins better players as of a few days ago. Arcia was comfortably first with Jairo Perez second. As for improvement, he needs to get healthy so that his last month at Ft. Myers will be more like the first month in Beloit.” I will say this about Arcia he is defiantly a top 5 prospect in the organization for the Twins. It really comes down to personal preference between 1-5 as I don’t believe there is a clear cut number 1 right now. I do think Arcia can continue to improve if he gets his walks up and his strikeouts down to be a top five prospect every year.

Oswaldo Arcia has transformed himself from a toolsy outfield prospect that the Twins signed for about $95,000 to one of the top prospects in the organization and one of the top 30 prospects in all of baseball. Arcia crushes the ball on a regular basis and seems to be getting better and better every day. After solid years in the DSL and the GCL he exploded in 2010 to put himself on the map. He has followed that up with another very good season in 2011 and if it were not for a balky elbow that forced him to miss a big chunk of games. Going forward the sky is the limit for Arcia as he has the ability to be off the charts. He is an extra base hit machine who reminds me of a young Jason Kubel. Think about it he is in Fort Myers at the age of 20 and really has the ability to get better and better. His weaknesses are relatively minor in that he strikes out a little bit too much and needs to learn to walk. However, those are things that are definitely fixable and I fully expect him to be a good major leaguer and the next line of great hitters that the Twins have been waiting to arrive. Arcia has the ability to be special and someone that we all will be talking about years from now.