The struggles of Aaron Hicks have been well documented by everyone and much maligned by some, even if we all expected him to struggle in his first chance at seeing Major League pitching. Minnesota did what they thought they had to do in granting him the starting job in center field on Opening Day, and to be honest that's still a decision I support. In part I'm hoping that his struggles this season will help him learn and adjust so that, when he does become a better and more complete player, we can look back at this season and say the process paid off.
But when it comes to Oswaldo Arcia, the struggles aren't nearly as pronounced. Through his first 17 games he's batting .300/.344/.467.
Let's be fair. Arcia was hitting .255/.305/.418 prior to last night's four-hit performance. He's also not been charged with inheriting center field on a full time basis - a prime defensive position which, to Hicks' detriment, was manned the last couple of seasons by two of the most defensively adept center fielders in the game. Those two guys were also exceptionally popular with the fan base, by the way. Arcia, meanwhile, wasn't expected to come up and produce at the top of the order from day one. He's not expected to play his defensive position everyday. The fact that he's getting playing time doesn't preclude the departure of a franchise player.
All of which just goes to say that the expectations, or maybe just the pressure, weren't there for Arcia that were there for Hicks. So, just maybe, Arcia came to the Twins in a better position.
He's made the most of it. Of course he struggles at times. Arcia has struck out 18 times compared to just four walks; that 9-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio is worse than Hicks'. Arcia also looks fooled at times at the plate, or takes a bad route in the outfield. He's not perfect.
But he does make things look effortless. When Arcia takes a bad swing it doesn't look like he's pressing - it just looks like he was fooled or didn't recognize the pitch. He puts solid wood on the ball on a regular basis. And he's not expected to be a defensive wizard. Hicks often looks over-matched; Arica, meanwhile, rarely does. He just looks inexperienced.
At some point, Darin Mastroianni will be ready to return to action with the Twins. That's where the dilemma will develop. Maestro and Wilkin Ramirez both play center field, which necessitates one of them having a roster spot in Minnesota. What I want not to happen is for Maestro's return to precipitate Arcia's departure. He's earned a roster spot by this point, considering how well he's played. And if the Twins want to be consistent in how they're dealing with young players and the messages they send to the team in putting the best players on the roster, then there shouldn't be any doubt about it.
The question for me becomes: Mastroianni or Ramirez?