Coming out of 2014, Oswaldo Arcia looked like he was establishing himself as one of a new core of young Twins players. After hitting 14 home runs in 97 games as a 22-year old, he'd hit 20 in 103 games in a season that saw him slug .452 at age 23. He looked like a talented, young, left-handed slugger whose Major League potential was being verified by his minor league track record: Arcia hit .375/.424/.672 in 2010; .291/.335/.531 in 2011; .320/.388/.539 in 2012; .313/.426/.594 in 2013. Those marks included a 1.020 OPS at Triple-A in 2013 and a .962 OPS at Triple-A in 2014.
There was every reason to think that, as one of the best young left-handed sluggers in team history, Arcia would continue on his developmental path.
As expected, Arcia made the Opening Day roster as Minnesota's starting left fielder. It was a slight change of pace. Torii Hunter's signing meant that the 39-year old would be the everyday right fielder, which forced a still 23-year old Arcia into the other corner. He'd played some left in 2013, but for all of 2014 he was Ron Gardenhire's right fielder.
Arcia struggled out of the gate. He'd always been an aggressive hitter but seemed more untethered than usual; in 2013 and 2014 he'd swung at about 38% of pitches outside the strike zone, which was high but not unexpected for a slugger who will record some strikeouts. But through his first 19 games of this season, up until his trip to the disabled list in early May, Arcia had swung at an unbelievable 48.6% of pitches outside of the strike zone. He was in 0-1 counts in 71% of his plate appearances. His swinging strike percentage hit 19.6%.
His balls-in-play results skewed pretty harshly as well. While his line drive / ground ball / fly ball rates were steady, the number of infield flies went from 10.7% in 2014 to 16.7%. Quality of contact declined sharply, going from roughly a 16% softly-hit percentage to 27.3%. Hard-hit rates dropped from 33% to 22.7%; power and hard contact stayed strong when he was able to pull the ball, but both power and quality contact completely disappeared when going up the middle or going the other way. (Stats courtesy of FanGraphs' fantastic splits tool.)
|Split||Year||AVG||ISO||Hard %||Soft %|
You'd be forgiven if you came to the conclusion that Arcia was just trying to pull everything and yank it out of the park.
The Twins were so disenchanted with what they'd seen from their young outfielder that when he was healthy enough to be activated from the disabled list, they optioned him to Triple-A. As you can see, I was obviously a bit confused by the decision at the time. Considering Minnesota's position as a rebuilding team with young players who needed playing time to determine whether or not they would be a part of a winning future, surely - or so my thought process was at the time - Arcia would be better suited to play through his early season struggles with the big league club.
Judging by the rest of Arcia's season I was obviously wrong. Perhaps the Twins were aware of his struggles or weren't pleased with his approach, or perhaps their decision making was justified by Arcia's results the rest of the year, but it wasn't pretty. Coming into 2015 he had a .311/.409/.569 career triple slash at Triple-A. But this year he seriously struggled, hitting .199/.257/.372 in 311 plate appearances for the Rochester Red Wings.
2016 Stock Market Reports
2016 Stock Market Report: Ricky Nolasco
What will Ricky Nolasco's role with the 2016 Twins be? Will he even be on the roster? Jesse breaks down what will be one of Minnesota's more fascinating winter story lines.
2016 Stock Market Reports
Outfield: Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler
Designated Hitter: Miguel Sano, Kennys Vargas, Joe Mauer
The backlog here has less to do with the number of viable players to plug in to these roles and more to do with the fact that all seven of these players, if on the Major League roster, would need full-time plate appearances. Hicks isn't going to and shouldn't have to deal with the playing time of a fourth outfielders, and naturally neither should Rosario or Buxton or Kepler.
Candidates for designated hitter have the same needs. Maybe Sano shifts to third base depending on what happens to Trevor Plouffe, and Mauer will of course get most of his time at first base, but all three of these players will be getting time as a DH.
Arcia, for all of his struggles in 2015, will need full-time plate appearances if he makes the opening day roster. However these players might be shuffled around, he has his work cut out for him.
While Arcia didn't accrue a great deal of service time this year, I'm not sure if it was enough to push back his arbitration eligibility. At any rate, that's not a consideration for 2016. What is a consideration is that Oswaldo Arcia is out of options.
What does that mean? It means that the Twins can no longer option Arcia to the minor leagues without exposing him to waivers. A player of Arcia's youth and offensive potential would be snapped up in an instant on waivers. As disappointing as his 2015 season was, losing Arcia for nothing would be a waste.
What's his role on the 2016 team?
It was a disheartening year for a player who had profiled as a middle-of-the-order hitter. His obvious passion for the game and his flair at the plate was fun to watch, but one bad season seems to have doomed his future in the eyes of many fans.
The fact that Arcia is out of options might work in his favor - at least in terms of making the roster out of spring training. Byron Buxton's struggles and Max Kepler's inexperience make it palatable that both players start the season in the minor leagues, leaving Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario one outfielder short of a full set. In a scenario where Arcia is still in Minnesota, he could very well end up being one of the corner outfielders that Paul Molitor turns to five or six days a week.
As we've discussed before though, the Twins are in a prime position to deal minor league talent. In part it's a resource to make the club better, in part it's an endeavor to clean up the 40-man roster a bit, but seeing all the young outfield talent that already exists in the organization it's easy to envision a scenario where Arcia is traded. It would be selling low on a player who was recently so promising, but it would be preferable to letting him go for nothing on waivers at the end of March.
In the end, those are the two outcomes that seem the most likely for Arcia in 2016. He'll either be a starting outfielder for your Minnesota Twins, where he'll be given an opportunity to reclaim some of his lost promise, or the Twins will find a suitor who is willing to take a gamble on a young, controllable left-handed slugger who had a bad year.