By: Brad Krause
20-year-olds aren’t supposed to do what Orlando Arcia does on the baseball diamond. But the young Venezuelan shortstop is mature beyond his years and has handled himself against older competition at every level, making a name for himself as one of the Milwaukee Brewers top prospects.
Originally signed by Milwaukee in October of 2010, Arcia made his professional debut with the Brewers Dominican Summer League team at the age of sixteen in 2011. In 64 DSL games, Arcia hit .294 with six home runs, scored 47 runs and was named to the DSL All-Star team.
Despite his young age, the Brewers brought Arcia to spring training in Maryvale, Arizona in 2012. He impressed the team there and was ticketed for Helena when rookie leagues started play, but during a game in extended spring training, Arcia slid in to second base and came up hobbling. He was diagnosed with a fractured ankle that would essentially end his 2012 season.
After having a metal plate inserted in to his ankle, Arcia would wind up sitting out the regular season while rehabbing in Arizona, but he returned from the injury in time to participate in the Brewers instructional league in Maryvale that fall.
Despite the year away from competition and having not seen any game action beyond the Dominican Summer League, the Brewers still opted to send Arcia to Wisconsin in the Midwest League to start the 2013 season.
As an 18-year-old in Class-A, Arcia appeared in 120 games as the starting shortstop for the Timber Rattlers. There, he hit .251 with four home runs and scored 67 runs. He also showed an advanced approach at the plate and the ability to put the ball in play, striking out just 40 times in 486 plate appearances.
After holding his own in the Midwest League, the Brewers continued to push Arcia, promoting him to Brevard County to start the 2014 season. At Brevard, Arcia was paired with Yadiel Rivera, another slick-fielding shortstop prospect for Milwaukee. The two rotated early on in the season between second base and shortstop, but once Rivera advanced to Double-A Huntsville, Arcia returned to his natural home at shortstop for the remainder of the season. In 127 Florida State League games for the Manatees, Arcia hit .289, collecting 29 doubles, five triples and four home runs. He also earned a promotion to Double-A Huntsville where he joined the Stars for the playoffs.
Arcia’s teammates are quick to note his maturity as a key factor in being able to handle so much at such a young age.
“When we first met,he was 16 and I was 18” said second baseman Chris McFarland. “To watch him hit guys many years older than him without a problem, throw missiles across the diamond and field smoother than most I’ve seen with my eyes was very impressive. (I’d) never seen a 16-year-old as developed as he was, and to this day its grown on me and when I hear in the locker room what Arcia did in a game, its not surprising, it’s just Arcia. That’s him, an exciting player, you always want to watch his at bat or keep an eye on what he’ll do next in the infield. He’s very mature for his age. I’ve never seen him look uncomfortable even if he’s in a slump, by looking at his body language you could never tell he was. That alone separates a lot of players, he stays positive. ”
Pitcher Taylor Williams, who played with Arcia last season at Brevard County, agrees with McFarland. “A guy like Orlando Arcia, he’s one of the best talents in minor league baseball” said Williams. “Being a 19 year old last year, and being able to do the things that he did. He’s fun to have behind you and obviously he’s an extremely talented defensive and offensive guy. He’s just a special, special person to be around. He’s got the personality, everything you would expect from a big league guy. Obviously his brother is a big leaguer so he’s been able to walk in those footsteps a little bit but he’s just an exceptional personality.”
As Williams points out, Arcia’s older brother Oswaldo has already shown the path to the big leagues for Orlando. An outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, Oswaldo Arcia also rose quickly through the minor leagues, making his major league debut in 2013 at the age of 21. Last season he appeared in 103 games for the Twins, where he belted 20 home runs as Minnesota’s regular right fielder.
Orlando is well on his way to following his brother to “The Show” and his high-energy, fun-loving style plays a big role in helping him deal with the long baseball season and stay focused and ready to take the field day in and day out.
“He brings energy to the field that’s hard to find in a teammate, and he makes the games a lot more fun for his teammates” said Williams. “He makes you want to go out there and play.”
“Off the field Arcia is one of the funniest guys” added McFarland. “Even on the field at times, you’ll see him laughing and smiling mid-game. Even so, he has that internal switch where you know its game time and he gets right to business and gets the job done, you see the passion the way he plays and how much he wants to beat his competition.”
Arcia loves the game, and loves to compete. So much so, that after a long regular season in Brevard County, a playoff stint with Huntsville and a spot on the Brewers advanced instructional league squad, he opted to return to his native Venezuela to play winter ball. In 60 games there, Arcia hit .260 with seven home runs, showing even more development at the plate and increased power to boot.
The $95,000 Milwaukee gave Arcia to sign in 2010 looks like a bargain in hindsight, as he enters the 2015 season ranked among the top prospects in baseball, Baseball America (#94), MLB Pipeline (#88) and Baseball Prospectus (#93) all had him on their preseason list of top 100 prospects in the game.
After getting a brief taste of Double-A in the playoffs last season, Arcia is almost a lock to begin 2015 with the Biloxi Shuckers. The jump from Single-A to Double-A is perhaps the toughest for a player to make, but despite the fact that Arcia won’t turn 21 until August, he’s exceeded expectations throughout his young career and seems very well equipped to handle the transition as he makes his way towards Milwaukee.