This time of year, I tend to look over leaderboards. My leaderboard perusing extends beyond MLB to the upper minors, NPB and KBO. It’s often a fruitless waste of time, but is it ever really a waste of time immersing yourself in something you enjoy (don’t answer that)? Sometimes players will stand out who I deem worthy of tracking in the offseason, and that’s the case with 26-year-old outfielder Oswaldo Arcia and Colin Moran. The former is well traveled and spent the entire 2017 season in the minors, and the latter is still rookie eligible and coming off of a career year with the stick.
Arcia’s a veteran of nearly 1,110 plate appearances in The Show, and he’s accumulated an uninspiring .235/.298/.422 slash with a 7.1% BB%, 31.5% K% and 96 wRC+. He had to settle for a minor-league contract and camp invite before this season, and he remained in the minors for the duration of his 2017 campaign. Still only 26-years old, it’s possible the former top-100 prospect is more than a Quad-A hitter. He’s raked in the minors before, but he was especially impressive hitting .326/.410/639 with 24 homers, a .314 ISO and 165 wRC+ in 400 plate appearances for Triple-A Reno this year. Traditionally a free swinger, Arcia walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances, and his 21.5% K% was plenty palatable attached to his gaudy power. Back in April, Triple-A Reno manager Greg Gross noted Arcia changed his swing and that it was more compact this year than in previous years. With an improved strikeout rate in 2017, it seems probable he retained his new swing and two-strike approach (which is also discussed in the linked article). Swing changes seem to be all the talk in today’s game, but they’ve helped others before Arcia fully unlock their hitting skills, and perhaps they’ll allow him to have more success if he gets another look in the majors.
Getting back to Arcia’s excellent numbers in Triple-A, among qualified hitters in the PCL, he led the way in OBP and SLG. The left-handed hitting outfielder did his best work at home (.375/.455/.769 with 14 homers in 160 at-bats), but he was no slouch on the road (.282/.371/.525 with 10 homers in 181 at-bats), per MiLB.com. Reno’s home ballpark is a hitter-friendly environment, but don’t dismiss the homers as being park driven. Reno basically plays neutral for homers, according to StatCorner. Also, Arcia’s power isn’t really a question mark, and he did smack 20 homers with a .220 ISO in 410 plate appearances for the Twins in 2014.
There’s no shortage of power in the bigs at this point in time, and Arcia’s defensive shortcomings won’t appeal to teams, either. Having said that, he’s the owner of a .223 ISO and 110 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers in 750 plate appearances in the majors, and he was also surprisingly good against southpaws at the Triple-A level this year hitting .351/.420/.468 with nine walks and 17 strikeouts in 77 at-bats against them, per MiLB.com. Arcia most likely won’t help fantasy squads in 2018, but look no further than J.D. Martinez for an example of a late-bloomer who thrived after a change of scenery and making changes to his swing.
Moran’s situation is entirely different than Arcia’s. The sixth pick in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft had never demonstrated much power in the minors prior to this year with previous single-season highs of 10 homers and a .153 ISO. In 338 plate appearances at Triple-A Fresno, he obliterated those previous highs with 18 homers and a .235 ISO. The surge in power is made all the more impressive by the park factors in Fresno. The third baseman teased his breakout in the spring. In 41 plate appearances in spring training, he hit .389/.439/.611 with two homers, four walks and seven strikeouts. The strong spring and excellent year at the Triple-A level followed an offseason of refining his swing — you can read more about the swing changes and see some still images comparing his 2016 stance to 2017 here. Prior to this year, Moran’s FB% hovered around 30%. In 2017, he kicked that up to 40.2%, and he also ripped line drives at a new career-high 26.0% clip. It’s safe to say the swing changes worked out for him.
Blocked by Houston’s loaded infield, Moran was awarded an opportunity for a look on the parent club in July when Carlos Correa hit the disabled list. Unfortunately for Moran, in just his second start for the Astros this year, he suffered a freak injury fouling a ball off of his face that resulted in a facial fracture that required surgery. He returned in September, but he only received six plate appearances down the stretch. Moran’s on Houston’s 40-man roster, and the infield remains crowded. It’s possible some at-bats will open up at designated hitter next year, but Houston’s current roster construction doesn’t present Moran an obvious path to everyday playing time in 2018. The Astros are built to win now — I mean, they’re still playing, so this goes without saying — and have a roster positioned for sustainable long-term success, too. There aren’t many obvious weaknesses on the club, but they have a logjam at third base that includes starter Alex Bregman, Moran and fellow prospect J.D. Davis, so they could opt to move Moran in the right deal. A deal to a third-base needy club would instantly make Moran more interesting in 2018 in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers. However, even if he’s not dealt, he should be on the radar in keeper leagues.
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