Ranked as the fourth best prospect in the Minnesota Twins system this preseason, Oswaldo Arcia was promoted to the big club on three separate occasions (well, technically four, one of which was only for a day) during his rookie season. The 22-year-old left-hander showed some promising signs, but as usual with the majority of youngsters, has work to do to reach his potential.
Arcia’s most exciting tool is his power. He has routinely posted .200+ ISO marks and combined for 24 home runs between Triple-A and the majors this year in fewer than 500 at-bats. But his .179 ISO with the Twins doesn’t really begin to explain how much power Arcia possesses. He actually ranked 14th in baseball in average home run and fly ball distance with his nearly 303 foot mark. He was one of only 16 hitters to average more than 300 feet in batted ball distance. That’s an impressive feat for any hitter, no less a rookie.
Of the 16 hitters who recorded an average distance above 300 feet, Arcia’s HR/FB rate was the lowest, coming in just below 15%. The unweighted average of the group was 22%, while 11 of the 16 posted rates of at least 20%. This all suggests that Arcia could be due for a nice bump in HR/FB rate next year if he maintains that same distance. Conspiring against him though is a home park that ranked fourth lowest in left-handed park factor. It’s a small sample size of course, but his home HR/FB rate was just 11.1%, while his away mark was 19.5%. There’s nothing he could do about Target Field’s conditions, but there shouldn’t have been that large a disparity in his splits.
So the distance does suggest that Arcia has some serious power and the Steamer ISO projection of .191 might very well prove too conservative. Adding to his power potential is his knack for fly balls. Though not an extreme fly ball hitter, which would hamper his BABIP ability, he still managed to record a fly ball rate of nearly 41%. Lots of fly balls and a high rate of those fly balls leaving the yard is a good combination for home run production.
Despite all the strikeouts, he still managed to hit for a batting average at a near league average clip. He was helped by a .336 BABIP and has always enjoyed inflated BABIP marks during his minor league days. While BABIP marks don’t translate perfectly from minors to majors, high BABIP guys usually remain so, and vice versa. Unfortunately, his xBABIP was just .293, likely because of a low line drive rate and a bit too many fly balls for the calculator’s liking. Perhaps Arcia is doing something else not captured by the calculator that has elevated his BABIP marks throughout his professional career.
Let’s get back to that strikeout thing. If he qualified, his 31% K% would have ranked as the fifth worst in baseball. On its own, that’s not good, but typically the high strikeout hitters offset their inability to make contact with high walk rates and mammoth power. Arcia didn’t walk a whole lot and although his batted ball distance does suggest mammoth power, it didn’t exactly show in his ISO rate. He also swung and missed at a rate that would have placed him third worst among qualified hitters, so making contact was a real issue. Luckily, he never had such severe problems in the minor leagues, so there is hope for some improvement.
His O-Swing% was an exorbitant 37.3%, which would rank him 21st. That on its own wouldn’t be so terrible if he made better than average contact on those balls. But that wasn’t the case, as his O-Contact% finished just below 50%, a mark only four hitters were worse than. So it’s clear that Arcia has to make better contact and swing at better pitches. That’s a problem that many young hitters face though, so this isn’t anything alarming.
Last, as a left-handed batter, it is worth noting his handedness splits. While his .288 wOBA versus lefties and .338 wOBA against righties would typically suggest he has troubles versus southpaws as expected, it’s not that simple. Typically left-handers will strike out a lot more versus southpaws, but Arcia actually didn’t. His weaker performance stemmed from a lack of patience, as he posted just a 1.7% BB%, and a decline in power. His BABIP was actually higher and strikeout rate nearly identical. So the underlying metrics of his splits don’t appear too troubling, guaranteeing only a platoon role in his future. A simple boost in walk rate should get his wOBA above .300 and make him acceptable enough to start against southpaws.
With massive power potential and high BABIP marks paired with a possible improved strikeout rate, there’s a whole lot of upside here. Given his meh debut and the hype dying down, there is likely very good opportunity for profit at the draft table.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.