Monday, January 4, 2016

The Question Mark In The Outfield

The Minnesota Twins will enter the 2016 Major League Baseball season with some questions in regards to their outfield. Despite having adept fielders in both Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano's ability remains to be seen. For now though, I believe there's a possibility that the Sano experiment could work. What's a bigger question is what happens with Oswaldo Arcia.

After slugging 20 homers in 103 games during the 2014 season, last year couldn't have gone worse for Arcia. He was up for just 19 games to start the year, and then spent the rest of 2015 at Triple-A Rochester. Outside of a brief home run stretch, Arcia didn't do anything for the Red Wings.

When the dust settled on his Triple-A filled 2015, Arcia owned a sad .199/.257/.372 slash line. He did contribute 12 home runs, but he struck out 82 times while drawing just 18 walks. For a guy who never was reliable in the on-base category, the new low from 2015 was truly disappointing. On top of the offensive struggled, Arcia continued the narrative of being a defensive liability. In 60 games, Arcia committed five errors in the outfield. His .963 fielding percentage was the worst he's posted since 2012, and that doesn't account for his range factor (or lack thereof).

So what happens going forward?

Minnesota has some serious decisions to make when it comes to Arcia. For now, it's almost guaranteed that he'll break Spring Training with the big league club. He's out of options and would be certain to be claimed off of waivers by another team. He'll head north without a starting role though, that much is also certain. Destined for a reserve outfield role, with bench at-bats mixed in, Arcia will have to capitalize when given then opportunity.

The Twins realize that Arcia is a year removed from looking like a potential contributor. His .276/.338/.379 slash line in 2014 may be what his best looks like, but it's hard to be against that kind of production. For Arcia to return to those heights however, he'll need to turn his tendencies around.

A year ago, the Venezuelan slugger was hitting just 22.7% of balls in play with hard contact. That was down from 32.1% in 2014. Also, he saw a major rise in his "soft" contact, at 27.3% (up from 16.7% in 2014). There's some explaining that can be done by looking at how Arcia handled himself at the plate as well.

Contributing to the dip in production was Arcia's less than ideal discipline in the batters box. In 2015, Arcia was chasing pitches outside of the strike zone at a 48.6% clip. Despite being noted as someone who chases pitches, that mark was a far cry worse than his career 38.6% average. There was also the fact that Arcia was making contact at a lesser rate as well. Last season, he swung and missed 19.6% of the time, up from 17.4% in 2014. For a guy that's already a less than ideal defender, the production needs to start at the dish.

Heading into Spring Training, Arcia will no doubt be working heavily with Tom Brunansky on trying to hone in on driveable pitches. A more consistent and calculated approach at the plate is a must if Arcia is going to salvage his career with the Twins. The reality however is that his rope is extremely short, and time is not working on his side.

With Minnesota having not moved Arcia this offseason, it's probably fair to assume he'll either make it or be designated for assignment. The Twins can't afford to keep him on their 25 man roster without production, and there's not going to be a market for a guy that can be had for nothing. At the end of the day, it's on Arcia to prove he has reason to be here. In a best case scenario, he's a capable rotating bat for Minnesota. If things continue to trend the wrong way, he'll go down as a tale of a power hitter that could have been but never was.

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