Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Two Bats Without A Home

This offseason, the Minnesota Twins have already shown an indication that they are in fact looking to improve upon what was a breakout season in 2015. In making a couple of trades, while also securing the winning big for Korean slugger Byung-Ho Park, Paul Molitor's squad is trending in the right direction. Amidst the moves though, there's two players that have seemingly been cast aside.

Enter Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas.

In 2013, Arcia made his big league debut as a 22 year-old. The Venezuelan born outfielder was regarded as a power bat, with the ability to take up space in left. After a 97 game debut season that saw him slash ..251/.304/.430 with 14 homers, Arcia has taken somewhat of a nose dive. Although the home run total rose in 2014 (20 HR), the splits dipped (.231/.300/.452). On top of poor defensive showings, Arcia entered 2015 with a whole lot to prove.

After being given just 19 games at the big league level, the Twins sent Arcia packing and made him aware and extended stay on the farm was in order. An average beginning to his Triple-A stay was followed by an impressive power display. From July 1-16, Arcia launched eight home runs and 19 RBI while slashing .367/.446/.918. The problem however, is that was the end of the positives. When the dust settled, 79 games at Triple-A saw Arcia bat just .199/.257/.372 while striking out 82 times and drawing just 18 walks.

For Kennys Vargas, the path saw what amounted to significantly muted lows, but also much less significant highs. Oddly, after a hot start to the month of May (.366/.395/.561 from May 1-17), Minnesota asked Vargas to go down and find his power stroke. In his first 29 games with the big league club last season, he hit just three home runs. From that point on, Vargas watched as his season was filled with travels.

Initially, he was sent to Triple-A Rochester, then recalled to the big leagues. Next he was demoted two levels to Double-A Chattanooga, before finally earning a late season promotion back up the ladder. In total, Vargas hit .283/.414/.496 between two minor league levels, and owned a .240/.277/.349 MLB slash line. With 18 home runs on the year between all three levels, the power wasn't as expected.

Heading into 2016, both Arcia and Vargas find themselves in less than ideal situations. For Arcia, he's battling against not only the perception that he took significant steps backwards a season ago, but also that he's up against a 40 man roster crunch (Arcia enters 2016 out of options). Vargas on the other hand, didn't quite do enough to suggest he's ready to contribute, and now Park could be taking away more of his opportunity.

As far as projections are concerned as both players rose through the farm system, Vargas seemed much more along the lines of the suspect bat between the two. However, given Arcia's defensive chops, I always pegged both as being potential bench bats as a middle-of-the-road scenario. Now, it's fair to question whether either have a place with the Twins at all.

There has been discussions that the Twins may look to allow Vargas an opportunity to rebuild his value in playing overseas. While I'd question whether this scenario makes sense for either party, Vargas appears most likely to be on the outs at this point. With Arcia, the trade of Aaron Hicks couldn't have come at a more opportune time. In no way does it open a door wide to playing time, but it gives Arcia much more ample opportunity.

No doubt there is plenty of offseason left, and the Opening Day roster situation is a long way from sorted out. Ideally, Terry Ryan is finding out what the trade market looks like for both Arcia and Vargas. In the end, I'd lean towards keeping both in the organization, with Arcia debuting with the big league club. Get him on the roster as a backup outfielder and a bat off the bench.

Regardless of what outside opinions suggest however, both players find themselves at a crossroads that could end up being make or break in their big league careers.