With a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the ninth the Milwaukee Brewers clung to a one run lead against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Closer Corey Knebel checked on the runner and then delivered a two-strike pitch to Pirates first baseman John Jaso. Jaso connected, driving a hard grounder past knebel on its way to the outfield grass behind second.
But second year Shortstop Orlando Arcia had other ideas.
After holding the runner on second, with the crack of the bat Arcia broke to his left striding to the hole. The young shortstop made it all the way to the outfield grass and continued three feet to the right of second base fully extending his glove out to scoop the baseball.
Now off balance and well into right center field Arcia gained control of his body, spun, and fired a no look dart to stretching first baseman Eric Thames, beating Jaso to the bag by a half a step.
Arcia saved the game for Milwaukee, keeping them in the National League playoff race for the time being while also securing himself a spot on highlight reels.
The 6 foot, 165 pound shortstop was nothing short of impressive in 2017, showing off his spectacular defense and finally holding his own at the plate.
In 216 plate appearances in 2016, Arcia struggled mightily hitting just .219. The rookie lacked confidence and discipline, struggling to lay off tough pitches out of the strike zone. But an offseason to reflect and work on his game knowing he had a starting spot in 2017 paid dividends.
Arcia caught fire a few months into the season and never looked back, finishing up 2017 hitting .277 with 15 home runs and 14 stolen bases. Not only was he a spark plug at the bottom of the lineup but Arcia also played a big role in run production, racking up 53 RBI’s.
However, not only was Arcia able to lay off pitches out of the zone but he also began taking outside pitches to right field rather than trying to pull. Brewers hitting coach Darnell Coles spent countless hours working with Arcia on his this opposite field approach, and his success has impressed manager Craig Counsell.
In a 2017 article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Counsell explained his thoughts on Arcia’s approach at the plate.
“At this point in his career, it’s where he drives the ball best,” Counsell said. “I think it’s a great foundation for a young hitter, a great place to start. As he gains experience and puts at-bats under his belt, he’ll pull more balls in the air.”
“Not everybody has the ability to (drive balls the other way), especially at the shortstop position. It excites you because that’s a good foundation to start with. I’ve always thought it’s harder to learn to hit the ball the other way than it is to pull the ball.”
Below is one of Arcia’s opposite field doubles from 2017. This piece of hitting displays his patience to wait on the pitch and use his strong hands to drive the ball off of the right field wall.
But Arcia still has plenty to work on as 2018 approaches. In 2017 he committed 20 errors which was tied for most in the National League. He also struck out 100 times and made a number of baserunning mistakes.
All of these issues from 2017 are easy fixes for Arcia though, especially when it comes to defense and his base running. A number of Arcia’s errors came on rushed throws, which means as he continues to settle in at the pro level these rushed plays will become more routine for him. On the basepaths, however, Arcia will continue to try to take the extra base because of the player he is. As a Brewer fan you have to live with the base running mistakes at times, because what the aggressiveness brings can also be positive.
The future is bright for the 23-year-old shortstop. Not only does Arcia now have two years of major league experience, but he also has a lot more talent in the lineup around him to reduce the pressure. With hitters like Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Christian Yelich, and Lorenzo Cain, Arcia won’t be thrown into a top spot in the batting order. Instead he will be the seventh place hitter again, allowing him to stay relaxed with the bat.
All signs lead to another successful season for Arcia at the plate and in the field. If the shortstop can knock down his errors to the 10-15 range from last years 20, and hit around .275 once again, the Brewers can say for certain they have a shortstop with a number of gold gloves and a bright career ahead.