Last Friday the Rays acquired out-of-favor OF Oswaldo Arcia from the Twins for cash considerations, and the move may be something Minnesota fans will regret for a long while.
His rise through the Twins system was meteoric, as he jumped from High-A to Double-A in 2012. He started the following season in Triple-A, hitting a 186 wRC+ over 155 plate appearances, so the Twins promoted him again. In the majors, he came down to earth with a 101 wRC+ through 378 PA's for the remainder of the season.
He split his 2014 season once again between AAA and the bigs, posting a 109 wRC+ for the Twins, but that was the end of hot-hitting Arcia. He dropped to a 83 wRC+ in 2015, and this season he's been working his way back up to league average. Three days with the Rays and he's nearly there.
Minnesota's designation of the player for assignment meant giving up a left-handed hitting 25 year old outfielder who was one year removed from 20 HR over 103 games. With their depth fully depleted, no doubt the Rays would have welcomed even a far worse player. Arcia, who is wearing the number 9 jersey, begins his first of three years of arbitration next season. This could turn out to be a nice get for the Rays.
Arcia has already made a huge impression in his few games as a Ray. He went yard in Camden Yards on Sunday, going 3 for 4; he was 3 for 5 against the Red Sox on Monday.
And boy can he crush it:
There was a time when Oswaldo Arcia was hailed as the second coming of George Springer -- a premature accolade, as his 2015 season went as poorly as you could imagine. But the previous season, at age 23, he'd ranked sixth in "No Doubt" homeruns on the ESPN Home Run Tracker.
The Rays could have much to gain in a resurgent Arcia, who already has a 420 ft homerun to his name this year, his longest of five on the season. It's a bit surprising Boston wasn't the team to step in for Arcia, as they've been in need of a long-side partner for Chris Young in the outfield. The Rays either promised more in their "future considerations" trade for Arcia, or they believe in something Boston does not.
The question, of course, is whether 2015 represents an anomalous lost season, or an accurate assessment of Arcia's ability to hit big league pitching. It began with a right hip-flexor strain less than 20 games into the season, and he took a while to recover. By the time he was healthy he had already been effectively replaced on the roster with Eddie Rosario.
Instead of relegating Arcia to bench duty, though, the Twins elected to return him to the minors, something Arcia had trouble shaking off mentally. Consequently, he began to fall out of favor with the Twins brass, and when he couldn't hit at 2014 expectations to start this season there was no room for his power potential on the worst team in baseball.
Could a healthy Arcia with consistent playing time regain the form that made him look so promising two years ago? If so, it's possible the Twins might have given away David Ortiz for peanuts all over again.
As for the details, this season his strikeout rate jumped from 23.1% to 40.4% before he was designated for assignment, which was the Twins' reason for releasing him. More importantly, though, this came with a 2% increase in walks to 8.8%. So what are we to make of that K-rate, now that he's a Rays player?
Arcia is swinging inside and outside the zone at an all-time low, with his biggest problems coming on contact once he does swing outside the zone. Other than that, he seems to be selecting pitches like you or I might select avocados, feeling everything and finding less than half to be suitable.
Consequently, a pull hitter who is swinging less often actually translates into a more aggressive approach, which leads to a higher likelihood of whiffs (30-40% range) than you might expect.
Looking at heat maps, his pitch selection reads well in the zone against right handed pitchers, all red inside the zone. Against southpaws he seems more susceptible to bite outside the zone, but it's with limited chances. Fewer than 20% of his plate appearances this season have come against lefties.
Here's how he compares to some similar hitters:
Perhaps the most important take away should be that his strikeout rate is improving, which is the quick answer I could have thrown out there to start with. His batted ball speed, as well as many result-based hitting statistics, are all trending up:
We still can't easily project the "real" Oswaldo Arcia, but the Rays seem to have nabbed a promising player with proven success in the majors who was at his lowest trade value.
The Rays are in somewhat of a rebuild, and Arcia could be a steal, particularly if June proves to be the new normal for the young Venezuelan slugger.