Orlando Arcia continues making case for call up

Credit: Gwinnett Stripers

Credit: Gwinnett Stripers

Braves fans frequently ask about shortstop Orlando Arcia, who’s been raking for Triple-A Gwinnett but has yet to be promoted back to the majors. As he continues hitting and the major-league team’s urgency increases, Arcia’s arrival with the Braves might not be too far away.

Arcia, 26, has spent parts of the past six seasons with the Brewers, including appearing in four games earlier this year. The Braves acquired him in early April for pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel, and he’s been the Stripers’ best hitter since.

Arcia has reached base in 44 of 48 games, hitting .308 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 27 RBIs. He’s scored 40 runs and stolen five bases. He leads the Triple-A East in runs, hits (59) and total bases (106) entering Thursday. He’s done so after posting a career-high .734 in 59 games for the Brewers a season ago.

“He’s handling himself very well,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I talk with Tui (Gwinnett manager Matt Tuiasosopo), look at the game reports. They’re moving him around the diamond. He’s continuing to perform at a very high level.”

The Braves obviously valued having Arcia play regularly at Triple-A. He was acquired as depth, and there wasn’t a spot for him in the major-league infield. But it now appears the organization is exploring a way to make him fit.

Arcia has started in left field in the past three games, including Thursday. Braves left fielder Abraham Almonte has cooled off considerably, leaving the team desperate for outfield help. It’d behoove them to see Arcia in the role before the July 30 trade deadline.

The Braves’ outfield (outside MVP candidate Ronald Acuna) has been their biggest issue at the plate. Youngster Cristian Pache wasn’t ready for major-league pitching and was sent back to Triple-A. Veteran Guillermo Heredia has been OK as his replacement.

A bigger problem is in left field, which hasn’t had a solution since Marcell Ozuna was injured and later arrested for domestic violence. Almonte took over in left field afterward, hitting .211/.384/.355 overall and struggling mightily since a hot stretch in mid-June.

Since debuting in 2016, Arcia has appeared once in the outfield, handling four innings in center to finish a game last season. Brewers manager Craig Counsell said he envisioned Arcia handling multiple positions back in the spring when Milwaukee was trying to solve a logjam. He also can play second and third, though how he looks in left will be a more important factor here.

It seems Arcia the person would be a nice fit in the clubhouse, too. His Brewers teammates spoke glowingly of his energy and attitude. He was well-liked by Brewers fans for his cheerful personality.

Ultimately, though, Arcia might not prove the answer. He’s a career .244 hitter whose performance has fluctuated. Arcia hit .277 with a career-high-tying 15 homers in 2017, but his production dipped over the next two campaigns, when he hit .228/.277/.333 across 271 games from 2018-19.

That said, Arcia has a propensity for clutch hitting. He went 4-for-4 and scored twice in the Brewers’ 3-1 victory in Game 163 against the Cubs in 2018, which clinched the National League Central crown. Later that month, Arcia went 9-for-25 (.360) with two homers and three RBIs against the Dodgers in the NL Championship Series, which Milwaukee lost in seven games. He had at least one hit in each game.

Overall, though, it’s a spotty track record. But Arcia has done everything in his power to earn a shot. Those who’ve seen him at Gwinnett rave about his adjustments at the plate. And for a player who was demoted from every-day starter on a postseason contender to spending his season in the minors, Arcia has responded with a good attitude and eye-popping production, similar to what slugger Adam Duvall did two seasons ago before earning a role.

“It’s a good comparison,” Snitker said. “Adam went back from spring training and got himself going and came up. He was really big for us here. Last year I think was kind of a reality check with where we’re at in the game and our world. Things are different. It’s a different atmosphere. It’s a different climate than normal. You better adjust to it if you want to continue to do this.”

Even if Arcia is just a moderate upgrade on the team’s current situation, strengthening the lineup and giving it another player with some speed, that could be a big help as the Braves try to claw their way back into the postseason conversation. A trial run with Arcia could be worth their time - and maybe even affect their trade-deadline strategy.