Orlando Arcia went from failed prospect to Braves All-Star. Can he keep going?

Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia breaks out laughing during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)



Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia breaks out laughing during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Orlando Arcia is a former hot prospect who didn’t pan out with the team that drafted him. When the Brewers traded him to the Braves in 2021, Arcia was the utility guy with no clear path to a spot in the lineup. Last year Arcia was the underdog to win the shortstop job in spring training.

Then, unexpectedly, Arcia became a clear-cut replacement for ex-Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. Now he’s an All-Star incumbent.

“I’m not thinking about that at all,” Arcia said through Braves interpreter Franco García. “I am focused on coming in and working hard like I do every single season, every spring.”

That’s the right attitude for Arcia. One good year for the Braves earned him some security, but it wasn’t long ago that Arcia’s career was stalled. Looking forward is a way for him to avoid going backward.

Arcia is 29 years old, with a guaranteed contract through 2025. Three good years as the starting shortstop for a contending team could mean a bigger payday for Arcia.

“He’s such a great guy and did such a great job last year. Hopefully he can piggyback on that and get his whole career back going,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

The Braves at least need Arcia to give them good defense and solid hitting again. The Plan B’s no longer are on the roster. The Braves shipped Vaughn Grissom to the Red Sox in December. They sent Braden Shewmake to the White Sox before that.

It’s a good bet that Arcia will play good defense at a position where that’s valuable. The hitting is more of a question mark after his results declined late last season. Arcia’s hitting profile in 2023 was strong against left-handed pitchers, not so good against right-handers. The Braves have veteran Luis Guillorme on the roster as a platoon option.


But the Braves have the luxury of a loaded lineup. They probably could live with Arcia’s light hitting near the bottom of the lineup so long as he’s a good fielder at an important position.

“All I want to do is help the team any way possible, which is really my main goal,” Arcia said. “It would be nice to win a Gold Glove, as well.”

That would mean supplanting Swanson. He won NL Gold Glove at shortstop in his final season with the Braves and last season with the Cubs. The Braves decided not to sign a veteran to replace Swanson when he signed with Chicago. They let Arcia and Grissom compete for the job.

It didn’t seem to make much sense when the Braves chose Arcia over Grissom. Grissom was shaky as an infielder in 2022, but he’d posted a.792 on-base plus slugging in 156 plate appearances in 2022. The Braves trusted that former infield instructor Ron Washington could help make Grissom a better fielder.

Arcia was a utility infielder in 2022 (with a short, counterproductive tryout in left field). He hadn’t been an everyday player since 2019 in Milwaukee, where his defensive metrics got worse the more that he played. It appeared Grissom offered more promise as the everyday shortstop.

Braves decision-makers didn’t see it that way. They sent Grissom to Triple-A Gwinnett 10 days before 2023 opening day. Days later, they signed Arcia to a three-year, $7.3 million contract extension. It didn’t take long to see that the Braves were right about Arcia.

“As a player you keep playing hard and expect good things to happen, and I think that’s what he did,” Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies said. “He got the chance to show what he really can be on the field.”

Arcia hit .333 with a .400 on-base percentage and four extra-base hits through his first 13 games. He suffered a fractured wrist April 12. Grissom was the shortstop for 18 games while Arcia was out and committed six errors in 63 chances. When Arcia returned to the lineup in May he continued to hit and field well.

Arcia slumped at the plate in June. A hot July was followed by more scuffling. Arcia hit .218 with a .280 on-base percentage and .669 OBP over the final 53 games. Arcia hit .294/.345/.769 in 68 games before the All-Star game and .235/.297/.713 in 71 games after.

Arcia punished fastballs during his peaks. During the slumps, Arcia was late on fastballs and whiffed on sliders.

“I’m not sure what adjustments (pitchers) were making,” Arcia said. “I’m just trying to focus on the adjustments that I need to make.”

We’ll see if Arcia can follow his career-best season with another good one. He had a solid year as Milwaukee’s everyday shortstop in 2017. Arcia’s playing time diminished over the next three years. The Brewers went with Luis Urías as the shortstop in 2021. Milwaukee traded Arcia, once among the top in prospects in baseball, for relief pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel.

It was a surprise when Arcia replaced Swanson as the everyday shortstop and become an All-Star. Now we’ll see if 2023 was a one-off for Arcia or the start of a mid-career resurgence.

“(He’s) a guy with great skills, then he kind of fell off, and he got another opportunity,” Snitker said. “It was great to see what he accomplished last year, and looking at him this year coming in, it’s looks really good so far.”