<span class="vcard">Matthew Pouliot</span>

Oswaldo Arcia

The marginalization of Oswaldo Arcia

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There are currently seven major leaguers 24 and under with a career OPS+ over 100 in at least 500 at-bats.

167 – Mike Trout
135 – Bryce Harper
108 – Manny Machado
105 – Christian Yelich
104 – Oswaldo Arcia
103 – Avisail Garcia
101 – Nolan Arenado

Six of those guys are considered building blocks by their teams. The other, Arcia, seems to be at a career crossroads already, even though he’s hardly tasted failure at any point in his career.

Arcia arrived in the majors before his 22nd birthday, debuting in April 2013. He was demoted a few times that season, even though his numbers were decent, if unspectacular, throughout. He finished up at .251/.304/.430 with 14 homers in 351 at-bats.

The next spring, Arcia was penciled right in as the Twins’ right fielder, only to develop wrist troubles very early on. He was placed on the DL on April 9. He went on to excel in his rehab assignment, hitting .308/.349/.487 in 12 games, yet the Twins optioned him to Triple-A for a spell anyway. He came back in late May and played regularly the rest of the way, finishing up at .231/.300/.452. Despite the low average, he had a 108 OPS+, largely because of his 20 homers (second on the Twins).

After last season, the Twins took away Arcia’s position by signing Torii Hunter, but he was still seemingly assured the left field job. However, weird things happened right off the bat. The left-handed-hitting Arcia started Opening Day against lefty David Price, only to find himself on the bench against a righty three days later. Arcia went on to sit three times in the first nine games. He slumped. He only started to pull out of it at the end of April, going 7-for-13 with a homer in four starts. That’s what a hip injury put him on the disabled list.

Despite that promising surge, it was apparent right away that Arcia might not immediately reemerge in Minnesota’s plans following his return. For one thing, the team needed a break from playing three liabilities in the outfield, as it often was with Arcia in left, Jordan Schafer in center and Hunter in right. Arcia’s struggles against lefties and his strikeout rate were also problems, even though he didn’t fan overly much during April (15 K’s in 65 PA).

Sure enough, Arcia was sent down after going hitless in the first four games of his rehab assignment. It’s the third time in three years he’s been optioned out. Whether it’s the hip, his frustrations over being buried or something else, he’s continued to slump since the demotion, hitting .214/.227/.310 in 12 games.

Arcia is a flawed player. The troubles against lefties aren’t going away, and he’s a poor outfielder perhaps best suited to DH duties. That seemed like a big problem at the start of the year, following Kennys Vargas’s emergence. But with Vargas also struggling to find his way with these 2015 Twins, there’s plenty of room for Arcia at DH should the team decide to go that route. Obviously, it hasn’t happened yet.

Still, it’s not at all reasonable that the Twins are so down on him. Beat writers have speculated that he’ll be traded. One writers suggested this spring that he should begin the season in the minors. Of late, there’s been more talk about prospect Miguel Sano becoming the Twins’ DH than Arcia. Oddly enough, Arcia is playing regularly in right field in Triple-A, even though the team surely won’t ask Hunter to change positions this year. It makes little sense. Right-handed power is difficult to come by these days, and young hitters as productive as Arcia rarely prove to be flops.

Maybe all of this turns around if Arcia turns it on in Triple-A over these next few weeks. After all, the Twins have given Shane Robinson two starts and Eduardo Escobar one start in left field over these last five games. Vargas has slumped since his return from Triple-A and has no sort of handle on the DH job. It’s not hard to imagine Arcia spending the final three months of the season as one of the Twins’ best hitters. Unfortunately, it’s also not hard to imagine him getting traded for a veteran security blanket as the Twins try to gear up for a playoff run.

The red-hot Blue Jays have gone 18 straight wins without a save

Brett Gardner, Brett Cecil
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It’s one of those things that simply doesn’t seem possible these days: the Blue Jays, despite having now won eight straight games, don’t have a single save since May 4.

After beating the Marlins 7-2 on Wednesday, the Jays are 18-16 since closer Brett Cecil (or anyone else on the team) last picked up a save. 14 of those 16 losses have included saves by the opposition. But none of the 18 wins. Let’s look at the scores of those wins.

May 6: 5-1
May 8: 7-0
May 9: 7-1
May 12: 10-2
May 18: 10-6
May 21: 8-4
May 24: 8-2
May 25: 6-0
May 26: 10-9 (walkoff victory)
May 29: 6-4
June 2: 7-3
June 3: 8-0
June 4: 6-2
June 6: 7-2
June 7: 7-6 (walkoff victory)
June 8: 11-3
June 9: 4-3 (walkoff victory)
June 10: 7-2

14 of the 18 wins came by four or more runs, with three of the remaining four being decided in the Jays’ final at-bat. The only real chance for a save was on the May 29 game against the Twins, when the Jays scored twice in the top of the ninth to take a 6-4 lead. Under normal circumstances, that would have been Cecil time. Manager John Gibbons, though, decided to let Mark Buehrle finish it, which he did with a flawless final frame.

It rates as quite the oddity. I know of no way to find out the last team to go 18 wins without a save, but I’m guessing it’s been a long while. Last year, AL teams earned saves in 619 of 1,228 victories, so just over half of the time. The Jays had 45 saves in 83 victories then. If we just go with 50 percent of wins as being frequency of saves, then it’s a 1/524,288 chance that a team would go 18 straight wins without one.

With the winning streak, the Jays are 31-30 for the season. Because of the abundance of lopsided wins and close losses, they have the AL’s best run differential, having scored 325 runs and allowed 266.

2015 MLB Draft: Rounds 3-5 notes – Rangers grab Michael Matuella

michael matuella
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– The Rangers made Duke right-hander Michael Matuella the third pick of day two and the 78th selection overall. The 21-year-old entered the year as perhaps the favorite to go first overall in the draft, but a back condition (spondylolysis) dropped his stock even before he required Tommy John surgery in April. There was still some thought he might go in the first round anyway, but after falling this far, it’s quite possible he’ll return to Duke and try to improve his stock prior to next year’s draft. It could hinge on what kind of offer the Rangers can make him.

– Right-hander Jacob Nix was the Astros draftee ripped off last year when the team couldn’t sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken and then lost most of its draft pool, including the $1.5 million they had committed to their fifth-round pick. Nix ended up getting his most or all of his money anyway through a grievance, and now he should get to start his pro career with the Padres after being drafted 86th overall. It’s actually a bit lower than he was expected to go (he was considered a second-round talent last year, but he fell to the fifth because of his asking price).

– Mariners’ third-round pick Braden Bishop is probably a better fantasy prospect than an actual prospect. He stole 36 bases in 410 at-bats over the last two years for the University of Washington, so if he can hit enough to make it as an everyday center fielder, he’ll be a fantasy target in time.

– The Giants hope to have their double-play combination of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik long into the future, but they landed one of the better prep shortstops available in Jalen Miller at pick No. 95.

– After playing it safe and picking college shortstops with their first two picks, the A’s chose high school right-hander Dakota Chalmers in the third round. It seemed worry about his rather slight build and taxing delivery took him out of the first, but he’s one of the drafts top arms. He throws in the mid-90s and already has four pitches he can use in games. If the A’s can get their top two picks signed for less than slot money, it’d help a bunch in getting Chambers to forgo his commitment to Georgia.

– The Red Sox selected outfielder Tate Matheny, son of Mike, with their fourth-round pick. He was drafted by the Cardinals out of high school three years ago, but Mike asked the team not to take him this time around. The Red Sox certainly aren’t looking at him as a nepotism pick. His tools don’t stand out, but his bat and ability to handle center might make him a fourth outfielder in time.

– Outfielder Demi Orimoloye was the second Canadian taken, following the surprise pick of Josh Naylor from the Marlins at No. 12. Orimoloye, a right fielder with big power potential, went 121st overall to the Brewers. Baseball America had him ranked 41st going into the draft, so he could be a steal if the Brewers get him signed.

– Mariano Rivera Jr. went to the Nationals in the fourth round after seeing his stock climb as a junior at Iona. He went 5-7 with a 2.65 ERA and a 113/27 K/BB ratio in 85 innings against modest competition. Like his dad, he’s probably looking at a move to the pen. What he really needs is someone who can teach him a cutter.

– Outfielder Joe McCarthy had a chance to be a first-round pick before back surgery ruined his junior season at Virginia. The Rays picked him 148th overall and will try to convince him to sign now rather than go back and try to boost his stock.

– Michigan State outfielder Cam Gibson, son of Kirk, was taken by his dad’s old team in the fifth round, going 160th overall to the Tigers. Three years ago, the Diamondbacks picked him in the 38th round while his dad was still managing the team. He declined to sign then. Gibson lacks power, but he should be able to last in center field.

2015 MLB Draft Notes: Supp. Round 1 and Round 2

Kyle Funkhouser
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– The first son of a former major leaguer was not Daz Cameron as anticipated, but instead Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Phillies and Yankees third baseman Charlie Hayes. He went 32nd overall to the Pirates. Like his old man, Ke’Bryan plays the hot corner. He could turn into a similar hitter as well, combining a solid average with 15-homer power.

– The Dodgers figured to be a big player for any overslot guys, and they grabbed Louisville right-hander Kyle Funkhouser after he fell to the 35th pick. Funkhouser opened the year as a top-five prospect and was still expected to go in the top 10 a month ago, but he suffered a velocity drop for a spell before bouncing back recently. It also didn’t help his case that he’s a Scott Boras guy. However, he has the potential to be one of the best starters in the class.

– Foolishly, the rest of the league let Cameron go to the Astros with the 37th pick. They’ll have the most flexibility of any team to sign him, thanks to the league-high bonus pool. Cameron, son of longtime outfielder Mike, is reportedly asking for $5 million, though he could easily take less in the end. The 18-year-old outfielder wasn’t necessarily the top talent on the board, but a lot of people had him in the top 10.

– One pick after Cameron went off the board, Phil Nevin’s son, Tyler, was selected by the Rockies. He was drafted as a third baseman, but he was more likely to wind up in the outfield or at first base even if he didn’t get picked by Nolan Arenado’s team.

– There was no consensus on Austin Riley as a pitcher or a position player headed into the draft, just the likelihood that he’d go high either way. The Braves announced him as a third baseman while picking him 41st overall. He probably would have gone earlier as a pitcher if not for some velocity issues this year.

– The Phillies might have gotten their second baseman of the future in No. 48 pick Scott Kingery. He outhit his double-play partner, No. 19 overall pick Kevin Newman, this year, finishing at .392/.423/.561 for the Arizona Wildcats.

– It was a surprise to see the A’s go back to their Moneyball roots on day one. Taking Florida shortstop Richie Martin 20th overall made some sense, but they they followed it up by selecting his counterpart at Alabama, Mikey White, 63rd overall. While Martin should stay at short, White projects better as a second baseman.

– An expected first-round pick entering the year, Kyle Cody went 73rd overall to the Twins after posting a 4.91 ERA in 66 innings for Kentucky.

2015 MLB Draft: Picks 19-26 – Pirates, A’s add shortstops

Quincy Nieporte, Richie Martin
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No. 19 – Pirates – Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman

Newman is never going to offer much power, and he lacks the range to be a plus defensive shortstop, though he might prove adequate there or above average at second base. His calling card is his ability to hit for average, and he could be a No. 2-hitting second baseman for the Pirates down the line.

No. 20 – Athletics – Florida shortstop Richie Martin

Another college shortstop off the board. Of the four taken so far, Martin offers the most defensively, but he has the biggest questions about his bat. He hit just one homer in his first two seasons at Florida before coming through with five this season. Overall, he hit .292/.404/.424 with 20 steals. He’d seem to have a really good chance of becoming a major league regular someday, but it might be as a bottom-of-the-order guy.

No. 21  – Royals – high school right-hander Ashe Russell

This is the first time the Royals have used their first pick on a high school pitcher since they got Zack Greinke sixth overall in 2002. Russell has a moving 92-94 mph fastball and a quality slider, and he has one of the highest ceilings available. He will need to come up with a better changeup.

No. 22 – Tigers – high school right-hander Beau Burrows

Burrows throws in the mid-90s and offers one of the best curveballs in the draft, but control is an issue for him and he probably won’t move very quickly. Both he and Russell are committed to Texas A&M, but they should prove signable.

No. 23 – Cardinals – high school outfielder Nick Plummer

The Cardinals often seem to hit with these picks, so Plummer will get the benefit of the doubt. His stock was higher last year, but he didn’t meet expectations in his senior season. He might prove to be one of the best bats in the draft if he cleans up his swing. Plummer is listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, but he might last in center field anyway.

No. 24 – Dodgers – Vanderbilt right-hander Walker Buehler

The third Commodore selected, Buehler had a 2.97 ERA and an 81/25 K/BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings as the team’s No. 2 starter. He missed some time early in the year with elbow soreness, but he came back strong enough to remain a first-round option.

No. 25 – Orioles – Florida St. outfielder D.J. Stewart

Stewart is a left-handed-hitting left fielder with on-base ability and power. It’ll be interesting to see if the Orioles alter his exaggerated batting stance in an effort to make him a more consistent power threat. His bat will have to carry him since he’s not going to offer much defensive value.

No. 26 – Angels – Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward

A second catcher went in the first round after all. Aside from maybe 12th pick Josh Naylor, this rates as the biggest surprise of the draft so far. Ward is a quality defensive catcher, but most experts don’t think he’ll hit enough to become a major league regular. The Angels clearly targeted him, so they believe they know something others don’t.