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 Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.