FORT MYERS, Fla. – Oswaldo Arcia strikes out too much and plays recklessly in the outfield. And sometimes, when one of these two areas begins to suffer, the other isn’t far behind.
It paints a picture of a player who should not be relied upon every day, but that’s not how the Twins feel about Arcia. They want him to get through these growing pains because of what the payoff will be in the near future.
While sitting in front of his clubhouse stall at Hammond Stadium, Arcia, who is moving from right field to left field to accommodate the return of Torii Hunter, wants that payoff to start coming this season.
“I’m very happy and very excited for the start of this season,” Arcia said while holding his bat. “I am ready to play every day.”
Arcia’s ceiling remains high. The Twins view him as an anchor in the middle of the batting order, one who can provide power and run production while being solid in the field. The Twins have seen flashes of both, more so at the plate. He batted .231 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI last season. In 200 major league games, he is batting .241 with 30 homers and 100 RBI.
This is probably a good time to point out that Arcia hasn’t turned 24 yet. He works on adjustments with hitting coach Tom Brunansky to help him make more consistent contact. He has stuck out 117 and 127 times in two major league seasons, which the club hopes he makes it a priority to address.
His strikeout rate of 31 percent would have been fourth in baseball — between Adam Dunn and B.J. Upton — if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
“His strikeout percentage isn’t good and has to improve,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “But he hardly has a year of service time. It seems like he’s been up here a long time but he hasn’t.”
Arcia worked on plate discipline while playing for Caribes during the Venezuelan winter league. He batted .270 but had a .377 on base percentage thanks to 19 walks in 31 games.
“It’s important for me,” Arcia said. “I can see the ball better if I have more patience at the plate. The manager and the GM say, ‘I need you to see more pitches and not strike out as much. Last year, there was a lot of strikeouts.’ This year, I work in Venezuela.”
He also moved to left field after the Twins announced Hunter’s signing. The move could benefit Arcia, because the wall can make playing right field at Target Field tricky. The bottom of the wall is padded. An unpadded area above it is marine-grade plywood. That surface reaches up to the overhang that is fitted with the same Kasota stone that’s featured around the park.
A fielder has to learn how to play the ball off all three surfaces. Arcia was burned a few times on balls deflecting past him. He also compounded things by attempting plays he shouldn’t.
“I think he lost confidence playing the outfield for sure,” Ryan said. “That wall, the overhang seemed to get in his head. He didn’t read that as well as you would hope because he got into no man’s land way too often.”
The Twins don’t want Arcia to lose his confidence because, when he’s upbeat, he brings a lot of energy to the dugout and clubhouse. With his skill set, getting down after a poor at-bat or playing passively in the field works against him.
He must take better at-bats and make better decisions in the outfield. But he won’t grow in those areas if he lets frustrations about his offense leak into his defense, and vice versa.
Again, he’s just 23.
“Still learning,” manager Paul Molitor said. “Saw some good things last year. He’s an emotional player. He brings it out there and we want to continue to try to teach him how to use that to his advantage and not to his disadvantage. Distinguish at-bat to at-bat and not carry over frustration and try to hit it nine miles the next.
“At his age, he’s still got a pretty significant way to go in growth in terms of his overall game, not just how he approaches an at-bat. Taking pride in his defense this year, making the shift to left and running the bases.”