Tonight, Oswaldo Arcia will be presented with a Diamond Award tonight as the Sherry Robertson Award winner as the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. The talented outfielder had a tremendous 2012 season and is moving up prospect rankings. More important, he is putting himself in position to be part of the Minnesota Twins big league roster sometime in 2014.

Arcia is prominently featured in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook (paperback or e-book). Like 150 other Twins prospects, he is profiled, but because he was also our choice for minor league hitter of the year, there is a feature story on him with quotes from teammates. Quotes like, “He was the guy we wanted up when we needed a big hit.” Or, “He just always finds a way to get the good part of the bat on the ball.”

But the question for today is: Following a tremendous 2012, will Oswaldo Arcia be Better or Worse in 2013? He will head to his second big league spring training in mid-February and that is when we will start to find out.

2012 Recap

I guess when you are named the Twins minor league hitter of the year (in a year with several very strong candidates!), the assumption can be that the season was quite good. For Arcia, it certainly was. He had moved up to Ft. Myers for the second half of the 2011 season following elbow surgery, and he struggled a little bit. He hit .263/.300/.460 (.760) with 24 extra base hits, including a team-leading eight home runs.

So, he returned to Ft. Myers to start 2012 where, as a 20 year old, he hit .309/.376/.517 with 16 doubles, three triples and seven home runs. He did cut out his strikeout rate (23% to 19%), while significantly increasing his walk rate (4% to 10%). After 55 games, he was promoted to AA New Britain, which is supposed to be more difficult. However, Arcia made a mockery of the Eastern League, fully solidifying himself as a top prospect in more than just the Twins system. In 69 games, he hit .328/.398/.557 (.955) and hit 20 doubles, five triples and ten home runs. His strikeout rate increased by about 1.6% from where it was in Ft. Myers, but his walk rate dropped less than half of a percent.

Overall, he hit .320/.388/.539 (.928) with 36 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs and 98 RBI. He played in the Futures Game where he was 1-2 with a double off of Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon. Baseball America ranked him as the Twins #3 prospect (as did I) and John Manuel commented that there are several teams where he would be the easy choice as #1 prospect.

Arcia has been hitting since probably long before the Twins signed him out of Venezuela in 2007. He posted a .775 OPS in 2008 in the Dominican Summer League. His OPS was .792 in 2008 with the GCL Twins. His status was certainly heightened in 2010 when he was the Appy League player of the year. He hit .375/.424/.672 (1.096 OPS) with 21 doubles, seven triples and 14 home runs. He moved up to Beloit in 2011 where, in a month, he hit .352/.420/.704 (1.124 OPS) with eight doubles, a triple and five home runs. In a month. He ended that 2011 in Ft. Myers, where I said he struggled, but ‘struggled’ was still posting a .760 OPS.    

Why He’ll Be Worse

It will be a very important spring training for Arcia. Where he breaks camp will be quite interesting, and frankly, could send him any of three directions. Due to numbers and the fact that he can be called up from AA as well as AAA, he could return to New Britain for a couple of months. Most would say that he should just start the season at Rochester. There is also an outside chance that he could start the season with the Twins, however, that is quite unlikely. The Twins have Josh Willingham and Chris Parmelee that should start the season in the corners, and Ryan Doumit can (kind of) play those positions as well. Arcia is just 21 years old, so he needs to play and there is no reason to rush him.

There are still things that are, at least to some level, that he has to work on. We have already talked about his strikeout rate which has been pretty consistently between 19% and 23% throughout his young career. For the type of production he has put up, those numbers are far from alarming, but could it become an issue as he moves up? Potentially. Although his overall numbers hardly indicate it, Arcia has struggled at times against left-handed pitchers. In fact, in the season’s first month, his lefty-righty splits were quite different, as was the case in 2011 at Ft. Myers. He made some adjustments during the 2012 season to greatly improve his performance against southpaws. He’s a very smart baseball player already considering his youth, but he can certainly improve his base running as well.

Why He’ll Be Better

Frankly, it is going to be hard for Arcia to move up a level and put up the kinds of video game numbers he put up in 2012 again, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t continue to keep his prospect status just as high or higher.

However, Arcia is a natural hitter. He has tremendous power to all fields, and those things you hear from his teammates about always being able to get the good part on the bat really matter. It speaks to his ability to make adjustments, not only over the course of a season but even on the level of a single at bat. He can turn on a fastball inside, but he knows best to take those pitches on the outside corner to the opposite field.

He will not turn 22 years old until May. The sky is the limit for him. The experience he has had this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League, particularly in the playoffs where he more consistently is playing against top talent, has been very encouraging. He has displayed his power potential. Can he put the ball in play a little more often? If so, that would help some.

2013 should be a fun season to follow Oswaldo Arcia. If he goes back to New Britain, the hope would be that he would rake for a month and prove that his 2012 was not just a fluke. Against the much-older pitchers in AAA, he will have to show patience and that he can make adjustments.

Arcia is a good defensive outfielder. He is a right-fielder primarily because he has a very strong arm. He has about average speed, so he is a better fit in the corners, especially when you have speed guys like Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson for centerfield. He did play a handful of games in center in 2012, and played there primarily in Elizabethton. He has not played left field since his GCL days.

Projected ETA for Arcia – I think that the Twins will trade Justin Morneau in July. At that time, Chris Parmelee will move back in to first base, and Arcia will take over in right field.  

So, which will it be? Will (or can) Oswaldo Arcia get (any) better or worse in 2013? Let us know what you think.

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