Going big picture, with as big a picture as possible, Baseball Prospectus has tracked approximately 95,480 Batter Seasons in MLB history. Through this lens, Orlando Arcia’s 2016 and 2017 Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) ranks of 5,858 and 5,733, respectively, do not seem particularly great. There are a lot of MLB players that have been able to post FRAA above 3.5 (6,510), and rookie Orlando Arcia was one of 157 MLB players to have posted FRAA of 3.8; currently, 2017 Orlando Arcia is one of 126 MLB players to have posted FRAA of 3.9. Again, not particularly rare or astonishing.
|Arcia FRAA||Percentile||Raw Ranks|
|All Fielders (Historical)||93rd||5858 and 5733 of 95480|
|age-21 Fielders (All)||96th||90 of 2881|
|age-22 Fielders (All)||95th||189 of 4692|
|All Shortstops (Historical)||88th||690 and 681 of 5826|
|age-21 & age-22 Shortstops||93rd||38 and 37 of 629|
However, within those groups, Arcia’s age begins to shine, as the shortstop is indeed one of the youngest players to have recorded such defensive brilliance at such an early age. In an age of prospect hype, where fans follow prospects perhaps more than ever, and therefore are desensitized to following extremely young professional baseball players, an age-21 or age-22 MLB player does not seem particularly accomplished; indeed, fans desire player development programs that push players to the MLB by such young ages in order to maximize reserve control during the player’s best years. The facts say otherwise, however, as there are only 2,881 age-21 and 4,692 age-22 Batter Seasons recorded in MLB history, which is a significantly smaller set than “old” ballplayers (witness 8,696 age-27 Batter Seasons). Isolating Arcia based on age (recognizing that he is a special baseball player simply by reaching the MLB during his age-21 season) and fielding (recognizing that his FRAA accomplishments are quite solid thus far) begins to highlight a budding elite defensive profile:
- In 2016, Orlando Arcia was the second age-21 player to record 3.8 FRAA (after 1989 Junior Felix).
- This season ranks 90th among 2,881 age-21 players, placing Arcia within the 96th percentile of age-21 fielders.
- In 2017, Arcia is the fourth age-22 player to record 3.9 FRAA (after 1973 Jim Wohlford, 1976 Johnnie Lemaster, and 2014 Carlos Martinez (!!!)).
- This season ranks 189th among 4,692 age-22 players, placing Arcia within the 95th percentile of age-22 fielders.
- These rankings are not simply reflective of Arcia’s playing time, as his age-21 PA rank 468th, and his age-22 PA (thus far) rank 1500th.
- Even if Arcia reaches 600 PA posting 3.9 FRAA in 2017, that performance would rank approximately 52nd among 200 players, which means that should Arcia’s defensive performance plateau he will still rank among the top quarter of age-22 historical everyday players.
Yet, there is something unsatisfactory about all this, as Arcia is a shortstop and should conceivably be held to a high standard as a glove-first shortstop (which has arguably been his standard prospect profile, even as an elite prospect, for a handful of years now). Conceivably, it would be more beneficial to rank Arcia within the framework of his defensive position, in order to hold him to the standard of a middle diamond position; the logic of the defensive spectrum would hold that if SS is one of the toughest positions on the diamond, of course one could expect Arcia to rank particularly well among all players. So, how does Arcia rank among shortstops?
- Surprise! Among 5,826 shortstop Batter Seasons, Arcia ranks quite well in terms of FRAA.
- During his 2016 and 2017 seasons, Arcia ranks 690 and 681, respectively, placing him within the 88th percentile of shortstops. This is not quite as impressive as Arcia’s overall fielding rankings, but it remains quite an accomplishment for the young gloveman.
- Of course, Arcia’s age is still a factor even within this set of shortstops. Arcia is one of 243 SS to play in the MLB during his age-21 season, and one of 386 SS to play in the MLB during his age-22 season.
- Grouping these players together to assess a set of 629 fielders, Arcia’s FRAA rank 37th and 38th, placing Arcia within the 93rd percentile of young shortstops.
- Interestingly enough, Arcia’s bat holds up extremely well against this group of young shortstops, as well.
- With a current Total Average (TAv) of .247, Arcia’s 2017 campaign ranks 108th among age-21 and age-22 shortstops; last season’s TAv still places Arcia solidly within the top third of age-21 and age-22 shortstops, ranking 202nd.
While some Brewers fans might find Arcia’s glove and bat lacking thus far, taking the big picture showcases several important conclusions:
- Within the batch of shortstops, Arcia’s glove stacks up extremely well overall.
- Among extremely young shortstops, specifically age-21 and age-22, Arcia’s FRAA is approaching elite territory.
- Within this same group of shortstops, Arcia is also quite advanced with the bat, even acknowledging that this is the area of his game where the greatest improvement can be made.
- (In case you’re wondering, among 1,705 MLB shortstops with 500+ PA seasons, the median TAv is between .230 and .231; if one wishes to be tougher on Arcia, the median TAv among MLB shortstops with 500+ PA seasons over the last decade is between .257 and .258. Of course, within this latter group, the median FRAA is also between -0.6 and -0.8, which should give some idea about how much Arcia’s glove compensates for the bat).
One of the problems with prospect hype is that by the time a young player like Arcia reaches the MLB, fans and analysts already have a handful of years of scouting reports and ceiling or Overall Future Potential assessments within their minds. It is as though a complete player is graduating to the MLB, which is not quite accurate; a professional ballplayer graduates from one professional rank (usually Class-AA or Class-AAA) to another professional rank (the American League or National League) with a set of skills, mechanics, and strategies that must translate to a new environment. Judging from the previous hype, Brewers fans can be quick to write off Arcia based on what they want to draw from his scouting reports; “I knew the glove was overrated,” or “I knew the bat would never come along.” But, contrary to any of those beliefs, Arcia ranks quite well in terms of fielding and offensive performance, especially given his age. This work in progress is already more advanced than the eye test might suggest, which should only leave Brewers fans wondering whether this advanced prospect and above-average MLB player can make the adjustments to become a superstar.