Heading into the year, it almost felt as if it was a formality that Atlanta Braves opening day shortstop would be Vaughn Grissom after former World Series champ Dansby Swanson departed in the off-season. But, to the surprise of many, myself included, the Braves instead opted for Orlando Arcia and Grissom was down to AAA. Grissom was more than solid in Spring Training as well as he hit .371 in addition to two walks. However, the organization saw something in Arica and they have been more than rewarded for that decision. He has a triple slash line of .278/.333/.435, all of which are career highs and he was named to his first All Star team this year. Arcia’s sudden breakout for the Braves has raised the questions of whether or not this season is a fluke and if he can be the team’s shortstop of the future.
Has Arcia been lucky this year?
Short answer, yes he has been. Arcia has been great when looking at his base line numbers as highlighted above, especially when you consider he plays short for the best team in baseball. But, as is often the case with these style of articles, when you look beyond the baseball card numbers, things aren’t so pretty.
His xBA on the season is .026 lower than his actual batting average and his expected slugging sits .015 lower than his slugging percentage. Whilst those numbers do seem somewhat nominal, they rank as relatively average metrics, not those of an All Star shortstop. Importantly as well, Arcia has taken a step back when it comes to impacting the baseball. His average exit velocity of 89.2 MPH is in the 48th percentile, but it is 1.5 MPH lower than last year’s mark.
In addition to that, his xwOBA of .318 sits in the 40th percentile. That number is marginally better than the likes of Kyle Farmer, Cavan Biggio and Brian Anderson, none of whom are viewed as foundational pieces like some might view Arcia. I understand one could argue those players are cherry picked as a comparison, but among batters with at least 200 at bats, he is tied for 174th in xwOBA. A statistic of that nature does not exactly point to long term success.
Have there been any good things this season?
Of course there has been some good numbers as well for the NL All Star. His strikeout rate is well above average at 18.9 percent which ranks in the 70th percentile. In addition to that his chase and whiff rates both sit above average in the 61st and 58th percentile respectively.
On top of those positives at the dish, Arcia has been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball this season. Among 37 qualified SS’s, his six outs above average is tied for 10th and his five runs prevented is tied for ninth. Arcia is a true defensive shortstop as well as he is able to make an impact in the field when going to his right. His eight outs above average when shading towards the third base hole is fourth amongst 30 shortstop. Having a shortstop that is strong in the area of the field is key for Atlanta when factoring in the face Austin Riley is in just the 38th percentile of arm strength.
So how sustainable is this season and can he be the long term shortstop?
Short answers, not very and no. We can see the regression slowly coming into play for Arcia as prior to last nights 2 for 2 performance he was 15 for 67 in the month of August. Of course it’s a limited sample size, but traditionally when a player’s overall numbers regress to what his analytics indicate the sample size becomes a bit less relevant.
There’s also the Vaughn Grissom factor in all of this as well. The 22 year old has hit a cool .327 in the minors this year with an OPS of .906. His ceiling as a pro is significantly higher than what Arcia is offering the Braves currently and his floor isn’t too far off of what Arcia’s metrics indicate he is this season. The success story of Arcia is great for the Braves, but fans should expect him to taper off as the season progressions with the keys to the shortstop position in 2024.