Top prospect Arcia has intensity of game-changer

Top prospect Arcia has intensity of game-changer

Fernando Arango picked up his ringing cell phone in mid-October 2010 to see that it was Freddy Torres calling. He had an idea of what this call would be about. Arango, the Brewers' Latin American scouting coordinator at the time, answered to hear Torres raving about a young Venezuelan shortstop.

"I got this guy here that can really swing the bat," Torres said.

That's all Arango needed to hear. He immediately packed his bags and made reservations with the knowledge that trusting Torres, a former shortstop signed at a young age by the Tigers, would likely benefit the Brewers.

Brewers top 30 prospects

Arango arrived in Maracay, Venezuela, not long after, and went directly to the field where Torres, a Brewers scout at the time, was waiting. The 16-year-old shortstop would be working out alongside Carlos Tocci, a highly rated Venezuelan outfield prospect who was a year younger. While Tocci garnered more of the attention at the time, Arango immediately took to the infielder.

"He went and got everything he could get to," Arango recalled. "He did it with a lot of intensity, too. You could tell even when he was taking batting practice, if he swung and didn't hit the ball hard, the intensity in his face was very determined."

Arango spent a week in Maracay. Each day, he would watch the shortstop hit, field and throw; and each day, he became more and more impressed. The ability to center the ball when hitting and the controlled aggression in the infield stood out, but it was more than that for Arango. The kid's demeanor on that Venezuelan field reminded him of another prospect he once scouted in the late 1990s. A player named Albert Pujols.

The shortstop was a completely different player from Pujols, but it didn't stop Arango from drawing the comparison.

"When you see Albert at the plate, the face shows you so much intensity," Arango said. "He was always a guy who looked at everything as a challenge, the same way this guy does.

"Those who are good, or great in the case of Pujols, they have that ... extra stuff. To them, it's a very serious thing as to what they do and they take it as a challenge to prove not only to other people, but also to themselves that they can get this done."

Arango, who also helped sign Brewers starter Wily Peralta, had seen enough. He was convinced. In fact, the last sentence he wrote on his report about the prospect was simple: "This guy does not like to fail."

It was time to put pen to paper.

"Freddy was the guy that really put it all together, talked to the kid's agent," Arango said. "He was the one who called me and told me about him. He got it done. He put the hard work in. I had to call [former Brewers director of amateur scouting] Bruce Seid to get approval."

On Oct. 22, 2010, the Brewers signed shortstop Orlando Arcia as a non-drafted free agent out of Anaco, Venezuela. Now, almost five years later, Arcia is the club's top prospect.

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Baseball runs deep in the Arcia family. Orlando grew up surrounded by a family that loved and played the sport. His mother and three younger sisters grew up playing softball. Orlando's older brother, Oswaldo, is an outfielder in the Twins organization.

The brothers bonded through their childhood by watching the game they loved on television. Their four-year age difference rarely allowed them to play on the same teams growing up, but they didn't let that stop them from admiring each other's game. Oswaldo provided Orlando with an example of where baseball can take someone if the requisite work is put in. To this day, the fact that Orlando represented Venezuela on national teams at age 9 and 13 still impresses his older brother.

Oswaldo was signed by the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2007. Orlando was 13. Oswaldo was named the Minnesota's Minor League Hitter of the Year in '12 after hitting .320/.388/.539 with 17 home runs. He made his Major League debut roughly a year later.

There are on-field differences between the two. Both are listed at 6-foot, but Orlando is 169 pounds, while Oswaldo is a power-hitting outfielder who checks in around 225 pounds. This didn't stop Orlando from using his older brother's success to help push him to reach the same destination.

"Oswaldo already signed with the Twins. I'm sure [Orlando] saw his brother as another person he wanted to beat," said Arango, who is now a national cross-checker with the Cardinals. "Brotherly love, you know? He does that with everybody."

Biloxi manager Carlos Subero sees a lot of Elvis Andrus in Orlando Arcia.Ed Gardner/MiLB

"Without a doubt, it motivated me to pursue a career in baseball," Orlando said of seeing his older brother sign his contract. "He's very influential. We talk daily, and he gives me a lot of advice. He's someone I look up to."

Orlando needed his older brother's wisdom more than ever in 2012 after fracturing his right ankle sliding into second base during an extended spring game. The injury would cost the 17-year-old his entire season, and it was the first real setback he had in his professional career. What made it even more difficult was the fact that Orlando was coming off of an All-Star season in the Dominican Summer League, where he batted .294 with 16 doubles and six homers in 281 at-bats.

"It was a really tough time not being able to play and knowing that I couldn't do anything," Orlando said. "What made it better was that I had good family support."

"He was really frustrated about that," Oswaldo recalled. "That was a tough moment for him. I talked to him a lot -- gave him advice and told him to follow what the trainers say."

Orlando bounced back a year later using that advice with Class A Wisconsin. Although he batted a career-low .251, he struck out just once every 12.15 plate appearances, good for the third-best strikeout ratio in the Midwest League.

Arcia had begun to flash the potential with his bat and glove that he showed while growing up in Venezuela. It was the beginning of him firmly planting his name among the game's top prospects.

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When Carlos Subero watches Orlando Arcia play, he can't help but see another young Venezuelan shortstop he once coached in the Minor Leagues.

Subero is the manager of the Biloxi Shuckers, the Brewers' Double-A affiliate, where Arcia is currently playing. Back in 2007, Subero was leading the Bakersfield Blaze of the Texas Rangers organization. That team featured an 18-year-old Elvis Andrus at shortstop.

"That was my first impression," Subero said when he first saw Arcia. "You could tell [Andrus] was going to succeed in the big leagues.

"Like Andrus, Orlando's mind plays over his skills. He has good skills, but the way he plays the game, it's like he's a 10-year veteran in the big leagues. He slows the game down."

Before getting to Biloxi, Arcia led the Florida State League in hits (144) and ranked among the leaders in stolen bases last season while with Class A Brevard County. The average age of a player in that league was 8 1/2 years older than Arcia.

At Biloxi, Arcia is still performing against players that are, on average, four years older than he is, but he has handled it well, hitting .310 with 22 doubles and four homers in 306 at-bats. He'll represent both the Brewers and Venezuela in the Sirius XM Futures Game on Sunday in Cincinnati.

In a season where the Brewers have struggled at the big league level, Arcia offers them hope at a position where talent is rare around the league. Listening to Arango and Subero discuss Arcia -- one recalling what he saw of Arcia as a 16-year-old in Venezuela, the other receiving a front-row seat to watch the 20-year-old version who is steamrolling his way up the ranks -- it's not difficult to see how the two have visualized the same possible outcome for him: stardom.

"Orlando has an edge about him that's going to carry him for the rest of his career," Subero said.

Arango saw it similarly five years ago: "You could tell he was a kid with a lot of maturity that has been exposed to competition and wanted to win."

Or maybe it's best to just read that last line of Arango's report when projecting Arcia's future:

This guy does not like to fail.

Brandon Curry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.