Brewers' top prospect heads to Minors side with lessons, even more desire to reach Majors
By Jesse Sanchez
PHOENIX -- Orlando Arcia raised his eyebrows and tilted his head.
Then he burst into laughter.
It was Monday morning in the home clubhouse at Maryvale Baseball Park, and Arcia, who had just been optioned to the Minors, was sitting at a table in the middle of the room with Jorge Lopez, Manny Pina and Junior Guerra watching Josmil Pinto perform a card trick. Arcia's locker had already been cleaned out and his bags were packed.
Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado had just walked over and offered the young infielder a fist-bump and an encouraging pat on the back.
Arcia will spend the rest of Spring Training in Minor League camp, but there were no signs of disappointment on the 21-year-old's face Monday. It's not a matter of if Arcia will be back in a big league clubhouse, but when, and the young man from Venezuela knows it.
"I know I have to go, but I'm happy with how it went and I felt like I learned a lot," Arcia said in Spanish. "Every day I was here, I felt like the veterans were talking to me and trying to help me. I'll go to the other camp, but I'll go back with more knowledge than when I got here, so I'm not upset at all. I feel normal, actually."
Arcia, the top-ranked prospect in the organization, reiterated his position as a premier defensive shortstop with a breakout season in the Minors last season. He led the Southern League with 37 doubles and ranked fifth with a .307 average at Double-A Biloxi. He also finished among the leaders in hits (157), extra-base hits (52), runs (74) and RBIs (69). Arcia played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July. He was later named the Brewers organization's Player of the Year, and he was the Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner as the top defensive shortstop in the Minor Leagues.
"I imagine I'll start the season at Triple-A, but I can't wait to make it to the Major Leagues," Arcia said. "That's been my goal since I signed with Milwaukee. I want to make it to Major Leagues and stay there. I want to be there for a lot of years, but I have to do what they say and keep working hard."
Arcia has come a long way from his hometown of Anaco, Venezuela. The infielder signed with the Brewers as a 16-year-old for $100,000 in 2010 after numerous tryouts with different teams on fields across Venezuela. He was trained by Freddy Espinosa as a teen. He was guided by his big brother, Oswaldo, who is an outfielder for the Twins.
Orlando had a short but productive stint in big league camp. He collected four hits, including a double and a home run, in 19 at-bats during nine Cactus League games this spring.
"Orlando shows why we are so excited about him," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's flawless defensively. The home run came off a really good pitcher [Colorado's Jake McGee]; this guy is an elite left-handed reliever. I am very pleased."
If anyone knows Arcia, it's Brewers first-base coach Carlos Subero. Subero was Arcia's manager at Double-A last year. He also managed against him in the Venezuelan winter league as the skipper of the Tigres de Aragua in 2014.
"What makes Orlando really special is not just his talent," Subero said. "He's gifted with great hands and a great arm and plus-plus abilities, but what makes Orlando special is that he looks for opportunities to beat you on offense or defense or base running. You cannot give him a little window, because he will always beat you."
Subero said teams stopped pitching to Arcia at times last season. He wonders if he should have taken a similar approach a few years ago in Venezuela. He laughs when he tells one of his favorite Arcia stories.
"We're in the playoffs in 2014, and I have Freddy Garcia on the mound with one out and the bases loaded," Subero said. "Freddy is dealing, and here comes Orlando and I'm wondering if I should walk him. I don't and he hits a three-run triple. We lose and get eliminated and I don't get my contract renewed. Thanks a lot, Orlando.
"I'm glad he's on our side."
Arcia is, too.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.