Friday, February 14, 2014

Eye on 2014: Right field

Oswaldo Arcia had his struggles last season,
but he should be allowed to play through them.
Oswaldo Arcia spent much of 2013 bouncing around. Rochester to Minnesota for location, lineup to bench for role.

He's just 22 — turns 23 in May — and despite 378 major league at-bats last year, he's hardly established himself. His .251./.304/.430 slash line was marred by an awful strikeout rate (117 K's, a rate of almost 31 percent). The strikeouts often came in discouraging bunches, leading to benchings and demotions.

My hope for 2014 is that Ron Gardenhire will simply stick Arcia in a power slot of the lineup — I would prefer it be cleanup, but I'll accept fifth — and let him play through the slumps. Arcia is the one corner outfield candidate this spring who figures to have a role on the next good Twins team. This is the year to get him established.

This is one case where Gardy's disdain for platoons is a unalloyed plus for the Twins. Arcia hasn't hit lefties in the majors, but his exposure to them is limited. He young, he's high-ceiling. Earl Weaver wouldn't platoon him at this point, and Weaver looked for reasons to platoon players. Gardenhire is the opposite — he looks for reasons not to platoon, and sometimes finds reasons that don't really exist — and that frequently hurts the team. It doesn't in this case. Arcia's got to play to find his future.

Whether that future is as an outfielder or a designated hitter is uncertain. The Twins are typically reluctant to have a regular DH, all the more so when the projected DH is a young player, as Arcia is. For this year, at least, it makes sense to play him regularly in the outfield, if only to see if he can get better in the field. He was atrocious last year -- worse, according to the defensive metrics I pay attention to, than Josh Willingham -- and I know of no good reason for him to be that bad.

There are other young outfielders in the organization, however, and if Arcia hits the way his minor league track records suggests he will, he'd be worth playing as a pure DH. First he has to hit, however. And if he's given consistent playing time, he will.

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