By Aaron Cheris
There is nothing Orlando Arcia enjoys more than playing baseball.
At 21, the Sky Sox shortstop is one of baseball’s top prospects, and he is on the cusp of making his dream of playing in the Major Leagues come true.
His passion and excitement for the game is evident every time he steps on the diamond, and that is clear to everyone around him.
Sky Sox manager Rick Sweet calls Arcia’s style of play, “Energetic, it’s loud, it’s quality.”
In his own words, Arcia simply calls it, “fun.”
When he started playing baseball at four years old in Venezuela, Arcia fell in love with the game. As he grew older, Arcia realized he had the opportunity of a lifetime in front of him.
“Since I was a young guy I was just playing the game the right way and working hard. That gave me the opportunity to be a professional baseball player,” Arcia said through teammate Hiram Burgos, who was translating from Arcia’s Spanish.
Since signing with the Brewers as a 16-year-old in 2010, Arcia has climbed the ranks through the Brewers’ farm system. He started in the Dominican Summer League in 2011 and was an All-Star there in his first professional season. An injury sidelined him for the entire 2012 season, but his rise has been rapid ever since.
After spending 2013 with Single-A Wisconsin, Arcia went to Single-A Brevard County in 2014 and led the Florida State League in hits with 144. In 2015, Arcia had his best season as a pro and was named Brewers Minor League Player of the Year after batting .307 with eight home runs, 69 RBI, and 25 stolen bases in 129 games for Double-A Biloxi. He made the Southern League All-Star Team and he played in the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati.
Now, Arcia finds himself at Triple-A, just a step below the Majors. The adjustment has been a tough one for him, but he is making progress and knows he still needs to improve in some areas.“Here, they throw breaking pitches in any count,” Arcia said. “I need to make better adjustments.”
Arcia’s manager echoed that sentiment.
“These guys come up here and everything’s inside and off-speed,” Sweet said. “You need to prove to them that you can hit the inside pitch and you can lay off breaking balls out of the zone. Orlando is doing that.”
Sweet has coached in professional baseball for decades, so he has seen his fair share of good players. For him, Arcia ranks right up there with the best of them, to a certain level.
“I’ve had a couple pretty good ones when they were young. Omar Vizquel was a pretty good shortstop, but he didn’t hit like Orlando can hit,” Sweet said. “He’s one of, I would say, the top 10 players I’ve had in my career at this stage. He’s still got to go to the big leagues to prove it, but he will prove it.”
Coming into 2016, Arcia was ranked the top prospect in the Brewers organization. It is an honor that is tough to live up to, but Arcia tries not to focus on the rankings.
“I know that. But I don’t think about it,” Arcia said of the ranking. “I just go out there and play hard.”
While Arcia knows he needs to work on hitting the off-speed pitches, there is one area of his game he is very proud of. “Defense,” he said when asked what part of his game he is most confident in.
The defense won Arcia a Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award in 2015 while playing with the Biloxi Shuckers. For pitchers, having a player like Arcia patrolling shortstop is always an asset.
“For me and for every pitcher, having a good defense behind you will give you a lot of confidence,” Burgos said.
“I’ve been spoiled for the past four years with him behind me,” closer Damien Magnifico said. “You can’t put into words what he does for guys on the mound and the plays he makes out there. He’s simply amazing.”
— Sky Sox Baseball (@skysox) June 15, 2016
Arcia has gotten off to a hot start for the Sky Sox, both at the plate and in the field. As of July 19, Arcia led the Sky Sox in games played, at-bats, hits, triples, and runs scored.
On April 20, Arcia had his signature moment of the season, blasting a three-run walk-off home run to give the Sky Sox a 5-4 win over Nashville. The homer was his first with the Sky Sox. He has also made numerous highlight-reel plays in the field, much to the delight of the fans at Security Service Field.
No matter who makes the play to get the third out of the inning for the Sky Sox, the ball usually ends up in Arcia’s hands. Whether the left fielder made a catch or the first baseman received a throw for a ground out, whoever gets the ball usually tosses it to Arcia so he can provide a souvenir behind the Sky Sox dugout. That is just one example of the joy Arcia plays with.
“They just deserve a ball every time. The fans support us as players,” Arcia said. “That’s why I always throw a baseball to the kids and fans.”
Before pretty much every game, Arcia can be found near the Sky Sox dugout, signing autographs for anybody that wants one, a site you don’t always see with prospects as highly touted as Arcia.
Orlando’s older brother Osvaldo is currently playing in the Majors for the Tampa Bay Rays. Younger Orlando is excited for the possible opportunity to be in the big leagues with his brother at the same time.
“That’s the dream right now, both of us being in the big leagues at the same time” Orlando said.
Fueled by his love for the game, Orlando will continue to fine tune his game in Colorado Springs with his dream of playing in the Major Leagues within his grasp.
This story originally appeared in the second edition of The Inside Pitch, the Sky Sox game day magazine, and has been edited.