Orlando Arcia's improbable run with Braves has fans asking 'Dansby who?'

The Braves have to be feeling pretty good about their decision to name Orlando Arcia their starting shortstop right now.
Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins
Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins / Brennan Asplen/GettyImages
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There are many reasons why the Atlanta Braves are once again off to a hot start in 2024. On offense, Marcell Ozuna is absolute raking to start the 2024 season along with Austin Riley and Matt Olson while Reynaldo Lopez has been a revelation in the Braves' rotation thus far. A team doesn't go 12-5 to start a season because of one guy usually, but it is hard to ignore how big a role Orlando Arcia has played really since he took over at shortstop in 2023.

Through his first 17 games of the season, Arcia has slashed .377/.412/.557 with nine extra-base hits. We'll go ahead and spoil the fact that there is basically no chance he can keep that pace up over 162 games, but his performance has still been amazing considering that very few thought he was going to be the guy at shortstop for Atlanta when Dansby Swanson left at all.

Orlando Arcia has wildly exceeded expectations with the Braves

Once Swanson decided to leave the Braves to sign with the Cubs, it opened a gaping hole on the Braves' roster at shortstop. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove defender and anyone who argues that he wasn't an important part of the winning culture the Braves had built is just not correct. However, the Cubs made him an offer he couldn't refuse and the Braves certainly shouldn't have tried to match it, so the question became how should the team move forward.

For most outside observers, Vaughn Grissom was the heavy favorite entering 2023 spring training with Braden Shewmake being a dark horse candidate to be Dansby's heir apparent. Grissom had put up strong offensive numbers in the minors and while his defense was sketchy at times, he was putting in a lot of work there and Atlanta could have lived with a bit of a drop-off defensively if he could keep hitting.

Instead, the Arcia surprised almost everyone by winning the shortstop job handily and Atlanta promptly extended Arcia through the 2025 season for just $2 million a year with a club option for 2026. To say that that decision and extension looks like an absolute bargain right now is a gross understatement.

Arcia would go on to make the All-Star Team in 2023 and while he faded in the second half last season, his total production since the start of last season sits at .277/.331/.435 with 18 homers and 73 RBI. As for the guy he replaced, Dansby has slashed .243/.325/.412 with 24 homers and 87 RBI with the Cubs. Apparently $25+ million a year doesn't get you what it used to.

Joking aside, Dansby is a great player and hopefully he goes on to a great career with Chicago. Is he a better defender than Arcia? Yep. Does he have more offensive upside that Arcia? Probably, but it is very close. However, Arcia's production combined with his cost has made him a hugely important part of what the Braves are building and all of a sudden, you don't here many people wishing Swanson was still around.

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