The Braves may have Orlando Arcia's replacement waiting in Triple-A right now

With Orlando Arcia struggling so much at the plate, do the Braves look elsewhere for production at shortstop?

Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds
Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves seem to have turned a corner during their current homestand against American League teams. The offense was firing during the three game set against Tampa Bay, and they've gotten two outstanding pitching performances in the first two games against Detroit.

Although, the Braves are finally feeling good again, one player is in the midst of a very poor stretch of baseball. Orlando Arica had a career year in 2023 in his first year as the Braves primary shortstop. However, 2024 has been a house of horrors for Arcia, and now he has a top prospect right on his heels.

Arcia has been one of the worst hitters in MLB

Despite getting off to another hot start in the season's first couple weeks, Orlando Arcia has cooled off considerably since and his season numbers leave a lot to be desired. After last night's 0-3 performance at the plate, Arcia sports a season slash line of .224/.254/361.

His stats since late April showcase just how rough it has been. Since April 21, Arcia has a slash line of .177/.204/.306, a 21.4 K%, only a 3.6 BB%, and abysmal 39 wRC+ (as a reminder 100 is league average). He's basically been hitting like a pitcher for nearly two months now.

Over that same time span Arica has a -0.4 fWAR (yes negative). His offensive fWAR (-14.1), wRC+ (39), wOBA (.222), OBP (.204) all rank DEAD LAST among qualified hitters in all of baseball. So statistically speaking he has been the worst hitter in MLB for a prolonged stretch of time.

Unlike some of the unlucky Braves hitters (i.e. Austin Riley) Arica isn't hitting into tough luck. His batted ball profile is a sight for sore eyes, and is pretty much the one guy in the lineup who has trouble hitting the ball hard with regularity.

Arcia is in the bottom percentile in xwOBA, 6th percentile in expected slugging, and 25th percentile in barrel percentage. As we know his only real saving grace has been his defense. Arcia still grades out as an elite defender, ranking in the 93rd percentile in outs above average (OAA).

It's perfectly fine to have an elite defender batting ninth in the lineup on a nightly basis, especially when you consider the other firepower in the Braves lineup. However, Arcia has reverted back into his career norms at the plate, and that makes for a near unplayable hitter no matter how superb the defense is. All of this noise is growing amongst the fanbase for another key reason, exciting shortstop prospect Nacho Alvarez Jr.

Braves top position prospect is making noise in Triple-A

Atlanta Braves fans have already seen a plethora of exciting pitching prospects enter the fray this season. However, fans have yet to see a young home-grown position player breakthrough the minor leagues since Michael Harris II made the jump from Double-A in 2022.

Shortstop Nacho Alvarez Jr. may be on his way to changing that. Alvarez Jr. is the top ranked position player (6th overall) in the Braves farm system according to MLB Pipeline. Nacho spent all of 2023 with High-A Rome, and began this season with Double-A Mississippi. In 48 games for Mississippi, Nacho had a .381 on-base percentage, and was 16-17 in stolen base attempts.

Just about a week ago, Nacho was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett at just 21 years-old. Playing as one of the youngest players at the Triple-A level hasn't seemed to worry Nacho much at all, as he is off to a blistering start with Gwinnett.

After hitting his third home run this week and doubling in his next AB, Nacho is carrying a .464/.483/.893 slash line in his first six games at Triple-A. Those three homers were actually the first home runs this season for Alvarez Jr.

Nacho has made his name more on his plus glove and hit tool thus far into his career. He gets on base frequently, but has never hit for much power in his pro career. So the early development in power at Triple-A is a welcome sight for the Braves front office.

Nacho never really pulled the ball much at the lower minor league levels, but perhaps the uptick in competition at Triple-A is allowing Nacho's game power to make more of an appearance. Obviously these offensive statistics will be hard to carry on, but if Nacho can do so he may just force the Braves hand.

Although Nacho is lighting up Triple-A, and Arcia has been on a well documented struggle bus, it still feels like we're a long way away from the Braves making any switch without the occurence of an injury.

This shortstop battle may not be something we have to think about too much right now, but if Arcia and Alvarez Jr. both continue of their current trajectories then Braves fans may be in for a new starting shortstop in Atlanta by seasons end.

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