This offseason, we have talked plenty about the new defensive alignment that the Twins will employ in the outfield this season. With Aaron Hicks likely slated to start in centerfield, he will be flanked by Oswaldo Arcia in left field and Torii Hunter in right. Much has been made about the corner outfield defense, but does Arcia’s shift to left really even matter?
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At this point of his career, the Twins know what Oswaldo Arcia is as an outfielder. Arcia is not fleet of foot, and he must rely more on instinct and ball tracking skills to get to fly balls. He has a cannon arm, and that’s something that will continue to be an asset in left field (even if the position nullifies it to a certain extent). Relatively speaking, all of those things remain fact whether or not Arcia is placed in left field or right. That begs the question, does his move really even matter?
Yesterday, Judd Zulgad of 1500 ESPN took a look as to whether or not Oswaldo Arcia should be expected to seamlessly transition over to left field. The question may end up being how much better the move to left field actually makes Arcia.
If all of the knocks against him as an outfielder remain the same, his positioning on the field remains largely irrelevant to the equation. Except we are talking about Target Field here. Last season Arcia struggled mightily with the different surface structures that Target Field presents in right field. With multiple overhangs as well as high walls that allow for long bounces, Oswaldo Arcia often looked confused for the Twins. In left field, Minnesota has removed all of those distractions for their powerful outfielder.
The shift to left field isn’t to say that the position becomes easy, anyone who saw Josh Willingham play left field knows that, but it is definitely more manageable. For Willingham, some of the biggest struggles seemed to be ball tracking skills. Willingham often made the routine play look difficult, and struggled with batted balls prior to them even reaching the danger of an outfield wall. For Arcia, those problems seem to be significantly muted in comparison. If Arcia is able to play a batted ball to even the same extent we saw in right field, removing the distractions may in fact be the key to improved ability.
At the end of the day, the Twins could actually see a significant boost in ability as a whole from Arcia due to the move. Allowing him to play an easier outfield role (by Target Field standards), could further boost the production and concentration in other areas. After working significantly with hitting coach Tom Brunansky down the stretch last season, Arcia saw great results in September. Removing poor outfield defense as a distraction, could in turn continue to increase production at the plate.
By all statistical measures, the Twins have two players on the corners that are less than ideal defensive starters. Because of the way in which Target Field plays, and the specific players the Twins plan to start, things could be better than the numbers would suggest. Unfortunately, it’s not a configuration the Twins will have much insight into for the next month while they play at the rather routine Hammond Stadium.
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