There’s a brand new slugger from Venezuela on the horizon these days, and he resides at, of all places, Target Field in Minneapolis. Scouts have compared his raw power to that of countryman Miguel Cabrera, and he’s a bad-ball hitter in the mold of Pablo Sandoval. The youngster’s name is Oswaldo Arcia, a diamond in the rough but destined for fame. And his bat is one reason why the Minnesota Twins are off to a surprisingly decent start.
Oswaldo Arcia, at 6′-0″ and 220 pounds, isn’t quite as big as Cabrera and Sandoval, and he plays corner outfield instead of third base. According to the Twins veteran manager Ron Gardenhire, Arcia was promoted from the minor leagues in mid-April only due to team injuries and other circumstances. In the first 30 days of his big league career, however, the youngster compiled a slash line of .301/.338/.507, including four doubles, a triple and three home runs. Only Joe Mauer had similar numbers over that stretch, and the Twins superstar is impressed.
“He’s very young but he has good at-bats,” notes Mauer in describing Arcia. “He knows when to juice the ball and when to take what the pitcher gives him.”
Oswaldo’s bat has cooled off a bit in recent games, and he’s made a couple of mistakes on defense. But this rookie, who just turned 22, continues to work hard and has a confident swagger about him. And that hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Arcia isn’t up here just to show us what he’s got,” notes Gardenhire. “We already know about the power. The kid takes Kirby Puckett-type swings.”
The discovery of Arcia, a home-grown product like celebrated third-base phenom Miguel Sano, is somewhat out of character for the conservative Minnesota front office. With the exception of Francisco Liriano, Alexi Casilla and David Ortiz (before he became “Big Papi”), very few Latino players have donned the Twins uniform in recent years. And that’s always disturbed me, in light of the fact that Rod Carew, Tony Oliva and Camilio Pasquel were legends in the land of 10,000 lakes.
Now, infielders Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar, outfielder Wilkin Ramirez and southpaw hurler Pedro Hernandez perform for the home folks, in addition to Arcia. There are also more Hispanic hopefuls in the minor-league pipeline besides Sano, which is definitely a great sign for the future.
So, I say kudos to general manager Terry Ryan, and welcome him to the 21st century. And I wish the best of luck to Oswaldo Arcia, who has already become a fan favorite on and off the field.
More Latinos on the rise
Another team that has raised some eyebrows thus far is the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates, thanks in part to their sophomore (barely) left fielder Starling Marte. The 23-year-old Dominican has become an offensive machine for the Bucs, currently hitting .314 with a pair of triples, five bombs and 10 stolen bases. As the lead-off guy, Marte is successfully setting the table for fellow outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata, turning the Pirates into scarey, legitimate contenders in the National League Central.
Speaking of that division, did you know that the Chicago Cubs top four farm prospects are Latino players?
Here’s the list:
Other top Hispanics with their respective organizations include:
Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves (Colombia)
Francisco Lindor, shortstop, Indians (Puerto Rico)
Avisail Garcia, outfielder, Tigers (Venezuela)
Carlos Correa, shortstop, Astros (Puerto Rico)
Yasiel Puig, outfielder, Dodgers (Cuba)
Jose Fernandez, RHP, Marlins (Cuba)
Wily Peralta RHP, Brewers (D.R.)
Oscar Tavares, outfielder, Cardinals (D.R.)
All these players are 22 years old or younger, and many already have made a major impact in the major leagues. Possibly the most notable is Jose Fernandez, 20, who has been one of the few bright spots for the hapless Marlins this season. Fernandez grew up in Santa Clara, Cuba, where his father is imprisoned by the Castro regime. Jose, along with his mother and sister successfully defected in 2008 and settled in Tampa, Florida.
Fernandez was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2011 amateur draft (14th player overall) by the Marlins and agreed to a $2 million signing bonus. The 6′-3″, 240-pound right-hander has been impressive as a rookie on a bad team, racking up a 2-2 record as a starter with a nifty 3.48 ERA, and averaging one strikeout per inning pitched.
Obviously, the struggles and success of Jose Fernandez is a feel-good story that I will cover in depth in the weeks to come.