PHOENIX -- Is it in the best interests of a prospect's development to let him rake in the Minor Leagues or to expose him to tough lessons in the Majors?Come midseason, Brewers officials could find themselves having that debate about Orlando Arcia, the 21-year-old top prospect who ranks No. 6
PHOENIX -- Is it in the best interests of a prospect's development to let him rake in the Minor Leagues or to expose him to tough lessons in the Majors?
Come midseason, Brewers officials could find themselves having that debate about Orlando Arcia, the 21-year-old top prospect who ranks No. 6 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the most promising prospects in baseball.
Arcia will begin the season as the everyday shortstop at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but how long he remains there is one of the most critical questions facing the organization in 2016.
"I think each case is individual," said bench coach Pat Murphy, who has a wealth of player development experience from a career of coaching and managing in the collegiate, Minor League and Major League ranks. "I do think that all players will struggle to some extent when they first get to the big leagues, and then get on it.
-- 2016 Opening Day coverage --
"I think the guy himself feels it [when it is time]. It's like, 'Are you kidding me? I'm ready.' When he plays with such consistent bat-to-ball skills, fielding skills, mental skills, he himself knows, 'I'm ready.'"
Murphy was speaking broadly about player development, and he declined to make any predictions specific to Arcia, who could make the most anticipated in-season arrival at Miller Park since Ryan Braun's in 2007.
General manager David Stearns has said only that, "[Arcia's] production and his continued development will dictate his timeline to the Major Leagues." But Stearns did clear a path when he traded Jean Segura to the D-backs in January, opening the shortstop position in the near term for Jonathan Villar, and in the long term for Arcia.
"It's an art," said hitting coach Darnell Coles, a former Minor League manager in Milwaukee's system. "It's watching kids over time. Sometimes it's a matter of getting a certain amount of [at-bats]. Sometimes it's being 'better than the league' and every combination in the league.
"But when a player -- not talking about Arcia here, just in general -- is significantly better than the rest of the league, it's time to push him."
Brewers officials say their decision on Arcia is being dictated purely by performance on the baseball field and not by service time considerations. That is an easy case to make, considering Arcia has yet to take a single at-bat above Double-A, where he led the Shuckers to the Southern League Championship Series last season after batting .307 with eight home runs, 69 RBIs and 25 stolen bases during the regular season.
Arcia made the highlight reel during the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati with a spin-and-throw up the middle. He was added to Milwaukee's 40-man roster in November. Arcia is rated the Brewers' top prospect by every publication that compiles such lists.
"It's not good or bad, it's just how a player handles it," farm director Tom Flanagan said of the surrounding hype. "If they can process it, I think it might help them in the long run, as long as they don't get wrapped up in it and let it change the way they go about their work. It could go either way."
In Arcia's case?
"The one thing that stands out to me is the day he was sent back to the Minor League side, he was in an intersquad game, and he was the loudest player on the field," Flanagan said. "Normally when a guy gets sent down, it takes a day or two to get their bearings.
"He was into it. He loves to play. That's the main thing, and I don't see that changing for him. It's in it for the right reasons. He loves the game.
"Shortstop-wise, there are similarities to [Alcides] Escobar, at least defensively. Arcia is probably a little more advanced with the bat than Escobar was at the same stage. [Arcia] is a unique one. So instinctual. Confident. He's got a lot of things going for him."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.