Making his second appearance of sorts in this segment, Erisbel Arruebarrena moves from missing the cut to on the list thanks to the trade of Jose Dominguez to the Tampa Bay Rays in the Joel Peralta deal. Arruebarrena is also likely to be one of the more familiar names on the list, thanks to spending time on the major league roster this past summer, so not a terrible amount of introduction is needed. Despite serious hesitations on my end about his offensive utility, Arruebarrena is likely the in-house leader for opening day shortstop at the moment. So what more can we expect from him?
Note: Technically, and by the slimmest of margins, Arruebarrena has already exhausted rookie status, with 46 of his 74 days of major league service time coming before rosters expanded in September, one more than the minimum 45-day requirement. But given Arruebarrena's relative green status, and his 41 major league at-bats falling well short of the 130 AB rookie limit, we will keep Arruebarrena as a prospect for our purposes.
With a reputation as an all-glove-no-hit shortstop, Arruebarrena has an atypical build for the archetype. He has a wide frame and is well proportioned with a fair amount of strength presently and room for more bulk if needed. He likely won’t fill out any further given his age and the present limits to his athletic ability. Arruebarrena’s quick twitch athleticism pales in comparison to his positional counterparts and this is seen occasionally in his range and the limits of his swing. Arruebarrena is a better than average athlete overall, with functional speed, and strength for the position, but his speed production could play above his tools thanks to his overall instincts.
We haven’t seen enough of Arruebarrena at the big league level to determine whether his defensive talents live up to their immense hype, but several of the tools are evident. Arruebarrena’s hands work extremely quick and smooth (ironic in comparison to his handsy swing) in the field and he he’s proven comfortable throwing from multiple angles. He’s often praised in scouting reports for his instincts, which will be necessary for him to produce a plus defensive result, as his range is limited some by his lack of elite or even above average quickness. In a limited sample last season, Arruebarrena was a slight negative defensively per Fangraphs WAR, which didn’t match the visual impression of the player.
Arruebarrena will need to produce on the defensive end, because the offensive prognosis looks bleak. As I mentioned in the preview article, Arruebarrena’s bat speed was the worst of players I considered for this list. His swing is a handsy, guided effort that features little torque through his midsection and a long, looping finish. He struck out at an alarming rate, and is poor to adjust to off-speed pitches. He does have the strength to run into a few balls, and he could produce a handful of home runs over the course of a full season because he won’t get the bat knocked out of his hands, but he’ll just have a hard time catching up to good pitching.Arruebarrena ’s Triple-A stat line is buoyed by an obscene BABIP and that will be his only hope for a decent offensive season; he runs into a lot of luck.
If Arruebarrena can live up to his defensive reputation and be a 2-3 win player with the glove, the Dodgers could get by with a slash line of .240/.290/.340 across the 2015 season and still have a highly competitive contributor at the position. Failing that, Arruebarrena teeters closely toward replacement level and won’t fit in a club with the Dodgers' ambition. His lack of offensive utility makes him an odd fit for a championship level bench, but he could caddy Seager as a defensively replacement once Seager’s deemed ready. I ultimately see Arruebarrena as an organizational hopper that moves from club to club seeking his defensive reputation, but will need a few high BABIP seasons to keep him in the league past age 30. Arruebarrena makes this list thanks to his defensive instincts, hands, and above average strength, but his offensive shortcomings make it hard to see "upper division starter" upside.
Editor's note: With the acquisition of Joe Wieland in December, Arruebarrena moved down one slot to No. 21, with Wieland at No. 20.