Up next on the top 50 list is a patient hitter with a great eye at the plate that grew up a Jays fan…
Left fielder / 20 years old / 5’10” 193 lbs
Born: November 29, 1991 in Tampa, Florida
Bats Left Throws Right
High School Team: Lakeland H.S. (Lakeland, FL)
College: Florida State University
Drafted By: The Toronto Blue Jays in the 25th round (769th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft
Jersey Number: 34 for the Bluefield Blue Jays
Pre-2011 Rank: N/A
- Correct pronunciation of his last name is ARE-SAY, while others pronounce it ARE-SEE
- Grew up admiring Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado and Jose Cruz Jr. as a fellow Puerto Rican
- Favorite current player is Jose Bautista
- Hit .424 with a 1.324 OPS in his final year of high school
- As a catcher, played on the same high school team as fellow Jays prospect Drew Hutchison
- Was drafted twice by the Blue Jays
- Had accepted a scholarship to a JUCO for fall 2011 prior to signing with the Jays
GCL Blue Jays Team Stats Ranking (min. 10 GP):
- 1st in home runs (14), RBIs (40), total bases (95), walks (38), on-base percentage (.437), and HBP (11)
- T-1st in triples (3) and sacrifice flies (4)
- 2nd in strikeouts (48), slugging percentage (.621), and OPS (1.058)
- T-2nd in runs (34)
- 3rd in plate appearances (206)
- T-3rd in hits (41)
- 4th in at-bats (153)
- 6th in doubles (6) and batting average (.268)
Extra Information and previous experience:
Heading into the 2010 draft, the Blue Jays eyed high school hitting prospect Eric Arce in the middle rounds, despite him having a strong commitment to Florida State at the time. Arce received calls from multiple teams prior to the draft given his mature hitting approach at the plate, but really hoped that he would be picked by Toronto because he was a Jays fan.
Growing up in Tampa Bay, Arce lived in close proximity to the Jays’ complex in Dunedin and consistently followed the big league club during the season. So when the Jays selected him in the 27th round (816th overall) that year, he was faced with the tough decision to either become part of the Blue Jays organization or honor his commitment to Florida State and fulfill his dream of becoming a FSU Seminole.
After feeling accepted into FSU’s social circle, attending football games and making friends, Arce had made up his mind when it came time for the Jays to make him an offer.
“It was a very tough decision because I was a Florida State Fan but also a Blue Jays fan. Living so close to the Jays’ complex allowed me to attend Spring Training games several times,” he said. “I enrolled at FSU that summer [of 2010] and took a full time class load. The Jays made me a real good offer but by that time I was a Seminole and felt like a part of a family and just was not ready for the business side of baseball.”
After choosing FSU over the Jays, Arce attended more classes in the fall and part of the spring as he geared up for his inevitable college baseball debut. He had worked hard to make a statement in front of his new coaches, but when the time actually came, his opinion on the college baseball scene completely changed. Second-guessing his decision of turning down pro ball, Arce withdrew from FSU after just 10 at-bats.
“My emotions leading up to the upcoming baseball season were both anxiousness and confidence,” he said. “Unfortunately when the season came around, college baseball just wasn’t in my heart.
“It was not the way I dreamed it would be and I also personally didn’t like hitting with metal bats. So as a family we collectively decided to withdraw me from FSU to then pursue a career in professional baseball.”
Major League Baseball’s rule for any previously drafted player is that in order to be draft-eligible again the following year, they must withdraw from their classes no later than 100 days before the draft. Since Arce withdrew well ahead of that deadline, he was draft-eligible once again and firmly set his sights on a professional baseball career.
Using his extra free time to his advantage, he enrolled full time at the American Baseball Institute in nearby Clearwater, FL to stay in shape and gear up for pre-draft talent showcases. Word got out to various clubs about his draft eligibility, so invites started to pour in and Arce quickly found himself performing in front of teams, one of which was Toronto.
With some extra motivation, Arce performed well and began thinking about the possibility of finally becoming part of the Blue Jays organization.
“I actually went out of State to the Washington Nationals’ workout and I hit some balls out of their field to straight away center, but when I got the invite to the Jays’ workout, I was determined to do the best that I could,” he said.
“I was hitting balls hard, way over the fence and into the trees. All the Jays brass was there and I had a pretty good BP. The Jays put together a simulated game situation after the BP, [taking] the best hitters to go up against some quality arms. I did very well in each of my at bats, and at that point I felt my chances to get reselected by them were pretty good.”
Having been familiar with Arce after following him for a long time, the Blue Jays selected the Florida native for the second time in two years as a 25th round (769th overall) pick in the 2011 draft. Since Arce had clearly made up his mind regarding his baseball career following his experiences at Florida State, he signed quickly and was able to play for the Jays’ rookie ball affiliate in the Gulf Coast League right away when they opened their season on June 20.
Not many prospects, though, are able to start their professional career so close to where they grew up, and it’s something that Arce cherished more as the season wore on.
“Playing my first pro season in the Gulf Coast League so close to home was very helpful,” he said. “Staying and playing so close to home helped me from becoming home sick. Throughout my whole season I had support from my entire family, which actually gave me a little more motivation to succeed.”
With Arce, his best (and to some, only) tool is his bat, but moreso his polished, patient approach at the plate. His pitch recognition and ability to lay off bad offerings have been his biggest selling points since high school and he makes pitchers work, waiting for his pitch to hit. He has a smooth swing with good bat speed, uses his body to really drive the ball and shouldn’t have a problem hitting for a respectable average, especially against southpaws despite being a left-handed hitter. His approach is advanced for his age right now, and will be a necessity for him as he moves up the minor league ladder to higher levels.
His eagle eye at the plate has always helped him get on base, something that he demonstrated in his first year as a pro this past season, drawing a whopping 40 walks in 55 games. While he’ll always be one to boost his on-base percentage via the free pass, what’s intriguing about Arce is his power potential.
Prior to playing professionally, Arce’s game plan was to take pitches and get on base; whether it was from a base hit or a walk. With the Blue Jays, however, he decided to swing not only more often, but harder and with a bit of a lift. Despite not fitting the mold of a prototypical power hitter at 5-foot-9, Arce’s adjustments helped him set a new Gulf Coast League record with 14 home runs this past season and out of his 41 hits prior to being promoted to Bluefield late in the year, over half of them were for extra bases (six doubles, three triples).
“Ever since I was young boy, I took pride in hitting,” he said. “Hitting with power came from perfecting my swing day and night, increasing my bat speed and hip rotation for more power, and training my eyes and mind for better plate discipline.”
Though it’s said that he pulls the ball a bit too much and needs to work on using the whole field next season, it’s hard not to be impressed by Arce’s debut season as a pro and it will be interesting to see whether or not he’ll continue to hit for power as he plays at higher levels. Offensive potential aside, though, things get a bit cloudier, as Arce’s lack of a permanent defensive position is the main knock against him.
A catcher and first baseman in high school, he was slotted in left field by the Blue Jays this past season. He did, however, start over half of his games at DH, so he didn’t get much experience at his new position and a lot of his defensive game remains to be seen. That’s should change next season, though, as Arce has been working hard on the defensive side of his game in order to log more time in the outfield.
Considered by most to be an all-bat prospect that’s going to have to hit his way to the Majors, Arce is eager to change that notion.
“I have always been a pretty good hitter, but I played multiple positions on past teams and always did a good but not great job,” he said. “That’s all changing in pro ball because the [Blue Jays are] really working towards developing my defense.
“As far as improving defensively, I have been doing lots of over-speed training and footwork drills to increase my speed and agility. I’m faster and more athletic than I was this past season. I know how to play the game, I just need to work on position specific drills and have been doing that for a few positions this offseason.”
In addition to working on his defensive game over the offseason, Arce has also started to focus on the weight room full time at the advice of the Jays’ coaching staff, which took some time to get used to. Currently weighing in at 193 pounds, Arce has dropped over 10 pounds since the draft and added more muscle mass overall, so the results from his new weight training program are already noticeable.
“I have always worked on my actual baseball skills and never really in the weight room, so I have had the privilege to start on an off season weight lifting and conditioning program that has tremendously helped my overall strength and speed, and complemented my overall athleticism,” he said.
Expected 2012 Team: Lansing Lugnuts
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Starting LF or 1B
Having logged over 200 plate appearances in 2011, Arce could very well be ready for full-season ball and start out the year with Lansing in 2012. However, if the Jays feel that he’d benefit more from a full dose of extended spring training to work on a few things, he might be slated to open the 2012 campaign in short-season ball in Vancouver.