Could Luis Arraez Be the Next Jose Altuve?
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsArraez has put up an incredible rookie campaign in 2019. In 92 games, he managed a .344/.399/.439 line with a 2.1 fWAR and 125 wRC+. Digging into some of Arraez Statcast numbers tells a conflicting story. Arraez has a high BaBIP (.355), an extremely low 2.7% barrel % (Jorge Polanco 6.7%), and a hard hit rate of 22.1% (Jorge Polanco 33%). Throughout his minor league career, Arraez has put up remarkably similar (and impressive hitting lines). So how is he sustaining success without a great deal of hard contact?
Diving into Arraez’ strike zone control is integral in understanding his future value to the Twins. Looking at Arraez swing take profile is a useful starting point. Put simply, Arraez combines an exceptional understanding of the strike zone with elite bat to ball skills. Arraez is particularly successful in taking pitches he has little opportunity to take advantage of (‘chase’ and ‘waste’ pitches). Compared to league average, Arraez barely ever gives away a swinging strike.
Arraez amazing strike zone control is represented in a different way below. On the left is the league swing % profile for 2019 for a minimum five swings. In the right is Arraez’ swing profile for a minimum of five swings. He simply doesn’t swing at the ball outside of the strike zone. The outcome here is he is making lots of contact with pitches in and around the heart of the strike zone (because he spits on everything else). Hard contact is not as integral to Arraez has he’s always getting great pitches to hit.
So what can Twins fans expect from Arraez moving forwards? Arraez shares similar numbers with another diminutive Venezuelan from early in his career, Jose Altuve.
In 2014 Altuve emerged as a star for the Astros. In 158 games, Altuve managed a .341/.377/.453 line similar to Arraez’ 2019 debut. While some of Altuve’s early value was derived from base-running (53 swipes in 2014, a tendency and skill sert Arraez does not share), their similarities run beyond their hitting lines. Arraez and Altuve share similar batted ball profiles (Arraez 2019, Altuve 2014), with Arraez at approximately 30% LD% to Altuve’s 23% and sharing a FB% of around 29%. During his emergence, Altuve managed a Hard% 23.8%, compared to Arraez’ 34.7%. Since his 2014 season, in which he hit seven HR, Altuve has increased his Hard%, FB%, Barrel %, and exit velocity, increasing his HR totals to a career high 31 in 2019. It seems likely that if Arraez can progress in the amount of quality contact he makes, his HR totals can progress well beyond the four he hit in 2019, already an increase from the six he hit across five previous MiLB seasons.
In his rookie season, Arraez already has superior plate discipline numbers to Altuve. While there is no predicting player development. There is no reason Arraez can’t turn into a top of the lineup hitter who puts up 15 HR, hits .300, and scores 100 runs on a consistent basis. With a remarkable 2019 debut, Arraez has cemented himself firmly in the Twins long term infield plans. The Twins getting back their offensive catalyst against the Yankees would be an added bonus.
- mikelink45, nclahammer, ToddlerHarmon and 2 others like this