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Chasing Madison Bumgarner Thread

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Was Luis Arraez for Real in 2019?

Last winter the Minnesota Twins inked former All-Star Jonathan Schoop to a one-year, $7.5 million pact. He ended up playing in 121 games but was eventually overtaken by Luis Arraez for the starting role. After Arraez looked the part of Tony Gwynn reincarnate, it’s worth wondering what his encore will look like.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
Playing in 92 games for the Twins in 2019, Arraez posted a .334/.399/.439 slash line. He ripped 20 doubles, notched a career best four homers, and showed plate discipline to the tune of a 29/36 K/BB. Throughout his six-year professional career Arraez has earned the calling card of a tough out that has hit at every level. He’s never owned a batting average south of .300 over the course of a full season, and his .298 tally in 48 games at Double-A Chattanooga was the low-water snapshot.

Initially promoted in somewhat of a surprise move, Arraez quickly acclimated himself to the starting lineup. As the Twins experienced injuries through their lineup, Luis added value wherever he was slotted in. Starting most of his games in the six hole, he was able to provide solid at-bats behind Minnesota’s big boppers. With Max Kepler shelved for a time, he also grabbed 13 starts in the leadoff spot, posting a .339 average ther.

Obviously, a guy with so little power is never going to substantially benefit from home run-inducing changes to the baseball. That said, finding out whether the Twins have the next 3,000 hit candidate or a guy primed for regression is worth investigating.

Often times a lofty average can be picked apart through the BABIP lens. Fortunately for the Twins second basemen, his BABIP checked in at .355 (just 21 points higher than his .334 bating avg). A 34.7% hard hit rate is somewhere among the upper tier of modesty, and the 29.4% line drive rate is suggestive of a guy who knows his strength. 29.1% of batted balls registering as “fly” doesn’t hurt someone who doesn’t leave the yard, and the 41.5% ground ball rate isn’t egregiously negative either.

Everything about the batted ball profile suggests that we aren’t getting any significant amount of luck, and then we take a look at the plate discipline. This is where Arraez really shines, and how he’ll continue to see success going forward. From that first at-bat against Edwin Diaz on, the Venezuelan prospect has dictated the action. He posted just a 2.8% whiff rate and chased only 26.9% of the time. No one in baseball (min 350 PA) missed less and the 93.3% contact rate also topped the charts.

As we’ve seen with his Twins teammate Willians Astudillo, there’s more to a great contact hitter than plate coverage. The goal isn’t simply to impact the ball, but do so with the optimal pitch, in a location that you can do something with it. Unlike the man fondly known as The Turtle, Arraez can discern which pitches are worth his attention, and then also adequately attack them. He combines plate coverage with discipline and recognition, making the trio a truly lethal combination.

In just over 360 career games at the minor league level Luis Arraez posted a .331 average. He ended up trumping that tally with a .334 debut at the major league level. His 109 hits in 92 games would put him near the 200 mark over a full season, and we should get every opportunity to see that in action during 2020. We may never see Arraez hit four homers in a season again, but betting against him remaining in constant contention for a batting title seems foolish at best.

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33 Comments

I think he'll have to improve his power and pull percentage numbers to keep defenses honest if he's going to continue his level if production. he's at a point in his career where contact hitters frequently make that jump. Neither Planco nor Dozier were power hitters in the minor leagues. If you have contact, you can usually add some power. If you have power, it's harder to dial back and hit for contact.
    • Twins33, Mike Frasier Law, Riverbrian and 2 others like this

I am not worried about home runs, doubles do well and getting on base on a team of power hitters is an amazing and welcome talent.I think Gwynn and Carew are good comparisons as is Nellie Fox of the old Go Go Sox and Ichiro and Wade Boggs.If he is a throw back, he is a very welcome one for me.As young as he is he has a lot of potential to continue improving and I look forward to it.Because of his discipline I am not expecting him to have a sophomore slump. 

    • PDX Twin, gman, Dave The Dastardly and 3 others like this

I also think his low might be around .290 - .300 with walks putting him around .380 - .400 OBP.That screams leadoff or two hole to me.He was up long enough to show me that the pitchers hadn't figured him out - otherwise his playoff numbers would have fallen off a cliff.If you take away some of the line drives by bringing the outfield in closer, you risk more doubles and triples as some of the line drives find the gaps.I like tough outs.More of them in the lineup the better.

    • Mike Frasier Law, Monkeypaws, Steve J and 1 other like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 20 2019 07:31 AM

I wouldn't be surprised if he gets 10-20 HR in his prime as he gets stronger. But that said, given the power in the squad, he doesn't need power. We need guys that can get on base. Arraez can do that.

    • John Bonnes, birdwatcher, Twins33 and 6 others like this
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John Bonnes
Nov 20 2019 07:46 AM

You make a compelling argument that this looks sustainable. An 800 OPS plays in the majors, and if you take a 300+ BA with a lot of plate discipline, that is and OBP approaching 400. You don't need to add much slugging percentage to turn that into a 400 OPS.

 

FWIW, I think he will add some power, too. That's natural and we forget that he's only 23, so he's nowhere near his power peak. I would love to also see some improvement in his defense, because I'm not totally sure where he can play full time - his really valuable role might be as a super-utility guy. 

    • Mike Frasier Law, Riverbrian, Steve J and 1 other like this

In answer to your question, YES.And so glad that you agree.

 

I expect his rate of swinging at pitches out of the zone will actually decrease.Saw him swing at miss at pitches out of the zone when he had two strikes.And he often got to two strikes because the ump called an earlier pitch a strike that was actually a ball.As the umps become more familiar with him and stop making bad strike calls, or we get the robo ump, he will convert a few of those swings to walks which will increase his OBP and further reduce the number of strikeouts.

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Aerodeliria
Nov 20 2019 08:49 AM
I'd have to say that I agree with every statement on this board. I don't get to see Arraez often as I am in Japan, but from the times that I've seen him, it appears that his plate discipline is as good as Rod Carew's or Wade Bogg's (I'm not being hyperbolic!!). I couldn't care less if he hits zero home runs next year. If he boasts a .400 OBP who cares? I also agree that he should be in the one or two hole. I think he'll be a very fun player to watch.
    • 70charger, Dave The Dastardly, RichReese and 1 other like this

Totally agree with the posts about Arraez including the possibility that he may hit 10+ HRs some day. We have a real gem on our hands here and let's not getcaught up on what he isn't and just be thankful for what he is. He is young, works hard, and histeammates love him so he will work on the skills that the Twins ask him to, offensively and defensively. Anywhere in the lineup, I just love watching him hit.

    • Dave The Dastardly and MN_ExPat like this

Amazingly with his lack of speed he was 4th on the team in steals. His slugging pct was higher than Castro's, Gonzalez or Astudillo or Adrianza.

Another plus is with his hitting skills, if he hits leadoff and bats behind Buxton(healthy I hope) several times a game, Buxton could have every opportunity to steal a ton of bases.

 

Note I would not put the burden of comparing anyone to Carew, but Carew's career slugging pct was less than Arreaz's first year. I hope Arreaz can win batting titles and score runs like Carew and not worry about the current trend of homerun or strikeout.

    • beckmt, rghrbek and Dave The Dastardly like this
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Battle ur tail off
Nov 20 2019 12:26 PM

He looked like an amazing hitter last year. His plate discipline is fantastic. 

 

That said, this year, I am almost certain teams will attack him early in the count. Make him swing early and often. IMO, that is the best way to pitch this guy. 

 

We will see how he adjusts. Those batted ball stats though show that he can handle himself. Let us hope he continues as he has. Great top of the order bat.

I'm rooting for him but I think in the end he's a solid bench player. My guess is that Nick Gordon plays most games at second base for the Twins after July next year.

    • Mike Sixel, adorduan and rghrbek like this
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operation mindcrime
Nov 20 2019 01:33 PM
ARRAEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Very few people hit .300 anymore. Imo, he'll have to develop some power as the average drops. Also, that defense....
    • adorduan and Jham like this

As long as he maintains that plate discipline. His production should remain.

 

People often talk about the veteran role model. This would be a case of a younger role model. Our older players can take notes while watching a younger player getting things done by not swinging at crap. 

 

The kid was fantastic at putting good wood on the pitches he should put good wood on. 

 

I don;t know what tomorrow brings but I'll bet on him. 

 

I am not worried about home runs, doubles do well and getting on base on a team of power hitters is an amazing and welcome talent.I think Gwynn and Carew are good comparisons as is Nellie Fox of the old Go Go Sox and Ichiro and Wade Boggs.If he is a throw back, he is a very welcome one for me.As young as he is he has a lot of potential to continue improving and I look forward to it.Because of his discipline I am not expecting him to have a sophomore slump. 

 

Yeah not sure with around 300 ABs we want to start comparing him to hall of famers like that.  Maybe he looks to have their approach at the plate.  That is fair.

 

It's fun to speculate.  The kid has the contact tool, which is rare these days.  We will start to see more shifts I am thinking which he can hopefully adjust to.  He is going to have to be a very good hitter to play everyday, with his glove.  Otherwise like Gunarthor noted, he will be a guy off the bench.

    • adorduan likes this

Yes, his eye at the plate was both incredible and undeniable.

    • Twins33 and ewen21 like this

 

You make a compelling argument that this looks sustainable. An 800 OPS plays in the majors, and if you take a 300+ BA with a lot of plate discipline, that is and OBP approaching 400. You don't need to add much slugging percentage to turn that into a 400 OPS.

 

FWIW, I think he will add some power, too. That's natural and we forget that he's only 23, so he's nowhere near his power peak. I would love to also see some improvement in his defense, because I'm not totally sure where he can play full time - his really valuable role might be as a super-utility guy. 

I'm not worried about his hitting, and wouldn't be surprised if he adds power as he gets older and learns the pitchers even better. I would like to see a more clear-cut position for him if Polanco gets moved to 2B. I think he's barely adequate at 3B, and I don't think he's much of an outfielder and his arm doesn't look as if it would be respected by base-runners. I wonder if Arraez might gain some speed through a work-out regime that drops 10 pounds. 

 

Very few people hit .300 anymore. Imo, he'll have to develop some power as the average drops. Also, that defense....

 

Well, he hit over .300 and by a lot and doesn't that say something?He isn't Danny Santana, bro.I don't think the over .300 average and the .400 OBP was a fluke

 

 He was actually the best hitter in the lineup for pretty decent chunks of the year.With all the talk about the potential of guys who really haven't made contributions like that on a day in, day out basis; it is actually refreshing to see a guy come up and hit like he did.It shows he has skill at doing the toughest thing you can do in sports and he is still very young.Will the league catch up?Yeah, most certainly...but he isn't going to suddenly become a dog.

 

I have a much more positive view of his future.His defense isn't so disgusting where you can discount the .399 OBP he brought to the table.The dude gives professional at bats and that is something sorely needed to put more pressure on opposing pitchers.Guys like Buxton and Rosario have shown a propensity to give away too easily for long stretches (especially Buxton, who I am actually more concerned about)..Arraez is like .100 points higher in OBP than both Rosario and Buxton.

Food for the mind.

 

For that reason, I am not worried about his lack of power (unlike in the case of Joe Mauer who was paid to be THE man) and I am not worried about his defense either.At least not until it becomes an real issue and it isn't.Not to me at least.

    • Mike Sixel likes this

 

Yes, his eye at the plate was both incredible and undeniable.

 

It is for the reason I do not worry about the kid.He is young and at the bottom of the pay scale.If this were his third or fourth season and he was hyped I could understand the concern.Luis Arraez is the least of our problems. Other guys who are older are a far bigger concern to me.

    • Reider likes this

Does anyone else think he runs weird? it looks like he kind of shuffles and doesn't pick up his feet much...

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Mike Frasier Law
Nov 21 2019 11:29 AM

For what it's worth, projections see him as being for real (for the most part). Fangraphs has already posted 2020 Steamer projections, which " uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. It also uses pitch-tracking data to help forecast pitchers." It also posts Depth Chart projections, which "are a combination of ZiPS and Steamer projections with playing time allocated by our staff."

 

With that in mind, I'd expect someone with such a small track record to have a very significant regression built into the projections.

 

They both project that he regresses. But not that much. They project he walks less, but only from 9.8% to 8%. They project he strikes out more, but only from 7.9% to 8.5%. They project his BABIP drops from 355 to 332.

 

All told, they project him to be a 312/369/415/784 hitter, which amounts to a 2.6 WAR. That would put him top 5 or so in the AL, and top 10 or so in baseball.

    • jorgenswest, Mike Sixel, Sconnie and 1 other like this
Wow. Crazy big projection! Nice.

 

Yeah not sure with around 300 ABs we want to start comparing him to hall of famers like that.  Maybe he looks to have their approach at the plate.  That is fair.

 

It's fun to speculate.  The kid has the contact tool, which is rare these days.  We will start to see more shifts I am thinking which he can hopefully adjust to.  He is going to have to be a very good hitter to play everyday, with his glove.  Otherwise like Gunarthor noted, he will be a guy off the bench.

Not ready to say he is HOF, but he has the tools to follow those greats and fielding can improve with some good coaching. 

 

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Ted Schwerzler
Nov 21 2019 12:25 PM

 

I think he'll have to improve his power and pull percentage numbers to keep defenses honest if he's going to continue his level if production. he's at a point in his career where contact hitters frequently make that jump. Neither Planco nor Dozier were power hitters in the minor leagues. If you have contact, you can usually add some power. If you have power, it's harder to dial back and hit for contact.

I'm not sure I agree with this. He almost had an even 1/3 split across the board. There were times he was shifted and he intentionally went down the left field line. I don't see Arraez ever needing to hit more than 5 HRs a year to be successful. As a doubles and OBP guy, he can be an absolute menace.

    • Sconnie likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 21 2019 06:00 PM

 

 

 

All told, they project him to be a 312/369/415/784 hitter, which amounts to a 2.6 WAR. That would put him top 5 or so in the AL, and top 10 or so in baseball.

 

Is 2.6 really in the top 10? Don't get me wrong, that's a good number, but when players can put up 5-6 WAR seasons, this seems off a bit... 


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