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Article: Arraez Is What Minnesota Has Craved

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 09:30 PM

Last September a robust 26-year-old rookie played in 29 games for the Minnesota Twins and posted an .887 OPS. He did so while looking the part of a turtle and embracing the fact that chubby people can run. The legend of Willians Astudillo was born. Heading into 2019 this blogger preached caution and suggested that the sample size and underlying numbers provided reasons for pause. This isn’t about being right, but instead acknowledging that the Twins have the player fans have always wanted anyway.Sample size was part of the reason that I found myself out on Astudillo. We were talking about 29 games, but more importantly they all took place against September rosters. Just shy of 40 games this season the fan-favorite has posted a .665 OPS with a total of 10 extra-base hits. We’ve had a theme night, and plenty of fanfare directed towards Astudillo, but it’s been the emergence of Luis Arraez that has provided the profile of what Willians would hope to be.

Problematic for Astudillo in his batted-ball profile was that the ability to make contact looked the part of a downfall. Instead of adjusting to big league pitching he simply ate whatever was presented to him directly from the palm of their hand. This season Astudillo has chased 45.8% of the time, up 3% from 2018, but his contact rate remains identical at 91.7%. He’s not whiffing much more (5.2%) and he still owns a miniscule 3.5% strikeout rate. All those inputs are the same, but it’s the output that has changed.

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Willians has the same batted-ball profile from 2018 and has stayed true to the process that had him develop a track record in the minors. What’s different is that pitchers have changed their approach and he hasn’t adapted. Instead of getting pitches middle in he’s being fed a significant number of pitches low and away. Continuing to be aggressive, he owns an .842 OPS on the first pitch, but sits at just .715 after 1-0 or a worse .522 after 0-1. Not taking walks or striking out is great, but only if you’re doing something with the baseball.

Enter Luis Arraez.

The Venezuelan infielder doesn’t have the same extreme strikeout or walk numbers that Astudillo did in the minors, but the ratio is equally impressive. Across 367 minor league games Arraez has struck out 129 times with 122 walks. Certainly, that’s a guy who could be described as having a similar ability to command the zone. The difference for Arraez is that there’s a plan in which he decides to attack.

At each level on the farm Arraez has hit. The career slash line sits at .331/.385/.799. There isn’t much power in the bat, and that’s noted with just six long balls to his credit. The approach is one of understanding as opposed to what may be considered as ambushing.

Minnesota employs one of the best offenses in baseball this season, and 22 different players have stepped in for a plate appearance. At 4.01 pitches per plate appearance Arraez ranks fourth among regulars. On the flip side, Astudillo’s 2.84 qualifies for last on the club. In 109 plate appearances Arraez has forced three-ball counts 27 times, owns a 1.881 OPS in those spots, and has drawn 12 walks. Astudillo has 142 plate appearances this season, seeing just 7 thr-e ball counts, owning a .286 OPS, and walking just twice. Here again patience and approach are a common theme.

It’s not as though their batted ball results are substantially different. Arraez hits the ball a bit harder with a slightly less amount of loft. The make contact at nearly the same rate, but Luis chases almost half as often. Both whiff less than 5% of the time and striking out either player is among the toughest things to do in the big leagues. It’s the decision-making process that allows for one to find success while the other has stumbled.

By definition a contact hitter is at the plate to put the bat on the ball. Luis Arraez takes that to a place where productivity is also the name of the game by choosing to put his bat on the right ball. Rather than swinging at the first good pitch, Arraez works a count, is comfortable getting deep into an at-bat, and seeks the optimal offering to make an impact. It can be said that Luis is also just 30 games into his career, and the small sample may catch up to him. Viewing the numbers through the process he employs, and noting the rosters are not inclusive of September promotions, the assumption that staying power is more realistic seems fair.

There’s never not been a point which Willians Astudillo isn’t fun. He’s the pudgy everyman playing a game that many live vicariously through. From an approach, talent, and sustainability standpoint however, it’s Luis Arraez who embodies the player so many Minnesotans were lulled into believing emerged last fall. We can’t be naïve enough to think that this will consistently translate to a .385 average for Arraez, but a high-average, tough out is something we can come to expect, and Edwin Diaz got a taste of that for himself last night.



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#2 curt1965

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 09:51 PM

Saw the AB in person, and I still don’t believe what I saw. Too bad the rest of the team didn’t have his energy for the last 2 days!
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#3 Brandon

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 09:54 PM

My expectations for Astudillo has always been a .260 - .280 hitter with average power. He hits enough to be a bench player but not enough to be a starter. His time in the majors won't be long either. 4-5 seasons maybe with 1200 or so plate appearances is my over under for his career. It would be cool if Arreaz was the next Tony Gwynn....
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#4 Jham

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 10:22 PM

The league will adjust to Arraez and Astudillo was already showing signs of adjusting back. He just needs to stay healthy. Talent is talent. Both have elite contact skills. Astudillo will need to show some discipline or get nothing but junk. Arraez will have to show some pull power or get pinched defenses. I think both will adjust because of the elite bat to ball skillset makes it easier to adjust.
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#5 jimbo92107

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 11:12 PM

Excellent article. I'm a fan of El Cherubo, but realistically, it's sweet Luis Arraez that is going to be an enduring star. Arraez has an approach to hitting that is light years more sophisticated than Astudillo's, which consists pretty much of just going up there hacking. Meanwhile you can see Arraez checking out the positioning of the infielders, obviously with the intent of hitting the ball in gaps between them. 

 

I will go way out on a virtual limb to say that of the two approaches, the higher career average will result from Arraez's approach. I will also predict that Arraez will be far more consistent at the plate, where Turts will have some extreme up's and down's as he simply barrels the ball up where it's pitched, often right into shifts when a pitcher hits his spots. 

 

In the field the differences today are less stark, but I suspect Arraez's more typical athletic proportions will grant him a more enduring career. Plus, Arraez's determination to improve himself reminds me a lot of Jorge Polanco's attitude. Once the Twins decide to stick Arraez at 2B, he will work like a dog to get perfect form. He and Polanco will become a great combo on double plays. 

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#6 Platoon

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 03:55 AM

It's quite possible that both could have a MLB career. Arrez may be a better hitter for average. I have no distinct take on his defense yet, but I doubt it's "elite". He does appear to be a tough out and the AB the other night was exceptional. He will likely regress, his current numbers would seem unsustainable. Astudillo? Nothing in his game indicates he is baseball stupid. His combination of eye and contact rate will allow him to adjust to MLB pitching. And like Arrez, he won't hit .350 as he had at one time. His versatility and in game awareness are definite pluses. Players who can catch, play OF, and IF are rare, and valuable. Unless you expect that versatility to be combined with elite level defense? Either way it may be too early to anoint Arrez, and the same too early to bury La Tortugas!
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#7 rdehring

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 05:59 AM

I will be shocked if Arraez isn't the Twins starting second baseman in 2020.Not certain what Astudillo's role will be.Will he be a backup/third catcher who also plays several other positions, when needed?Will he be the primary backup catcher behind Garver?Will he be in Rochester and a phone call away when a catcher is injured?Or will he be playing elsewhere?

 

Doubt he would bring much in a trade, so my guess is the last option doesn't happen.

 

As for this year, expect he will remain on the DL another three weeks (until August 11).He will then be sent out on a rehab assignment and return on September 1.That assumes neither Garver or Castro are injured.  

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#8 Richard Swerdlick

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 06:17 AM

Could Luis be a rookie of the year candidate?


#9 yarnivek1972

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 07:02 AM

Could Luis be a rookie of the year candidate?


In 2019, yes. In 2020, only if he gets sent down before tomorrow. If my math is right, he will hit 45 days on the roster Saturday. Also, he would need to get fewer than 30 more at bats. I don’t see either happening.

As for his chances in 2019, slim. Michael Chavis, John Means and Brandon Lowe are probably frontrunners.

Edited by yarnivek1972, 18 July 2019 - 07:12 AM.

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#10 Jacks02

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 07:24 AM

 

Could Luis be a rookie of the year candidate?

 

The tracker I checked had Vlad Guerrero Jr. with TOR and Brandon Lowe with TB as the two current favorites.

 

Lowe is currently hitting .276/.339/.862 with 16 HR in 279 AB's, so he's putting up some nice numbers.

 

Arraez is hitting .380/.442/.942, but has just 100 AB's so far.


#11 Dman

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 07:44 AM

I totally agree with the analysis.Have been saying for a while the turtle swings at too many tough pitches.Pitchers throw him junk to start so it is tough for him to get a grooved pitch. He also has been hitting into shifts and seems to have lost the power I thought he had this spring.I still like him and think he makes it.If he can take lessons from Arreaz on plate discipline he too could be a tough out. The Turtles best position is catcher but with Garver playing so well I don't see him getting too much time there.Granted he can play other positions but typically not as well. 

 

I really like both of them but Arraez has an amazing feel for hitting.Hopefully teh Turtle gets there too.

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#12 JLease

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 08:20 AM

At a certain point there's going to be a market correction on batting average in MLB too; right now it's all about power and slugging % but we're already getting to a point where ability to make consistent contact is becoming an underrated skill and a high batting average is also underrated. Having a guy in your lineup who can consistently hit solidly above .300 is a real asset, even if they don't have tons of power, because a hit is, in fact, better than a walk.

 

I think Arraez has a chance to be one of those guys. Even if his BABIP normalizes down more around .330 or so (which it almost certainly will, but that's also not an unsustainable number for a high-contact player with good athleticism) you're still looking at a guy who could be hitting .315 or so with a .370 OBP and be a tremendous asset as a player who can hit almost anywhere in the batting order and be really productive.

 

We'll see how much pitchers are able to adjust their approach to him. There may be some holes in his swing that they haven't found yet, but the approach is really encouraging. I'll admit, I'd really like to have a high batting average guy in the lineup. Feels like it's an underrated asset to have these days for consistent run production.

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#13 twins1095

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 08:30 AM

 

At a certain point there's going to be a market correction on batting average in MLB too; right now it's all about power and slugging % but we're already getting to a point where ability to make consistent contact is becoming an underrated skill and a high batting average is also underrated. Having a guy in your lineup who can consistently hit solidly above .300 is a real asset, even if they don't have tons of power, because a hit is, in fact, better than a walk.

 

I think Arraez has a chance to be one of those guys. Even if his BABIP normalizes down more around .330 or so (which it almost certainly will, but that's also not an unsustainable number for a high-contact player with good athleticism) you're still looking at a guy who could be hitting .315 or so with a .370 OBP and be a tremendous asset as a player who can hit almost anywhere in the batting order and be really productive.

 

We'll see how much pitchers are able to adjust their approach to him. There may be some holes in his swing that they haven't found yet, but the approach is really encouraging. I'll admit, I'd really like to have a high batting average guy in the lineup. Feels like it's an underrated asset to have these days for consistent run production.

 

Really more about OBP than Batting Average, although to some extent there can be some correlation between the two.

 

OBP has ticked downwards from .330-.345 MLB yearly averages in the mid 1990's to 2010 to .315-.325 from 2010 to now.

 

The market correction should not be about guys who hit for average it should be about high OBP guys.Although, it's also true that those guys, if there is no power component with it, are complementary guys rather than cornerstones..they are multiplier players that maximize your cornerstones which is important.

 

It is probably true that high average guys will hit for a higher OBP so in that way the market correction will be about average, but again... .270 average with a .380 OBP > .310 average .345 OBP.

 

 

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#14 LA VIkes Fan

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 10:38 AM

Arreaz looks more like a long-term player. Astudillo looks more like a fun, end of the bench curiosity. I actually think they may both be in thier long-term spots right now.Arreaz as a table setting second baseman and Astudillo as a third catcher / utility guy a phone call away in Rochester or maybe ask the 26th man when rosters expand next year. It's possible that El Tortuga could improve and become more like Arraez in his plate discipline but I think that's a ways away. Arraez is likely next year's starting second basemsn.

Edited by LA VIkes Fan, 18 July 2019 - 11:27 AM.

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#15 davesaxton

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 11:04 AM

I love this kid and what he can do and I really do think he will be a cornerstone in the middle with Polanco, and a top of the order guy for a long time.But one thing bugs me.For a long time the Twins had a high OBP low power 1B and a low OBP high power 2B and people on this site ripped them both, but now we are talking about a High OBP, low power 2B and a lower OBP, high power 1B with Arreaz and Cron... whats the difference?other than the contract?And again, this is not a knock on the current guys, but all that has happened is we swapped the two positions.

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#16 ThatEddieMoney

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 11:20 AM

 

I love this kid and what he can do and I really do think he will be a cornerstone in the middle with Polanco, and a top of the order guy for a long time.But one thing bugs me.For a long time the Twins had a high OBP low power 1B and a low OBP high power 2B and people on this site ripped them both, but now we are talking about a High OBP, low power 2B and a lower OBP, high power 1B with Arreaz and Cron... whats the difference?other than the contract?And again, this is not a knock on the current guys, but all that has happened is we swapped the two positions.

I think that Joe was getting paid 20 million or more a year while Cron is making 4.8 million and Luis is making 555,000 dollars. Also, this team has a shot at the ALCS. Teams of the past with Dozier and Mauer have not


#17 stringer bell

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 11:48 AM

Dozier’s OBP was above .340 in three of the four years between 2014 and 2017.
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#18 Halsey Hall

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 12:04 PM

This is a better team with Arraez at second base. He should start there 5 times a week.

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#19 Trevor0333

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 12:53 PM

What amazes me about Arraez is how quickly he makes a a decision on whether he is swinging or not. His body and swing are completely in sync with that decisiveness. 

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#20 twins1095

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Posted 18 July 2019 - 03:12 PM

 

Really more about OBP than Batting Average, although to some extent there can be some correlation between the two.

 

OBP has ticked downwards from .330-.345 MLB yearly averages in the mid 1990's to 2010 to .315-.325 from 2010 to now.

 

The market correction should not be about guys who hit for average it should be about high OBP guys.Although, it's also true that those guys, if there is no power component with it, are complementary guys rather than cornerstones..they are multiplier players that maximize your cornerstones which is important.

 

It is probably true that high average guys will hit for a higher OBP so in that way the market correction will be about average, but again... .270 average with a .380 OBP > .310 average .345 OBP.

 

I should probably bring this back on topic and add that it looks like Arraez has both.He hits for a high average and consistently has good ABs and is willing to draw a lot of walks.He's not a guy who prides himself in his contact skills so much that he's up there trying to swing at everything.He swings at good pitches and takes walks if the pitcher isn't willing to give him those pitches.He should be a high OBP / high average guy.

 

His BABIP, BB %, and K % are all at the high end of his minor league averages--but not far off.His contact profile is good too--lots of line drives and a sub 10% soft contract rate.He's not going to hit .380, but I think he can definitely hit ~.300+ with a .350-.360+ OBP on a consistent basis.  

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