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Why Are We So Down on Luis Arraez?


Allen Post

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blog-0126669001611353431.jpgThink back to October 2019 – the Twins had just gotten pantsed in the playoffs. Again. A really fun season had ended in disappointment. Again. But there was still ample reason for hope. One such reason for optimism was the emergence of Luis Arraez, a rookie contact-hitting savant. Now, one (odd) season later, and we’re in about the same place. The Twins are fresh off another fun season that ended in postseason embarrassment, but this year, we’re much less excited about the 23-year-old second baseman. And for what? All Arraez did in 2020 was fight through injury to hit for a .321 batting average (best on the team) and a .364 on-base percentage (second best) while playing a decent second base. So why are some Twins fans throwing his name into every possible trade deal or into a platoon with whoever ends up as Minnesota’s utility man? Hasn’t Arraez earned himself a spot in the Twins future?

 

2020 Season

Okay, obviously saying that Arraez “fought through injury” to bat .321 is a fairly rose-tinted way of looking at what Luis brought to the Twins last year. To put it a different way, “Arraez was an injury liability and, when he was in the lineup, he regressed in all major stat categories and offered very little in the way of power.” The truth about Arraez is somewhere in between these two takes, but I’ve heard a lot more extreme pessimism than optimism. Yes, he regressed last year and no, he doesn’t help the team when he’s injured, but we’ve found ways to excuse nearly every other Twin for those same exact problems without casting them off as trade bait (I’m looking at you, Garver and Buxton). Also, Arraez’s “regression” brought him down to a .321 average that would’ve been good for third-best in the American League if he had enough at-bats to qualify. As far as I’m concerned, that’s still a pretty good season.

 

Arraez 3

Arraez's 2020 campaign was disappointing, but there's reason for hope going forward

 

Advanced Stats

I understand that, nowadays, you often have to do more than just hit at a high average to be a solid MLB player, but worry not, because Arraez actually improved slightly in a number of more telling advanced statistics last season. His 2020 campaign saw him improve in average exit velocity, sweet spot percentage and hard hit percentage, per Baseball Savant. None of these improvements was particularly significant and he’s by no means excelling in any of these categories, but it’s clear by looking at the advanced metrics that Arraez is not getting worse at the plate. In fact, it seems that his 2020 season should have been even better than his breakout rookie year.

 

So why did it feel disappointing? Because we were hoping for that second-year leap and we got a regression to the mean instead. Arraez’s improvement in advanced hitting metrics and regression in average and OBP show us that his rookie year was a statistical outlier more than it was a stepping stone to even greater success in the future. Still, if .321 is the mean he regressed towards, Twins fans ought to be excited, especially considering that he was injured and is still only 23. We’ve written off much worse pandemic performances from healthier and more experienced guys, so let’s afford Arraez some of that forgiveness.

 

2021 Projections

Unfortunately, ZiPS (and every other projection service) doesn’t seem to be helping me make my case. They predict a slash line of .313/.371/.406 for his third year in the bigs. On the surface, this looks worse than it is because Arraez’s average is projected to take another hit, but ZiPS actually projects that .313 mark to lead the majors. They have his on-base and slugging numbers improving, too, so, really, they’re not down on Arraez at all. Even if Arraez does level out as a .313 hitter – and I think he’ll be better than that long-term – adding some power and taking more walks would be a massive improvement for his career and for the Twins lineup. And I believe he can make those improvements because, again, he’s only 23.

 

Arraez 2

ZiPS projects a .313/.371/.406 slash line for Arraez in 2021

 

So, where does that leave us? I saw the regression from his rookie year (we all did) and no, his 2020 year wasn’t what we hoped for, but Arraez is still a great asset for the Twins moving forward. I believe in his contact hitting that has been the best on the team and I believe in the advanced metrics that show his improvements in other areas. Most of all, though, I believe in the player. Arraez has hit .300 at every level of professional baseball, and is the same age or younger than some of the Twins’ top minor-league prospects. He’s already a great hitter and he has a lot of opportunity for growth ahead of him. Luis Arraez may very well win a batting title soon, and the Twins better make sure he does it in a Minnesota jersey.

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I think the primary reason for pessimism is his injured knee and his knees in general.  I think he will always be good at the plate but how healthy will be throughout a season?  I think he will likely miss chunks of time every season.  I still like him but I can understand the pessimism as injured players generally don't perform as well as they compensate for the injury.  If can stay healthy the bandwagon will be large.

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I think Polanco and Arraez make a fine keystone duo. As long as Polanco's ankles are up to it, we can win and win big with these guys. Maybe not the greatest defense, but I'll take a good hitter who can hold his own at a position over a good glove-poor hit starter.

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Arraez produces at the plate, is not shy in big moments, competes hard, seems like a team focused guy - what's not to like? He should be seen as part of the core.

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I guess he's expendable because he doesn't hit many hr's. That's all that matters for this team,right?  I love the way he plays. Unlike most on our team,he actually looks like he hates striking out. He plays hard,always hustles, and he always appears to be having fun on the field...NO WAY should we trade him away. Lil Louie has already become my favorite Twin!

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Good article. The dude has flat out hit at every level he has played at. And it's not like Ben Revere, who always had a good average but low OBP.  Arraez gets on base, period. He has started about a third of his games for the Twins at positions other than 2B. Maybe they move him around the field. If he can spell Donaldson and also play 2B and OF that should be able to keep his bat in the lineup full time.

 

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Huh? I really haven't heard much pessimism in Twins Territory (minus Mr Trueblood) regarding Luis Arraez.

 

If anything, it's positivity as he is going to make one of the finest leadoff hitters in MLB. That's the buzz I hear.

 

Fantasy baseball experts are putting him near the top of 2B draft boards because of his BA and the expectation that he'll be leading off and scoring buckets of runs.

 

Most projection systems have him prorated to 150 games/600 ABs as one of the top 3 position players on the Twins by WAR

 

Which is where the rub lies. He may be injury prone. I want to give him another season before I hit him with that label.

 

But even playing injured, he's still been amazing in his very young career. Just think of the upside when we get to see him healthy over a full season!!!

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I agree with Minny505

Where is the "pessimism" on Twins daily ??

I would like to see improved infield up the middle defense for the Twins but I'm more focused on SS than 2B.

Arraez should be at the top of the order for years to come.

The ONLY scenario I can envision in which he's NOT is if we traded him to the D-Backs to acquire Ketel Marte.

Marte is a clearly superior player in every regard and would plug a LOT of holes for the Twins with his excellent "D" at 2B and ability to play SS, CF, 3B, LF & RF.

But a guy who gets on base at nearly a .400 clip at the top of your order is always a significant asset.   

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I don't think that anyone is down on Arraez, just realistic. W/ Donaldson , Polanco & Arraez are around average. W/o Donaldson, they are well below par at SS & 2B. As Donaldson is doubtful as an every day 3B, if we want to compete something needed to be done. HOF Rod Carew was an all star 2B but he was shifted to 1B because he wasn't very good at it yet he had better range than Arraez. The fact his name is brought up on trades is because his value is high. I don't think they'll trade Arraez, they'll find a place for his bat. Arraez is not a super utility player. I don't consider Gonzalez as a super utility player. My definition is a player which can play SS & CF anyone else is just utility.

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