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Luis Arraez Should Be the Twins' Everyday Leadoff Man


Luis Arraez would be a candidate to hit at the top of any lineup, but for the Twins, he’s an especially perfect fit in the leadoff spot. They should commit to him in that role on as close to an everyday basis as possible.Arraez, soon to turn 24, lacks speed. In all other respects, though, his offensive profile suits the modern prototype for the top of the batting order. He owns a career .390 on-base percentage in the big leagues, and in almost 1,600 plate appearances in the minors, that figure was .385. Any player who gets on base at such a rate belongs in one of the top four spots in the batting order, but one without power should be slotted in first, because the other slots need to be reserved for players whose skills allow them to consistently drive in runners even from first base.

 

The leadoff hitter is only guaranteed to lead off once per game, though, and because of the guys who will fill the bottom two slots in the Twins’ batting order most often in 2021, Arraez (with his unique skill set) could deliver extra value and efficiency in subsequent turns at bat. Byron Buxton’s speed and Andrelton Simmons’s lack of power each serve to magnify the impact of Arraez’s exceptional contact skills and ability to use the whole field.

 

In The Book, a sacred tome in sabermetric orthodoxy published in 2007, co-authors Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtma, and Andrew Dolphin wrote the following about finding the best way to use great baserunners: “If you need to leverage a basestealer, put him in front of a batter who hits lots of singles and doesn’t strike out much.” Buxton is the only great runner in the projected everyday lineup, but he’s an especially good one, which makes it important that the team make the most of those skills. Because of his approach and his power, Buxton might not often find himself on first base, but when he does, the team should try to follow him with players whose only glaring weaknesses are lack of power and the risk of double plays.

 

Simmons and Arraez both fit those criteria. The separators between the two — that Arraez is more patient, that he hits more line drives and fewer ground balls, and that he uses the whole field much better — make Simmons a bottom-of-the-order bat and Arraez a top-of-the-order one, but they’re equally excellent when it comes to fitting behind Buxton’s speed. Simmons’s lack of skills other than contact make him a candidate to bunt Buxton over at times. Arraez’s all-around profile makes him as good a candidate to be the hitter in a hit-and-run situation as any hitter in the last decade. Each hits so many singles that getting Buxton into scoring position would take on real value, in a way that having him steal in front of Max Kepler, Ryan Jeffers, or even Jorge Polanco would not.

 

Meanwhile, of course, Arraez’s presence at the top of the order would give the Twins’ offense the kind of start it needs to put up crooked numbers more often in 2021. If the team is truly worried about his defense, Arraez could start, then be replaced by Polanco as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement roughly halfway through games. That plan might sound convoluted, but it’s no more so than going into the season planning to give more plate appearances to Kepler (.337 PECOTA-projected OBP), Polanco (.322), and Simmons (.326) than to Arraez (a team-leading .360). Any time your best out-avoider is also shy on power, and could perfectly augment the idiosyncratic strength of a bottom-of-the-order hitter, that guy has to be the regular leadoff hitter.

 

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I think it's clear by now that Rocco's lineups don't have an "everyday anything." They're pieces that constantly move.

 

If I were building a lineup, it would probably between Arraez and a healthy Polanco.

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The headline reads ‘make Arraez the lead off guy’ then makes the case for why he’d be a great number 2 behind Buxton. I agree. He might be the best no.2 guy in the history of the game if Buxton manages to hit decently as leadoff. Alas, I expect to see someone like Garver with the highest home run rate in baseball leading off more than Buxton.

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If Buxton stays healthy, I think it will be hard to bat him above the 6th spot due to his power.  It doesn't seem like Baldelli wants to use his speed on the bases like we are projecting above(bunting, stealing bases, etc., don't seem to be priorities.)  No one scores from 2nd on a hit more often than Buxton......but he can do that from the 5th-6th spot in the order.  Batting 8th or 9th seemed to be a confidence/pressure issue for Buxton in the past for Baldelli.  Hopefully, that is a thing of the past.

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The headline reads ‘make Arraez the lead off guy’ then makes the case for why he’d be a great number 2 behind Buxton. I agree. He might be the best no.2 guy in the history of the game if Buxton manages to hit decently as leadoff. Alas, I expect to see someone like Garver with the highest home run rate in baseball leading off more than Buxton.

The article notes that Arraez' lack of power means he's not a great number 2 behind Buxton. Besides, even if Arraez was a 'great number 2' Buxton, with an anemic OBP, is not a great number 1 - except for his speed. Given his decent power, Buxton makes sense at 7, where he is likely to have runners on base to drive around. Meanwhile, the article makes a point I made some time ago that Buxton's first base activity will likely not be much of a distraction for a 'dialed-in' hitter like Arraez.

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I'm 100% on board with Arraez as the leadoff hitter.  When you have a guy that gets on base 40% of the time that's called a "table-setter."  

The fact that he doesn't run exceptionally well is not a factor at all.

Especially when you have the kind of power coming up behind him that the Twins have.

 

To me, for Kepler to shine, he must be moved down to 5th or 6th in the order and become an RBI guy.    The Twins don't run enough and Kepler isn't a great base stealer anyway, so move him down and let him hit 25-30 HR's in the middle of the order.

 

This is why the Twins need to carve out some kind of role for Arraez to be in the lineup 80% of the time,  whether Kiriloff is in LF or 1B.

Arraez is just the prototypical "table-setter" and belongs at the top of the order.

 

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100% behind this. When I argued that Arraez should be the lead off hitter last year Dan Hayes bit my head off with some nonsense about the Twins knowing better than some rando on the internet. Sure Dan, maybe the Twins know something that we don't. Or maybe they think they do and are wrong and should just face reality that Arraez is their best lead off hitter option!

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Seeing pitches doesn't have the same effect in dugouts when scouting and statcasting are where they're at, but wearing a pitcher down hasn't lost its luster.  It's not a surprise to see Arraez see 10 pitches in an at-bat.  I could just imagine pitchers rolling their eyes when they have to see him a third time in a game.

 

He's a spark at the top of the order that Kepler clearly isn't capable of.  For this reason alone, I'd rather have seen Polanco adjust to the utility role.  Arraez's defense IS NOT AS BAD AS PEOPLE SAY.

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Rocco slotted him 5th or 6th in the order a combined 42 times in 2019. I follow the logic having him there. In addition to his high batting average and OBP, he has the lowest K% on the team. Batting 5th 6th, there's a decent chance you'll have opportunities to be hitting with 1 or 2 outs and runners on. The game is so strikeout-oriented now that his contact skills are particularly valuable in those situations. Given those opportunities, he knocked in 20 runs in those 42 games. On Fangraphs' splits, in high leverage situations they have him hitting .556 in 2019 and .500 in 2020.

I'm fine with him leading off though. In 2019 he led off 14 times and had 5 RBI, which isn't bad. But beyond batting order debates, I'm mostly interested in having him hitting with runners on as often as possible.

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I love Arraez first with Buxton and Simmons ahead of him for the last three ABs so they can use their speed.  Which is a big issue for me.  Has the league already forgotten what Rickey Henderson did?  The greatest leadoff hitter of all time.  Speed still counts even if it is 8th/9th in the order.  A SB is a valuable asset as is OBP and plate discipline.

 

I keep trying to think of the reasons for Kepler to bat first - not OBP, not BA, not speed on the bases.  Power is his asset and number 4 seems a better slot. 

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Agree that Arraez should hit first in the order pretty much every day. The better question is where does he play? DH and 3B are spoken for so he needs another position. Putting Arraez in the lineup every day means that either Polanco at 2B or Kiriloff/Rooker/Cave in LF are not everyday players. The defense suffers at 2B if Polanco sits and Arraez plays, perhaps not so much if Arraez plays LF instead of Kirilloff or Rooker in LF (Cave is a good defender but his bat just isn't every day worthy).  It really looks like Arraez should be getting time in LF in the Spring to be ready - except that he's not. 

 

So, I think we will see a revolving door at the leadoff spot since Arraez won't be playing every day unless someone gets hurt. Good idea, just don't think its the way the Twins are planning to go.   

 

Let's say Arraez has a week (6 games) like this:

 

Starts for Polanco at 2B

Starts at 2B, allowing Polanco to start for Simmons at SS

Starts for Donaldson at 3B

Starts for Kirilloff in LF

Starts for Cruz at DH

 

That's five starts in 6 games, which you'll notice is the same as the starts for Polanco, Simmons, Donaldson, Kirilloff, and Cruz. So Arraez replaces a righty 3 days a week, and everyone gets about 135 games, about 500 PA, and lots of rest. It's a great plan to rest our infielders, all of whom have bad wheels one way or another.

 

Is that realistic every week? Maybe not if everyone stays healthy. But if any of the 6 miss two weeks, there's 10 extra starts for someone else.

 

I agree, I don't know how you get Arraez the same at bats as everyone else unless he spends some time at LF or 1B.

 

(Note my guess is they have a similar plan for Rooker, but will only try to get him in the lineup half time)

 

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He has played all over the field and hit all over the batting order yet still puts up great stats.I can't help but think that if he had a starting spot at 2b and batted leadoff every day that the consistent role might net him an all star team selection for many years.

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He has played all over the field and hit all over the batting order yet still puts up great stats.I can't help but think that if he had a starting spot at 2b and batted leadoff every day that the consistent role might net him an all star team selection for many years.

 

I like the cut of yer jib.

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