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Luis and the Legends: A Twins Great Coming?


From that very first moment when Luis Arraez stepped in against Edwin Diaz and owned the batter’s box, something seemed different. Now more than 200 games into his big-league career, the narrative hasn’t changed.

Never a top prospect or one worthy of national attention, Arraez has long gone about his business quietly. He put up a .331 average across more than 300 minor league games, and the Venezuelan has continued to replicate that success at the Major League level. He’s a second baseman by trade, but not in the same vein that Minnesota has seen in recent seasons. He’s not a great defender, but it matters a whole lot less when the stick keeps him producing.

Ever since Jorge Polanco moved off of shortstop for the Twins and Josh Donaldson took over at the hot corner, Rocco Baldelli has needed to get creative in deploying his best batting average hitter. Arraez has adapted to playing a utility role, which has included time in the outfield and given some additional rest for a balky knee issue. Playing multiple positions has allowed for offensive flexibility, and really, that’s why he’s here in the first place.

To date Luis Arraez owns a .326/.388/.421 career slash line. The power production will likely never trend towards a .500 slugging mark, but it’s that average that has Twins fans dreaming of two All-Time greats. Rod Carew is a legend among these parts, and the late Tony Gwynn was one of the best pure hitters ever to play the game. Between the two of them, both Hall of Famers, there’s a total of 15 batting titles. Minnesota hasn’t had a player accomplish that feat since future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer did so in 2009.

Dreaming on Arraez with a career trajectory like that of Carew or Gwynn is probably far-fetched, but expecting similar offensive accomplishments is far from hyperbole. Right now, Arraez is just 24-years-old. Carew debuted at 21, while Gwynn showed up at 22. In his first three big-league seasons, the former owned a .299 average, while the latter put up a .329 mark. Both captured their first batting crown in year three.

Right now, Arraez doesn’t have the plate appearances to qualify for the award, but he trails only the Astros Michael Brantley (.325) in the American League. Neither Carew nor Gwynn would win their second award for another three seasons but then did pull off a run of multiple years in a row. Hoping that Arraez takes crowns year over year before grabbing his first is putting the cart before the horse, but it’s clear the recipe is there.

Carew had virtually the same strikeout to walk tallies, while Gwynn loaded up on free passes and went back to the dugout just over half as often. Minnesota’s two-bagger owns the same on-base percentage as the Padres legend, and the parallels run deep between this threesome. If we can separate career expectations from production viewed at the moment in time, it’s fun to see just how closely this trio is related.

There’s a lot of career left for Luis Arraez, and as long as the knee issues subside or stay at bay, there’s plenty of reason to believe that one thing he’ll always do is hit for average. Maybe Minnesota wasn’t banking on him working out like this, but he’s made his mark and established it as truth. This is the type of guy you describe as rolling out of bed and being ready to hit. He’ll continue to put up the numbers in a Twins uniform, and one can only hope that there’s a shoulder full of batting titles at rest when it’s all said and done.

Make no mistake about it, comparing Arraez to the best average hitters of All-Time is fairer than you may think. He’s got the goods, and they keep on coming.

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His floor is good, productive hitter.   His ceiling is really good, productive hitter.     I'm betting on the ceiling.   Fans get excited when guys like the Turtle come in hot and its not like he's is a bad hitter but you know he wasn't going to sustain what he started.   Arraez has a different feel to him.    I'm always happy when he is up there in a clutch situation.

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My glass will never be as half-full as yours, but I won't say that I can't see it. The health of his knees really needs a lot of hoping, finger-crossing and possibly some small animal sacrifices.

Arraez' name should be pre-printed at the top of the lineup cards, IMO, but his manager doesn't see it that way.

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There's nothing to suggest to me Arraez will be a poor fielder at 2B. Arraez's 2B RF/9 across the minors (when he was actually playing a steady position) was outstanding. Arraez has a good glove, he just doesn't have great range for the position, but he certainly has the tools to play 2B.

As far as Arraez's knees, he's on record as stating it should be manable by him just increasing his lower body strength to take stress off them. I'd imagine weight management fits in there somewhere, too. We'll see.

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You gotta like how he can work a pitcher. You need him to bat five times in a game, and ahead (or behind) the proper hitters. Line-up construction is something I have trouble understanding in the Baldelli-era, not that the batting in 2021 offers much in the way or iron-clad choices.

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I get the interest in comparisons,  and yes Arraez is no Carew, Gwynn or Puckett. Arraez though like that HOF Trio can flat out rake. He is more than a good enough hitter to be considered a regular batting title contender, and a key piece for the Twins for years to come.

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12 hours ago, adorduan said:

The problem is he is below average wherever you put him in the field. That basically makes him a DH...

I expect Arraez would be an adequate, maybe average, second baseman if he were put there and stayed there.  Between moving all over the diamond and his gimpy knee, he hasn't been able to focus on playing second base.  Agree, he won't be a gold glove second baseman, but I really believe he would be average if allowed to play there.

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Agree with others who think he can play 2B well. His numbers compared to Polanco were rather similar, if not better in some defensively. It’s the range/athleticism piece, but he has fantastic instinct.

 The other part that is annoying is that  so many thought he came out of nowhere, or very little gave him respect as a prospect. If you follow the Twins minor leaguers at all, no way could you have missed his hit tool and not known about him or consistently ranked him so low. He is a gamer who is just as fun to watch at the plate than anyone in the league, in my opinion. His at bats are so entertaining. Watching him scan the field, evaluate every pitch like the game is on the line, fight pitches, smoke liners to all parts of the park with runners, etc. 

GREAT ARTICLE!!! LOVE WATCHING THIS KID PLAY.

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The only thing that will keep Luis from getting batting titles in the future is health, and teams wanting more power.  He will never be a power hitter, not that he cannot hit one out here or there, but some teams trend to wanting so much power he would never fit on their team.  The way I see it, I would rather have 3 to 4 guys like him, and future Martin, with then power guys to hit them home.  I love to watch him hit, and think he will be hitting singles for a long because he seems to actually look where they are playing him and he looks to actually try to hit where they are not. 

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10 hours ago, jkcarew said:

His ceiling is nowhere near Carew or Gwynn. Doesn’t mean he isn’t good and can’t get better.

And you’re going to be disappointed on that Mauer thing.

Not so sure about the ceiling being so far off from Carew or Gwynn. I don't think Arraez will ever get as many plate appearances as those legends or have as long a career, but Arraez is young and his OPS+ is 10pts away from those guys' careers. Arraez just needs to commit to his conditioning to have a chance at staying healthy. If he does that, I think he's has a shot to be nearly as good as those greats. We're certainly not talking chasms here.

Carew, Gwynn, Arraez over their first 3 seasons. Random order, but I can tell you Arraez isn't the lowest...

  • .324/.386/.419 OPS .805 = OPS+ 122
  • .299/.346/.408 OPS .754 = OPS+ 115
  • .329/.382/.415 OPS .797 = OPS+ 125

I believe Mauer will get in, no doubts at this point. I was concerned, like everybody else, about his first base time and short career. Almost ever writer I've seen has also considered Mauer a HoF'er, but were all wondering about what other writers were going to do. Well, it seems like the vast majority of people feel the same way. They'd vote for Mauer, but most don't expect him to be first ballot.

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18 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

Those other guys could field, even steal a base. This can't be a real comparison.

The only player on this team with a higher dWAR than Arraez is Simmons.

Carew had 3 years with a better dWAR than what Arraez has this year.  Carew was a worse defender in 15 of his 19 years.  Tony Gwynn had a higher dWAR in 2 of his 20 seasons.  Gwynn's dWAR was negative in 12 seasons.

Arraez was a poor defender in 2019, his rookie year.  It seems like sometimes we make opinions on something and forget that things change.

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I remember Carew when he was a rookie.  He was good,  I liked him, but he didn't show his magic bat until he had been in the league several years.  With Arraez, I felt he was something special, right from the start.  Maybe its because batting is so much more difficult now. Maybe its because I watched Carew during his best seasons and Arraez gave me memories of Carew.  Maybe, its because Joe, wonderful as he was, gave off a different vibe, but Arraez gives me hope when he is at bat and hope is a wonderful thing to have.  :)

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8 hours ago, bean5302 said:

Not so sure about the ceiling being so far off from Carew or Gwynn. I don't think Arraez will ever get as many plate appearances as those legends or have as long a career, but Arraez is young and his OPS+ is 10pts away from those guys' careers. Arraez just needs to commit to his conditioning to have a chance at staying healthy. If he does that, I think he's has a shot to be nearly as good as those greats. We're certainly not talking chasms here.

Carew, Gwynn, Arraez over their first 3 seasons. Random order, but I can tell you Arraez isn't the lowest...

  • .324/.386/.419 OPS .805 = OPS+ 122
  • .299/.346/.408 OPS .754 = OPS+ 115
  • .329/.382/.415 OPS .797 = OPS+ 125

I believe Mauer will get in, no doubts at this point. I was concerned, like everybody else, about his first base time and short career. Almost ever writer I've seen has also considered Mauer a HoF'er, but were all wondering about what other writers were going to do. Well, it seems like the vast majority of people feel the same way. They'd vote for Mauer, but most don't expect him to be first ballot.

It’s a chasm. Unless you think Arraez is going to wRC+ 150-170 over a 5 year period like Carew or have multiple years in the 150-160 range like Gwynn…stealing 50 bases and hitting 12-17 home runs. Hundreds of players have put up nice batting averages immediately. And 99% didn’t end up Carew or Gwynn…and the vast majority didn’t come close. Those guy were both stronger and way faster than Arraez…not even in the same universe athletically. Arraez does great with what he has, and I’ll continue to enjoy what he brings to the club.

I think you’re going to be wrong on Mauer. Well see.

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1 hour ago, jkcarew said:

It’s a chasm. Unless you think Arraez is going to wRC+ 150-170 over a 5 year period like Carew or have multiple years in the 150-160 range like Gwynn…stealing 50 bases and hitting 12-17 home runs. Hundreds of players have put up nice batting averages immediately. And 99% didn’t end up Carew or Gwynn…and the vast majority didn’t come close. Those guy were both stronger and way faster than Arraez…not even in the same universe athletically. Arraez does great with what he has, and I’ll continue to enjoy what he brings to the club.

I think you’re going to be wrong on Mauer. Well see.

The post was about his ceiling. If you believe Arraez's absolute ceiling is what he's already shown as a spot starting utility infielder at ages 22-24 where he's already, consistently, generating a rate of 4-5 WAR per full season, you're welcome to believe that. 60 WAR gets you into the HoF. You can do the math on how good Arraez has been.

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On 8/20/2021 at 10:17 AM, bean5302 said:

 

Carew, Gwynn, Arraez over their first 3 seasons. Random order, but I can tell you Arraez isn't the lowest...

  • .324/.386/.419 OPS .805 = OPS+ 122
  • .299/.346/.408 OPS .754 = OPS+ 115
  • .329/.382/.415 OPS .797 = OPS+ 125

 

It is not the numbers it is the style; Arraez does not compare but I do believe he makes ptichers nervous right now.

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