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Has Luis Arraez Earned a Starting Role?


Twins Daily Contributor

Luis Arraez entered the season as a bench bat, but it has to be hard to keep his name out of the line-up. So, does Luis Arraez deserve a full-time starting role?

 

Arraez has quickly become a fan favorite during his four seasons as a big leaguer. His energy at the plate and ability to spit at pitches on the edges of the strike zone make him exciting for even casual fans. It's hard to believe he just turned 25-years-old over the weekend. Fans would be thrilled to have him take over a starting role, but there may be a method to the team's madness. 

On the team's depth chart, Arraez is the backup defender at second base, third base, and designated hitter. He's played outfield in the past, but the team spoke about not using him in the outfield this spring. His defensive starts have come at third base this season, which is his best defensive position. Last season, he finished fifth among the AL's third basemen according to SABR's Defensive Index. 

Minnesota may have a natural platoon at third base with Arraez and recently-acquired Gio Urshela. For his career, Arraez, a left-handed hitter, has hit .332/.380/.441 (.820) versus right-handed pitching. His platoon splits are significantly different as his OPS is 152 points higher when facing lefties. Urshela, a right-handed hitter, doesn't have the extreme splits as Arraez, but his OPS is 39 points higher against left-handed pitchers. There's a scenario where the Twins can continue to rotate through these two players, allowing Arraez to get regular at-bats. 

Arraez's bat is also valuable in a pinch-hitting role as he is 5-for-15 (.333 BA) in his career. His MLB debut was as a pinch hitter, and he has already been used as a pinch hitter this season. "His special skills, I think, are the same skills that make him a good hitter in general," manager Rocco Baldelli said. "… His feel in the box as a hitter, his ability to see the ball, his hand-eye coordination. He's not going up there, generally ever, swinging and missing, almost ever. He's putting good swings on the ball always. That's kind of who he is."

An argument can also be made for giving Arraez regular time off. He has missed time with knee issues throughout his career, including stints on the IL last season. He has only played more than 120 games in one season in his big-league career. His career-high for games played is 146 games during the 2019 season, when he played 92 MLB games and 54 games in the minors. Rocco Baldelli has advocated for giving players regular rest during his tenure, so giving Arraez time off may be best for his problematic knees. 

Opportunities may arise during the season for Arraez to take on a more regular role. One injury to a regular starter may cause the team to need Arraez to be a starter. Many of the team's top prospects at Triple-A are infielders, so it seems likely that Jose Miranda and Royce Lewis will make their debuts in 2022. If a player gets injured, the Twins may keep Arraez in his current role and promote a top prospect to become the everyday starter. 

Arraez provides value to the Twins no matter his role on the team. It's critical for the team to keep him healthy this season, and that might mean keeping him out of the line-up when there is a tough left-handed pitcher on the mound. Arraez provides a spark to the team, but he has to be healthy, and that is on the field less than some fans would like him to be. 

Do you think Arraez has earned a starting role? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

 


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Behind Buxton, Arraez is my favorite Twin. (Correa is a 4 month rental IMO). Arraez gives you a great AB nearly every PA, doesn't complain above being moved around and seems well liked in the clubhouse.  Not sure where his value lies, but I would love to see him locked up on a team friendly long term deal.  

I know it has been asked before about his knee, but I don't remember seeing an answer. Are his issues of degenerative nature? Or recurring issues from his knee surgery he had in the minors? 

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I think he has with the bat, but there are probably better defensive options at the positions he plays best, 2B and 3B.  I want no part of him in LF.

The one thing he does provide as a backup is a competent backup at 2B and 3B.  He can reliably be cycled in and out of the lineup at either position, plus DH and be a good bench bat when he's not playing.  He should get plenty of playing time that way with the way Rocco rests players.  That's not a bad thing, IMO.

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Yes Arraez definitely needs to be in the regular lineup as much as possible.  Nothing wrong with being DH.  As Gladden says you've got to have one of your best hitters in the lineup regularly whether it's against a lefty or righty.  Arraez is a very good hitter currently without a position.  My opinion is he fits best at second.  But that's not workable since that's Polanco spot.  Outfield?  Only in an emergency.  I don't like him at third.  Baldellis analytics not withstanding, he can be brutal there defensively.  Why not DH him regularly?  He certainly has earned that.  

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I’ve been wondering if we’ll see Arraez spend a little time at 1B, especially with how Sano and Kirilloff have both been struggling, to put it mildly. Urshela is better than being relegated to the smaller half of a platoon against LHP, but we need Arraez’s bat in the lineup too. I think we’ll see Arraez a fair amount at DH as well. I was also wondering last night when we pinch hit Arraez for Celestino whether Urshela could slide over to 1B so Arraez could take over 3B with Kirilloff coming in in LF. 

Time will tell, but I’m extraordinarily frustrated with watching Sano aimlessly swing and miss or hope to take a walk. We have some flexible pieces, so I’m curious to see how flexible they can be. 

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There is a real reason Luis is a fan favorite. He is joyful and invigorating. He gives a professional at-bat in every plate appearance. He is an exceptional hitter against righties and is competent against lefties.  

But, despite neutral saber stats, he is a minus defender everywhere. In last night's game, he looked like he was plucked from the crowd to play third. This is not recency bias. If you take off the glasses of well-deserved fan bias, this has always been present. If you shot Rocco full of truth serum, I am sure he would agree.

He has bad knees. He does not hit for enough power to be a full-time DH. Last year was by far his biggest sample size and he posted a .733 OPS which is about the league average. (Cruz put up a .907 OPS stat line for the Twins last year.)

So, he presents a quandary. I love the guy but how to use him is one of Rocco's many challenges. I have often thought he might represent interesting trade bait to one of several tanking teams who are looking for cheaper players that can sell some tickets. That smile is a ticket promotion in itself. 

 

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The guy can work a count and is a delight to watch at the plate. He puts the ball in play. 

I would love to just see him play two weeks at one position. Or a month. But.....

The glove isn't always the best (is he in the game as much in the field as he is at the plate?), and...his lack of speed. 

Which is, sad to say, why the Twins need to sell high at some point. Before the longjam in the infield makes him obsolete as even a Twins reserve.

 

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He should be the regular DH, with any rest coming against lefties. For those who say he doesn't have enough power, I would remind them of his age and experience. Take a look at Edgar Martinez' first four years in the league, for example. I think adequate power will join exceptional on base skills (which matter more: look at wOBA or wRC, not OPS) as he ages and sees regular playing time, and keeps his knees off the field.

Unfortunately, Sanchez also deserves more at bats than Sano or Kirilloff right now.

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I could see him as a full time DH, power not withstanding.  Molitor spent the last 3 years of his career with us as a DH exclusively, and had a total of 23 HR's in the 3 years combined.  Arraez strikes me as the left handed version of PM and I would take that any day of the week.  Without a position of his own, and with our best players coming up being infielders, I would put him at DH tomorrow, with occasional times relieving 2nd and 3rd.  Although I have a feeling I may get some push back taking the DH away from guys like Sanchez when he is not in the field.  If Miranda and Lewis come up anytime soon, it may mean Sano is the odd man out, which would put him at DH, leaving Arraez as the odd man out.  Urshela, Correa, Polanco, Sano, Kirilloff when he plays 1st, Miranda and Lewis coming up soon..............who said that outfield was our strong suit?  To keep Arraez we may HAVE to put him at DH.  Either that, or trade someone.  Just might be a good problem to have down the line.  

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At this point, if he can hold down DH, that is where I would want to see him most.  He has not looked good at 3rd early on.  I do not know if it will get better over time, maybe if he had a single position he could work on exclusively that could help, but he was never known for his glove.  

His bat needs to be in the line up, he gives great at-bats every time.  He may not always get on base but he never gives an at-bat away.  He will work counts, foul balls off over and over.  Sanchez has not shown he will give you competitive at-bats each time out.  

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17 minutes ago, Rosterman said:

The guy can work a count and is a delight to watch at the plate. He puts the ball in play. 

I would love to just see him play two weeks at one position. Or a month. But.....

The glove isn't always the best (is he in the game as much in the field as he is at the plate?), and...his lack of speed. 

Which is, sad to say, why the Twins need to sell high at some point. Before the longjam in the infield makes him obsolete as even a Twins reserve.

 

I would hate to see Arraez go to another team.  But with Lewis and Miranda on their way up sometime soon, something needs to change,  I contend that  Arraez should DH  enough to get 500 at bats a season.  Would you rather Arraez get 500 bats at DH or would you rather the 500 at bats at DH be 250 to Sanchez and 150 to Sano and 50 to Jeffers and  50 to Gio? Trade Sanchez and Sano at the trading deadline for a "defense first" catcher who bats lefthanded and more young flame throwers.

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16 minutes ago, Mark G said:

I could see him as a full time DH, power not withstanding.  Molitor spent the last 3 years of his career with us as a DH exclusively, and had a total of 23 HR's in the 3 years combined.  Arraez strikes me as the left handed version of PM and I would take that any day of the week.  Without a position of his own, and with our best players coming up being infielders, I would put him at DH tomorrow, with occasional times relieving 2nd and 3rd.  Although I have a feeling I may get some push back taking the DH away from guys like Sanchez when he is not in the field.  If Miranda and Lewis come up anytime soon, it may mean Sano is the odd man out, which would put him at DH, leaving Arraez as the odd man out.  Urshela, Correa, Polanco, Sano, Kirilloff when he plays 1st, Miranda and Lewis coming up soon..............who said that outfield was our strong suit?  To keep Arraez we may HAVE to put him at DH.  Either that, or trade someone.  Just might be a good problem to have down the line.  

I agree with your assessment and your proposed solution. 

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The last two games have been "good Luis" and "bad Luis". Arraez was in the middle of everything good on offense on Sunday and played a solid third base. Monday, he had a tough day at third and did nothing offensively. Such is baseball.

Given Arraez' unusual skill set, I think his usage has been about right. He should be in the lineup against right handed pitchers for certain. Against lefties, he is a mediocre singles hitter and guys like Urshela are better fits. Although, if all one needs to do is make contact, Arraez is pretty reliable doing that against southpaws.. Defensively, Arraez isn't going to win any gold gloves, but he is functional at second, third and in left field. I believe his knee issues are why the Twins don't want him patrolling the bigger area in left field. 

I don't like seeing a guy with such limited power as anything resembling a full-time DH, but I'm sure Luis will get some chances there. The positives that Arraez presents, plus his age, perhaps make him a trade chip. The Twins top prospects mirror some of his strengths (Miranda-positional flexibility. Martin-positional flexibility and on-base skills) so I do think he is replaceable. 

Arraez is fun to watch, plays hard and enjoys the game. He was third on the team in WAR last year (3.4 per BBRef) despite only playing in 3/4 of the games. He is an asset, but not indispensible.

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32 minutes ago, GKuehl said:

I’ve been wondering if we’ll see Arraez spend a little time at 1B, especially with how Sano and Kirilloff have both been struggling, to put it mildly. Urshela is better than being relegated to the smaller half of a platoon against LHP, but we need Arraez’s bat in the lineup too. I think we’ll see Arraez a fair amount at DH as well. I was also wondering last night when we pinch hit Arraez for Celestino whether Urshela could slide over to 1B so Arraez could take over 3B with Kirilloff coming in in LF. 

Time will tell, but I’m extraordinarily frustrated with watching Sano aimlessly swing and miss or hope to take a walk. We have some flexible pieces, so I’m curious to see how flexible they can be. 

Arraez most definitely deserves to play every day with his bat. If Sanchez hadn't came to MN, I'd say Arraez would be our main DH. Arraez would be a very good 1B if he was a little taller but yet I've advocated for him to play there and was happy that Baldelli said he was willing to give a shot there.

The problem is we have an over abundance of MLB ready and soon to be players that plays the postions he plays. Right now being a LH hitter he should get the lion share at 3B, IMO he should spent more  at DH and given a shot at 1B if he had more time at ST. Arraez shouldn't play 2B, there more than enough players that play there better than him. 

I'm afraid that with his knee problems and promising prospects coming up, I see him playing less and not more unless they trade Sanchez and or Urshela,

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1 hour ago, MinnInPa said:

has to be in the lineup every day..i personally would rather see him DH and sit Sano down.

Arraez isn't a bad option to play 1B. He's certainly a better defender than Sano.

A utility player with a bat like Arraez should be able to find a spot in the lineup nearly every day rotating through 3B, 1B, 2B and DH. The Twins have seen a lot of lefty starters so far.

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Arraez’ calling card is that he is an old school on base machine who plays with enthusiasm but lacks speed and plays mediocre infield defense. Given that Miranda and Lewis are close to the ML Arraez is an interesting trade chip, which I believe the FO will use at some point. Gordon plays well enough to be the utility guy and he brings speed too. 

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Today he will be playing the position best suited for him. He is a good enough 2nd baseman to be starting there. This is really his only position as I see it. On our team he will need to DH quite often to get to 500 ab's. And I hope he does. I could also see him playing a lot of 1B if Sano struggles into May. 

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Other then that he doesn't play catcher, he's basically a much better hitting Astudillo.  Bat plays, but the D is sketchy.

If he was taller, I'd really like to see him at 1B a lot more.

I don't know how you sit him against RHP, he's too damn good against them.

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He’s the anti Sano. Everybody loves him because he is the scrappy little guy. He’s also the guy that has no power no speed and is not a good fielder. Highest and best use is as a trade chip. 

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Arraez provides value to the Twins no matter his role on the team. It's critical for the team to keep him healthy this season, and that might mean keeping him out of the line-up when there is a tough left-handed pitcher on the mound.

I'd prefer him starting more against lefties. 

I'm slow to criticize Rocco, but I really don't like the 8-9 righties lineup vs. lefties thing he does. Heaney was in a rhythm throwing sliders down and in to righties. The lineup construction enabled that rhythm since he didn't have to change his approach for 8 straight hitters. This happens a lot. I'd rather Rocco go with a 7:2 or 6:3 ratio.

Having Arraez in the order vs. a left handed starter is a disruptive presence. He often takes long at-bats and has more walks than strikeouts. (30SO/35BB career) Arraez has hit .261 career off lefties. For context, Sano has hit .247, 254SO/90BB. Gary Sanchez has hit .217, 160SO/74BB. 

Marco Gonzales aside, I've seen a lot of lefties get very comfortable vs. the Twins since 2020 and I'd like to see more of an effort to disrupt that comfort. Arraez does that. And even with a drop off in production, he's still a tough out with a .367 OBP vs. lefties. 

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Arraez is a great hitter against RH pitching, ok against LH pitching (maybe could improve with more ABs against LHs), and a real joy to watch. But he really is a one trick pony.  He has no real power and he is brutal defensively, just brutal. I live in LA and was listening the game on the drive home from work when he made the error in the 8th. He also apparently whiffed on a previous play he should have made and missed a third. His defense was the reason the Dodgers had a 6 run inning rather than a 2 run inning and he made the relief pitchers look even worse than they were. The Dodger announcers were polite but they not only questioned the results they questioned his effort saying that on his error he missed the ball by a foot and "didn't give a major-league effort".  They actually wondered if there was a lighting issue such that he wasn't seeing the ball because he was so far off on these plays. We've seen this before. He can't really play 3B, SS or LF.  I agree with the previous poster on his position, he can only play 2B and there is a little below average. Unfortunately, our second best player plays 2B so he hasn't got a spot in the field. 

I think Arraez should be the full time DH against RH pitching and sometimes against LH pitching in tandem with Sanchez so he can get better there.  He can spell an IF occasionally but not too often. Let's be honest, it's not like we got anybody else to DH who's any good and he provides the only real high  OBP bat on the team. At the present time, we appear to have basically a 4 hitter deep lineup when he doesn't play so let's DH him and make it 5 deep. Let's also get Urshela's glove in the field every day at 3B.  He can actually play the position. The DH doesn't have to be a power hitter; it's just your best hitter is not playing the field that day. Most days on this team that's Arraez. 

Arraez as an everyday player in the field? Not on a good team. Arraez as a LH DH who spells IFs on an occasional basis?  There's his value on a good team. 

 

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31 minutes ago, RedBull34 said:

Other then that he doesn't play catcher, he's basically a much better hitting Astudillo.  Bat plays, but the D is sketchy.

If he was taller, I'd really like to see him at 1B a lot more.

I don't know how you sit him against RHP, he's too damn good against them.

Arraez as "a much better hitting Astudillo"? Well said. You have that exactly right. 

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