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  • Replacing Luis Arraez: Comparing Arraez and Edouard Julien


    Adam Friedman

    On Friday, the Twins crushed their fans by trading fan favorite Luis Arraez for Pablo López and two teenage prospects. This move will bolster their rotation, but the Twins will need to replace Arraez's production at first base and from the left side of the plate.

    Image courtesy of © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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    Alex Kirilloff will be the first in line to replace Luis Arraez at first and against righties. Hoping Kirilloff's wrist doesn't flare up is the Twins' top priority when replacing Arraez. If Kirilloff misses time, however, the Twins will have an abundance of options to replace him, and one of the most exciting options is Edouard Julien

    Similarities between Arraez and Julien
    Julien and Luis Arraez both came up as second baseman. Neither is renowned for their defense at the position, and it is not a premium position. That limits their value and forces them to hit to be valuable players. 

    Luckily for Arraez and Julien, they've shown they can hit, especially against right-handed pitchers. In 2022, Arraez posted a very good .824 OPS against right-handed pitchers, and Julien at AA posted a 1.031 OPS against right-handed pitchers. 

    Arraez’s strong .386 OBP primarily drives his success against righties. That on-base ability against righties is something the Twins will desperately need to replace. Last year, Julien posted a remarkable .465 OBP at AA against righties. If he can bring some of that on-base ability to the Twins, that would lessen the blow of losing Arraez. 

    While Arraez and Julien share defensive limitations and overall production against right-handed pitchers, each has particular areas of their game where they excel over the other. So, it definitely won't be a one-for-one swap. Of course, you'll be hard-pressed to find anybody like Luis Arraez.  

    Where Arraez is Better
    Luis Arraez famously rarely strikes out. In his major league career, Arraez has more walks than strikeouts. His strikeout rate for his career is a tiny 8.3%. On the other hand, Julien strikes out at a poor rate, with a 24.6% strikeout rate in 2022 at AA. Surely, that would only increase at the major league level.

    Arraez has also established himself as a premier hitter for average. While batting average isn't a great measure of overall offensive production, it’s certainly a component. For batting average, Luis Arraez is your man. Of course, he's the batting champion, which tells you all you need to know about his ability to hit for average. 

    Diving deeper in comparing him to Julien, his age-22 season in 2019 at AA seems most relevant as Julien just completed his age-23 season at AA. In limited games at AA in 2019 at age 22, Arraez hit a fantastic .348, which helped him on his ascent to the majors that season. Julien hit a much more mortal .300, which is still nothing to sneeze at. 

    Another key differentiator between Arraez and Julien is that Arraez proved he could hit over his 3+ years in the majors. Julien seems on the path to hitting at the major league level too, but he hasn't even reached AAA, so he has a lot to prove. But Julien has shown he can do things that Arraez's limited skill set cannot match. 

    Where Julien is Better
    Julien's strikeout rate is ugly, but like many strikeout-prone hitters, Julien walks a ton. He had an elite 19.3% walk rate in 2022, which is a significant driver in his terrific on-base success. Arraez's walk rate for his career is a much more average of 8.7%. 

    Another common characteristic of strikeout-prone players is power, and Julien has plenty. Of course, most of that comes against righties. He slugged .566 against righties with 15 of his 17 home runs in those matchups. 

    This dimension of power and a more patient plate approach is where Julien differentiates himself from Arraez, at the cost of batting average. The Twins need more slugging in 2022 to maximize their offense, so Julien will boost their lineup. They especially need that from the left side. Last season, Nick Gordon had the highest slugging percentage of any Twins left-handed hitter.

    Whether the Twins won or lost the Luis Arraez for Pablo López trade will mostly depend on López pitching well and staying healthy. But it will also hinge on young left-handed hitters replacing Arraez in the lineup against right-handed pitching. 

    The Twins have their fair share of young left-handed hitters capable of stepping up. While Julien is still young and hasn't yet reached AAA, Twins fans shouldn't be surprised if they see him terrorizing right-handers in the majors come summertime.

     

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    Since Arraez is a first baseman/DH here, I would argue he’s not really being replaced by someone like Julien.  They’re not taking Arraez’s 500 PAs and handing them 1 for 1 to Julien.  He might not see any of those ABs.  He’s more being replaced by Kirilloff, Gallo, Miranda, and the plethora of other hitters that will get 1B/DH ABs.

    Hopefully there’s more ABs from Buxton sprinkled in there as well.

    I feel like that’s lost on people.  It’s not an unknown commodity taking over.  There’s a pretty good chance that the replacements above end up OPSing higher than Arraez would have.

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    With the end of shifting 2B is a premium position.

    You made me look. Against LHPs in the Texas League hitting environment, Julien hit .210/.373/.276 (.649) in 134 plate appearances, striking out 36 times (26.9%).

    Arraez became a good fielder at 1B. Julien hasn't been tried there yet, but he is terrible at 2B.

    Julien figures to be healthier.

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    I haven’t seen enough of Julien to see if the walks and plate discipline will transfer to MLB.  I am excited to see him first hand in St. Paul and hopefully get a better judgement going forward.

     

    I think most are right though that Kiriloff is a better comparison for a Arraez replacement.  I hope the fact that they moved him is a signed that Kiriloff is finally healthy and ready to product.  

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    If Julien continues hitting, either in Spring Training or in the early on at St. Paul, he'll quickly find himself at Target Field. 

    One of the driving forces behind moving Arraez outside of Pablo Lopez must have been the front office's confidence in the ability of the guys in the high minors to match Arraez's OPS+ production. Any of Julien, Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Austin Martin, and Michael Helman are on the cusp of the major leagues. With Arraez clogging up 1B and DH, there would not have been a role for these players to receive a real shot in the Majors, barring a handful of injuries. 

    Now, we can plug in Kiriloff as our everyday 1B against RHP with Miranda taking over 1B for Kiriloff against LHP and Farmer taking over 3B. Additionally, if any of the aforementioned guys tear the cover off the ball in Spring Training, they now have a shot to make the team out of the gate, receiving 2-3 starts each week rotating in at 3B, 2B, 1B, and DH. This front office seems to love positional flexibility, and sadly, Arraez no longer offers much outside of 1B. 

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    A comparison between Arraez and Julien isn't really very apt.

    I think Cavan Biggio is an excellent statistical comp from recent prospects. His K% and BB% from the upper minors are pretty close to what Julien did last year, and at about the same age. Biggio's ISO was a bit higher, but considering lower minors numbers I think they have a similar power profile.

    Biggio was around a 3-4 WAR player in 2019 and 2020, but he's fallen off since then. The main culprits seem to have been a big dropoff in power since the ball was deadened, and also a slightly higher chase rate, leading to fewer walks.

    I think Biggio's early numbers are probably roughly the ceiling for Julien, who will probably be a bit worse defensively. The keys will be whether his power translates to at least 15-20 HR in the majors and if he can stick to his disciplined approach against major league pitchers with better control. Not having particularly good contact skills, he might struggle if his approach slips a little bit, but I think his performance so far does suggest a solid regular in the majors with a high OBP and enough power.

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    7 hours ago, MGM4706 said:

    "Crushed their fans"? Not in the least! Twins were sub  .500 with Arraez! Plus he could not steal bases  Ichiro turned 400 of his singles into doubles  Not Arraez! Had to get pitching!! Great move.

    Seriously?  They were sub .500 the last two years with Buxton, too.  Would you move him to get pitching?  And if we had, would you say Twins fans weren't crushed?  

    As one Twins fan to another, please do not decide for me whether or not I am "crushed" by moving one of my favorite players.  And Miami thinks enough of Arraez to give up a pretty good major league pitcher and two pretty interesting young prospects for him.  He must have something going for him other than just being fun to watch 500 at bats a year.  

    The jury is still out, and will be for awhile, on whether it was a great move or not.  But I do hope you are right, and that it turns out to be.  

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    Julien is also faster than Arraez.

    The comparison between Julien and Arraez is apt when talking about offense and where they might hit in the lineup, and various similarities and differences in their potential contributions.

    But Arraez and Julien could/can both DH as well as play some 2B. No knock on Arraez...who I love...but Julien has the potential to be better at 2B due to better knees and probably being a little more athletic overall. The fact that Julien didn't play 2B last year, and hasn't yet at the ML level, is of no concern to me at this point. They compare in other ways. And not only can Julien still end up laying some 1B at the ML level, but he did spend 21 games there in 2021 while in the minors. So I believe his defensive positioning and value are yet to be determined.

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    If we're looking at "who will replace Arraez's production", then Julien is a reasonable player to look at: he's a 2B who isn't particularly accomplished at the position defensively, may need to slide to 1B, and will need to hit to be a regular MLB player and has shown great on-base skills. Julien & Arraez get there differently: Arraez through high batting average, Julien through loads of walks. It's a little tough to directly compare their minor league stops; Arraez came into the system much earlier and hit for average at every opportunity. He also had a significant knee injury, but never stopped getting hits. but Julien has always been at least as good at getting on base as Arraez and his power production has been significantly better. Arraez's best seasons in slugging are still below Julien's worst. Julien hasn't proven it even at AAA yet let alone MLB, but it's not hard to see how he could replicate that production.

    In terms of profile as a hitter, Martin might be a better comp to Arraez in some ways. Arraez is superior in terms of getting hits and racking up that high BA, but Martin gets on base at a similar clip through more walks and getting hit by pitches. The concern on Martin's ceiling is whether he can hit for enough power...sound familiar? the OPS on both player's age-22 seasons in the minors looks fairly similar. they're different players (Martin never spent a day in A ball, is a better defensive player, and a superior baserunner; the only question Arraez has ever faced about his hit tool is whether he could generate any power with it) but there are some interesting comps there.

    But again, this is likely why the Twins considered that Arraez's production and roster spot was more replaceable either now or in the near future. there are players in the high minors that profile well for this, even if they get there in different ways.

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    20 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

    If we're looking at "who will replace Arraez's production", then Julien is a reasonable player to look at: he's a 2B who isn't particularly accomplished at the position defensively, may need to slide to 1B, and will need to hit to be a regular MLB player and has shown great on-base skills. Julien & Arraez get there differently: Arraez through high batting average, Julien through loads of walks. It's a little tough to directly compare their minor league stops; Arraez came into the system much earlier and hit for average at every opportunity. He also had a significant knee injury, but never stopped getting hits. but Julien has always been at least as good at getting on base as Arraez and his power production has been significantly better. Arraez's best seasons in slugging are still below Julien's worst. Julien hasn't proven it even at AAA yet let alone MLB, but it's not hard to see how he could replicate that production.

    In terms of profile as a hitter, Martin might be a better comp to Arraez in some ways. Arraez is superior in terms of getting hits and racking up that high BA, but Martin gets on base at a similar clip through more walks and getting hit by pitches. The concern on Martin's ceiling is whether he can hit for enough power...sound familiar? the OPS on both player's age-22 seasons in the minors looks fairly similar. they're different players (Martin never spent a day in A ball, is a better defensive player, and a superior baserunner; the only question Arraez has ever faced about his hit tool is whether he could generate any power with it) but there are some interesting comps there.

    But again, this is likely why the Twins considered that Arraez's production and roster spot was more replaceable either now or in the near future. there are players in the high minors that profile well for this, even if they get there in different ways.

    This is kind of what I was thinking as well. Martin comps like a RH Arraez. Julien strike me as a LF Polanco as a pro with more walks and strike outs. But that's maybe just me.

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