Re-Examining Luis Arraez's Place In the Twins' Core

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After the trade deadline passed last year, I wrote about your dad’s favorite player on the Minnesota Twins. Of course, I’m talking about Luis Arraez.

I examined the then-24-year-old and his place among the core players on the club going forward. At the time, there were questions about where he would find a defensive home, especially with an incoming wave of young slugging prospects. Some of those questions remain to this day, but his spot among the Twins’ core is no longer up for debate. Arraez is in the inner ring of that core.

His old-school hitting approach is not only effective, but it puts local dads in a trance faster than a fresh pair of New Balances and a Ken Burns documentary ever could. Arraez reminds them of the hitting savants of their youth – a time when it paid off to be a brainy hitter who can find holes in the opponents’ defense. And in today’s game, which widely leans on a boom-or-bust approach, it’s a breath of fresh air.

When Arraez went 2-5 with a go-ahead bomb to right field in Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Guardians, faint echoes of an ‘MVP’ chant rang through the hallowed halls of Target Field. While that might be somewhat premature at this point in the season, it’s clear that fans can see his value to a club that is fighting for a division lead in late June.

Just ask your dad.

With league-leading on-base and contact skills, multiple years of team control, and young complementary bats surrounding him, Arraez has cemented his place in the Twins’ core, and the fanbase’s hearts, for the foreseeable future.

When I questioned the future role for “La Regadera” in August of last year, I examined it through the scope of considering the young players who had a more defined role on the team, both in the batting order and in a defensive capacity. At the time, Arraez certainly had the upside of a traditional everyday leadoff hitter, but his splits against lefties were concerning, as was his potential defensive home in the field. Since then, his bat has certainly exceeded expectations, and he has found a passable defensive home at first base. (Still, let’s consider it more of a rental than a long-term lease).

Looking at his stat line this year, it’s crystal clear he needs to be planted atop the lineup versus virtually all right-handed starting pitchers. So far this season, he has a .404/.481/.522 slash line in those instances. That’s the stuff of legend, and his under-the-hood numbers back that up. Here’s a list of instances where Arraez ranks in the top-10 in all of MLB against right-handed pitchers, according to Inside Edge:

  • First in batting average (.404) and on-base percentage (.481)
  • Fourth in OPS (1.003)
  • First in strikeout percentage (8%)
  • Second in miss rate (9%)
  • Fifth in opposite-field percentage (40%)

It’s hard to come up with a better option to get the most at-bats against righties than Arraez this year. Certainly, his numbers against lefties hold him back from being an elite all-around player. His .224/.309/.245 in that regard is pretty ugly. Still, when he gets those opportunities, at least he is only striking out at a 10% rate, and he’s still drawing a walk 9% of the time.

Plus, that’s the nice part of being just one part of the team’s multi-player core – if all goes as planned, there will be suitable right-handed bat options to carry the load. From Jose Miranda (.721 OPS vs. LHP) to Spencer Steer (.918 OPS in Triple-A) and even eventually the return of rookie sensation Royce Lewis, the team will have no shortage of options to shuffle the infield around to maximize their efficiency in the next few years.

As far as his defensive home, Arraez hasn’t wowed anyone at first base, but he’s been passable enough to keep him in the lineup consistently while manager Rocco Baldelli juggles rest days for his team. Second base is another option that isn’t ideal from a defensive range point of view but will work in the short term. But that’s how you know Arraez is essential to the core of this team. It’s a pretty easy call to make room for this lackluster fielder because his approach at the plate is that good.

Beyond the schematic outlook of Arraez’s place in the Twins core, he is a perfect fit in regards to clubhouse chemistry. He’s a young player with plenty of big-league experience who is beloved by his teammates, fans, and even by the members of the media that cover him daily. It’s one thing to be a must-see player because of immense skill. It’s another level when the player captures attention with infectious enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment of the game. Not to mention, he is under team control through the 2025 season, so fans can get used to his pairing with franchise centerpiece Byron Buxton.

Is Luis Arraez the whole package? Certainly not. But he’s a foundational piece to a transitioning Twins team over the next few years. And if it’s good enough for Dad, then it should be good enough for you.

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