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Grading the 2019 Twins: Luis Arraez

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Who passes — and who fails?

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers
He may speak softly, but the big stick he carries says a lot more.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

This is another in the “Grading the 2019 Twins” series. If this is your first time venturing beyond the home page into this series, then here’s how this works: the author discusses a player’s 2019 season and hands out a letter grade, then everyone else votes in the poll at the end and chats about it in the comments. If you’re playing Christmas music right now, I still think it’s too early, but I’m glad you’re getting in the spirit, and have a happy Thanksgiving. Previous entries to the series can be found in the links below.

Just over a year ago, the Minnesota Twins chose to protect three prospects from the upcoming Rule 5 draft. Two of the three, Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade Jr., were significant names in the Minnesota pipeline and were added a day before the deadline. On the last possible day, the Twins made three moves: stuck alongside announcements of the release of reliever Alan Busenitz and a minor league player-for-player swap with Miami was the news that the team had chosen to protect second baseman Luis Arraez from the Rule 5 draft as well, adding him to the 40-man roster. Maija Varda, Twinkie Town’s emeritus Grand Poobah, wrote:

Injuries limited Arraez to only three games in 2017, but he bounced back impressively in 2018, hitting .320/.373/.421 over 60 games in High-A and .298/.345/.365 over 48 games in Double-A. The kid is still only 21-years-old, but it appears the Falvine front office thinks highly of him.

A year later, those stats seem paltry.

Arraez — or is it “Arráez,” with the accent? I can’t find a clear answer — began 2019 in Pensacola and was elevated to Rochester on May 14 after batting .298/.345/.365 over 48 games against Double-A pitching. But after only three days as a Red Wing, Arraez was promoted to Minnesota to fill the spot of Nelson Cruz, placed on the Injured List.

Cruz was activated on June 3 and Arraez was optioned back to Rochester, but in his first 10 games as a major league baseball player, Arraez batted .375/.467/.583, socked his first MLB home run after hitting six in all of minor league ball, and was already drawing a sizable share of Twins’ fans’ overreactions.

His return to Rochester lasted only two weeks, as Arraez was recalled to Minnesota on June 18 when Ehire Adrianza found himself on the IL. From that point on, he confirmed those overreactions were justified.

From June 18 through the end of the season, Arraez outplayed 2019 season-starting second baseman Jonathan Schoop, appearing in 82 games to Schoop’s 59 (though Arraez made plenty of appearances at third base, left field, and shortstop). He finished the season with a .334/.399/.439 slash line, battered an additional three bombas to go with his first, and confirmed his early reputation as a disciplined contact hitter (28 strikeouts, 29 walks). Playing just over half the season, Arraez accumulated 2.1 fWAR and 1.8 bWAR.

Though Arraez came to the plate only 366 times, not nearly enough to qualify for the batting crown, his contact statistics rank near the top of the league. Across all MLB players with at least 350 plate appearances in 2019, Arraez’s .334 batting average ranks third; only Howie Kendrick (.344 in 370 PA) and Tim Anderson (.335 in 518 PA) top him. Despite a 9.8 percent walk rate, lower than any player above him, his .399 on-base percentage ranks ninth. Even considering that Arraez finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting, his most impressive award of the season came after a Twins-Spiders game on August 9, when Terry Francona said that Arraez would one day win a batting title.

With Schoop a free agent who under-performed in 2019, Arraez appears locked into the starting second base job next year. However, Arraez played four positions in 2019, and his most common, second base, was also the spot where he graded out lowest, with a minus-5.0 ultimate zone rating. Therefore, the key question going forward is: does his last name have that diacritical mark over the lowercase A or not? MLB’s website doesn’t use it, Wikipedia does, Baseball Reference doesn’t... this is going to drive me insane.

Overall Grade: A

Poll

What grade would you give Luis Arraez’s 2019 season?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    A
    (391 votes)
  • 10%
    B
    (45 votes)
  • 0%
    C
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
440 votes total Vote Now