Hi there, friends!
It’s been a few minutes since I’ve checked in, but with a real job and two kids in travel sportsballz 7 days a week, I’ve honestly been a little too busy to keep up with the Twins and MLB in general. I know, I know. It seems a little blasphemous and out of character for me to barely pay attention to the season thus far with just one eye open, but spending countless hours simultaneously freezing and melting at youth ballfields, covered in dirt and sunscreen, cheering for 11 year old girls and 12 year old boys leaves little energy to cheer for the grown up ball players. Rest assured, the kiddos will be done with their seasons in about two weeks, and I’ll have all the time in the world to dote on our boys at Target Field.
That being said, I’ve been meaning to write about the Twins most (until now) quietly underrated player: our versatile All Star, Luis Arraez. Word broke this week that Arraez and Byron Buxton have both made it to the 2022 All Star roster for the first time, and there was much rejoicing around Twins Territory. About a month ago, I got my daily MLB morning lineup email and they had the headline 1 guy on each team worth an All Star vote. I clicked on the link thinking that I’d be seeing Buxton as the pick for the twins but was very surprised to see this when I scrolled down to the Twins:
Now, obviously those of us that have paid any sort of attention to the Twins for the last few seasons know that Arraez has been one of the most consistent players on the roster. He might not be a home run smasher, but he currently leads the majors in batting average, and the AL in on base percentage. He rarely strikes out — he has an MLB leading 11.5 games per strikeout, That’s not just a fluke, either. Over his four seasons with the squad, he’s either led the Twins (or was just behind Ol’ Boomstick himself) as the guy most likely to get on base, and is well below average in strikeouts (for reference, the league average is 23% during his time in service).
- 2022: #1 in BA and OBP (.348/.420), #1 in WAR (3.4), 11.5 games per strikeout
- 2021: #2 in BA and OBP behind Nelson Cruz (.294/.357), #3 in WAR behind Polanco and Buxton (3.4), 8.9 games per strikeout
- 2020: #1 in BA and #2 in OBP behind Cruz (.321/.364), #5 in WAR (0.7 - shortened season and only played in half the games), 10.2 games per strikeout
- 2019: #1 in both BA and OBP, (.334, .399), #8 in WAR (1.6), 11.2 games per strikeout AS. A. ROOKIE.
On top of his consistency at the plate, he’s also a very useful utility player. He has the ability to literally cover all the bases (and a little left field). But despite all of his badassery, I was surprised to see that MLB was saying he’s the guy we should send to the midsummer classic. This was not because I didn’t think he absolutely deserves it, but because I feel like Luis Arraez has always quietly been the Twins awesome secret weapon.
When a guy plays for a smaller market team like the Twins, the national attention isn’t there unless they’re making headlines for being extraordinary. In Arraez’s rookie season (2019), we had the Bomba Squad and all 307 of their bombas that dominated the national headlines in their race to the top against the Yankees. With five teammates launching over 30 home runs that year, Arraez’s team leading batting average and on-base percentage went mostly unnoticed by anyone outside of Twins Territory. Despite the lack of national attention, he managed to tie with fellow 2022 All Star Baby Vlad (Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr.) that year for 6th in Rookie of the Year voting. His WAR over the last few seasons shows that he’s probably one of the most necessary players on the field.
Over the last four seasons in the majors, Arraez has had to fight for attention with the aforementioned Bomba Squad (2019), a Covid-shortened season (2020), and being on a losing team (2021). But now? Now he’s on a winning team and he’s leading the league in all sorts of categories, so he’s finally getting the love he deserves. After this season, he’ll be arbitration eligible and we’ll likely see him get a big fat raise over the $2.125 million he’s making this year. With the injuries the infield has had to deal with this season, he’s filled the spots where he’s needed and the Twins have remained in first place despite the loss of guys like Royce Lewis for the whole season, or Carlos Correa, Alex Kirilloff and Jorge Polanco with their shorter IL stints. With Sano being out for the last couple of months, Arraez has had plenty of time at first base to shine this season.
Even though Arraez and Buxton were named All Stars, I have to admit that there was also a note of resentment from me (and probably many of you) that they both were named to the reserve squad. Baby Vlad got the start at first base, and Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, and Giancarlo Stanton will get to start in the outfield. Vlad is the slugging first baseman we all wish Miguel Sano had turned out to be, and despite his lower WAR, lower BA, OBP, and OPS, the slugging earned him the start over Arraez in the voting. Obviously the voters are a bit more impressed with his name and his power hitting than they are with the less flashy and lesser known guy from flyover country.
As for Buxton — Mike Trout and Aaron Judge will always fill those two spots in the outfield at the ASG, so there’s really only ever going to be one starting spot in the outfield up for grabs while they’re both playing at their peaks. Without getting into too much of a deep dive, Buxton and Stanton are very similar players: they’re often injured but game changers when healthy. Stanton being a Yankee is likely what got the attention of the voters over Buxton. Sigh.
Even though I’m a little peeved that Luis and Buck were not named as starters, it’s probably a good thing they’ll be in the reserves. Buxton doesn’t need to get injured in an exhibition game to prove that he’s one of the best centerfielders in baseball. And Arraez can continue to be the low-key secret weapon that baseball fans will continue to underestimate and say “who?” when they hear his name. It’s about time he gets the respect he deserves on a national level, and not just in Minnesota or maybe in the AL central. And while I’m glad the secret is out about Luis Arraez, I’d like to enjoy him as our own for as long as we can before he ultimately signs with a big market team when he’s a free agent in 2026.
Congrats to our fabulous All Stars!
Until next time, friends, stay excellent to each other.