MN Twins: The new challenge for Luis Arraez, the best contact hitter in baseball

Luis Arraez of the Minnesota Twins celebrates against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Luis Arraez of the Minnesota Twins celebrates against the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Second baseman Luis Arraez, who had an incredible rookie season back in 2019, is facing new challenges due to his new role in the upcoming season.

The Minnesota Twins are coming off from back-to-back division titles but this year they will face the young and improved Chicago White Sox, who have made some interesting moves during the last couple of seasons.

With the competition heating up, the front office of the Twins has been active during this off-season signing back DH Nelson Cruz, starter J. A Happ, and most notable defensive shortstop wizard Andrelton Simmons.

The acquisition of Simmons will surely have a ripple effect in the starting lineup, bumping Jorge Polanco to second base and Arraez to a super-utility role, replacing the role had by Marwin Gonzalez the last couple of seasons.

A closer look at Luis Arraez’s rookie season for the Minnesota Twins

Let’s take a deeper look into the batting and defensive stats of the 23-year-old Venezuelan during the last two seasons. After five years in the minor league system in 2019, Arraez had the chance to play in the majors for the first time in his career — and what he did in those 93 games was impressive.

He had a .398 on-base percentage and struck out only 29 times in 366 plate appearances, an unbelievable stat for a rookie. According to Baseball Savant, He was in the top of the league in swing outside the zone percentage, strikeout to walk ratio, and line-drive percentage. He exhibited an incredible ability to make contact and one of the best plate disciplines in the entire league. He finished sixth in the rookie of the year voting, although he could have easily ended up higher.

In 2020 he battled some patellar issues that made him miss 28 games, half the season, but still had a batting average of .321 and a very high BABIP of .356.

Arrraez is 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds, not a big guy, and not a power hitter, which is why he would probably remain as a high average threat for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, in a time in which baseball is quickly becoming only home runs and strikeouts, a guy with the tools of Arraez can be extremely valuable in a lineup, especially in one with so many power hitters.

Still, in 2019 he was in the top percentile of the league in sweetspot% and if he can improve his exit velocity, he can improve his extra-base hits.

To his aforementioned tools, there are more pros to add. He can hit the ball anywhere on the field, preventing the opposing shift, and can adjust during an at-bat, shortening his swing and crowding the plate, making himself a tough out. He has average speed, that with his on-base skills, becomes more valuable, he can easily go first to third on a base hit.

How will Luis Arraez fit into new Minnesota Twins defensive role?

Defensively he is average, but he can play almost anywhere in the field. In the minors, his primary position was second base, but he played several games as a third baseman and an outfielder. With Eddies Rosario departure and Miguel Sano being the weakest link of the infield we can expect to see him taking lots of reps at first and in the outfield during the offseason.

Derek Falvey, the president of baseball operation of the Twins, already spoke to the press about the super-utility role the organization wants Arraez to play for the next season and said that Luis is happy and ready to do it.

The Minnesota Twins have a lot of great hitters in the lineup and the addition of Simmons means that they would also become one of the best defensive teams in the league. Nevertheless, the young Arraez will probably not get the 550+ plate appearances on the season as a regular starter, instead, he will hover around the 400 mark, the same Marwin Gonzalez had in 2019.

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Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is going to have a stacked lineup but will have to correctly manage his infield so he can exploit Arraez’s incredible contact ability. According to Ron Shandler’s Baseball forecaster, his contact rate percentage has been higher than 90 the last couple of seasons making it the highest in all MLB, passing players like Mike Trout or Juan Soto by more than 10 points.