Luis Arraez is the Twins’ sweet-swinging utility man and wants his fans to know two facts about him as he chases his American League batting title.
First, despite what you might have seen in a Twins video, Arraez does not take his bat to bed and instead sleeps in his uniform. The idea behind the video’s concept is based on an old baseball saying, “he can hit falling from bed”. This refers to a player so skilled that he could walk half-asleep to the plate and still drive line drives. That’s Arraez (25), who is leading the majors in batting and on-base percentage (.342) at the All-Star break.
To practice his swing, Arraez also keeps a smaller version in his hotel room while on the road. He estimates that he spends between 10 and 20 minutes per day on it, with his eyes focused at the top of a tee.
Arraez stated, “I don’t sleep with my bat.” “I take it to the hotel every day and follow my routine.”
Arraez’s work ethic, diligence, and honesty have earned him respect in baseball – at the least among those who have witnessed him play. Arraez is still a mystery to many Twins fans, despite the fact that they have never seen him play and can’t locate Minnesota on a map.
If left-handed-batting Arraez does something noteworthy in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, that could change. For the first time, he and Byron Buxton, the AL Central-leading Twins’ center field pitcher, will be representing the Twins.
MLB opponents know about Arraez’s remarkable ability to put bat to the ball. Arraez, a throwback in a baseball-happy era when strikeouts are part of the deal is a contact hitter to all field who rarely swings or misses.
FanGraphs reports that Arraez only struck out 8.9% of the time since his debut with the Twins in 2019. This is the lowest percentage of any Major League Baseball player with at least 1,000 plate appearances. On July 16, 2019, Arraez took on Edwin Diaz, the New York Mets closer. He replaced Jonathan Schoop with a 0-2 count. The 11-pitch walk was a memorable moment that showed his remarkable eye and bat control.
The word quickly spread. Gary Sanchez, his Twins teammate, caught for the Yankees. He tried a new approach to getting him out.
Sanchez stated through Elvis Martinez, Twins interpreter, that “we only played them twice per year, so we didn’t face him much.” But I knew that he was a great hitter and wouldn’t chase down bad pitches. He is a fighter and will fight all of his at-bats until the end. I did not want him to catch 10 pitches from my starting pitcher, then take the hit. I asked for fastballs in the middle.
Most teams are unable to shift against Arraez because he hits the ball on all fields. The White Sox placed him in the outfield straightaway and kept the infielders in their usual positions. There was no putting the second baseman in the short right field and moving the shortstop to the opposite side.
“One of the keys for getting outs these day is putting defenders where guys hit them,” stated Rocco Baldell, Twins manager. Some are reliable in hitting the ball, while others aren’t. He’s not. You’ll have to cover twice the territory to get more balls.
Carlos Correa, the Twins’ shortstop, played enough against Arraez with the Astros to be able to appreciate his talent.
Correa stated, “The thing that I love the most about him is that he understands who and what he is.” His work in the (batting cage) is consistent. He is trying to do line drives across the field and not trying to lift or go deep. This is a great way to win in this game, especially with the way pitchers throw. He wants to hit the ball where no one else is. He has the bat control to hit line drives anywhere he likes. He has a very special talent.”
Some observers feel that Arraez is reminiscent of Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn who were all left-handed hitters. Others are hesitant to move there. Major-league scouts who watched Gwynn often said that Arraez needs a few years more of similar production before he would consider Arraez for Gwynn’s class. Boggs and Carew, who I covered for a decade in New England and Greater New York, were better fielders than Arraez. Carew shuttles between first, second, third, and left field. Carew stole bases during his prime, Arraez does not.
Jim Kaat, soon-to-be Hall of Fame pitcher, was in town to see his number 36 retired from the Twins. He said he saw a lot of similarities between Carew and Arraez, especially in the way Arraez moves around in the batter’s box. Tony Oliva, Carew’s longtime friend and three-time AL batting champ and another Hall of Fame inductee says Arraez is more like Cesar Tovar, a versatile Twins player from the 1960s and ’70s who once played all nine positions.
Oliva stated that Arraez can do whatever he wants with the bat. He can hit the ball to any field he likes, even if he doesn’t want to. He can pull if he wishes. He is a smart man and a good hitter.
His approach is very refreshing. He isn’t in a hurry. He has everything under control. He hits the ball 90 percent of all the time right on his nose. If you do that, you can go far.”
So why isn’t Arraez a major star yet? There are many reasons.
Too little power
Arraez has only five home runs, but that is a career high. Buxton is one of nine players with 20 home runs in the American League.
The Batting Average is so 20th Century
Who cares about singles in an age of launch angles, batted ball distance and batted balls distance? Analytics savants have long deemphasized batting percentage as a measure for hitting prowess. They now rely on more modern stats such OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) or weighted onbase average (wOBA). They may be right, but many casual fans still love the familiar stats. With so many hits being taken away by defensive shifting, batting at.300 is a greater accomplishment than ever.
Very little national exposure
ESPN reports that the Twins have not been on Sunday Night Baseball since 2021, when they made one appearance. They also didn’t appear in 2020. The Twin Cities is home to none of the top-read national baseball writers, and the majority of Minnesotans pay little attention to what happens there. Why should they? It’s difficult to get excited about a team that has lost 18 consecutive playoff games and exited the postseason quickly in 2019/2020, and failed to lead baseball’s weakest division at The All-Star break.
Keep in mind: It took the Astros winning 2017 the World Series (plus the sign-stealing scandal) for fans to discover about Jose Altuve and George Springer. If Arraez can help the Twins win a marquee postseason team – you’ve heard of it (yes, the Yankees), he’ll get his props.
The MLB does a poor job of promoting its stars, compared to the NBA. Arraez has not been well-known by the Twins until recently. Although it is easy to get Target Field fans to “Rise For Arraez” whenever he bats, a play on his name seems to be a ripoff of Aaron Judge’s catchphrase “All Rise”. It wouldn’t be the Twins’ first import of a concept from another country. Have you ever seen the Target Mascot Race
Arraez stated that he will be taking a group with him to Los Angeles for All-Star Game. This includes his wife and two daughters. He wants to have fun and enjoy this experience. His lack of fame is not a problem for him, nor are his Twins teammates. Jorge Polanco, second baseman, said the other day that “people will know him soon.”