Miami Marlins second baseman Luis Arráez is putting up absurd numbers to start the season. Boardroom looks at the keys to his success.
Back in 2019, MLB.com ranked Luis Arráez as the Minnesota Twins‘ 17th-best prospect. And when he came up, he joined the majors as a simple contact-hitting utility infielder.
Now with the Miami Marlins, the 26-year-old is putting up softball numbers through three games. He leads the National League with a .471 average, .526 on-base percentage, and a 219 OPS+. Those numbers put him a shade behind Francisco Lindor and Xander Boegarts in position player Baseball-Reference WAR.
But who is Luis Arráez?
The 5’10 lefty represents a rare throwback in the era of the three true outcomes — walk, strikeout, or home run. The Venezuela-born phenom slashed .334/.399/.439 in 366 plate appearances with 36 walks and just 29 strikeouts in 2019, finishing sixth in American League Rookie of the Year voting. Arráez’s style made him seem like a time traveler, unconcerned with launch angle or hard-hit rate.
While he played all over the field, Minnesota couldn’t keep Arráez out of the lineup. He just kept hitting, to the tune of .321 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and .294 in 2021, when he topped 120 games played for the first time. Last year, Arráez broke out, making his first All-Star appearance and winning the AL batting title with a .316 average.
But when Carlos Correa bizarrely returned to Minnesota in the offseason and with the Twins in need of top-level starting pitching, they traded Arráez to the Marlins for righty workhorse Pablo Lopez. Moved up to third in the Marlins’ order, it should come as no surprise that rules changes banning the shift and installing the pitch clock made Arráez even more dangerous.
Now firmly entrenched at second base, Arráez has struck out just four times in 57 plate appearances, and in 404 career regular season games, he has 143 walks to just 135 strikeouts. Among players with 50 walks in 2022, Juan Soto, Alex Bregman, Yandy Diaz, Alejandro Kirk, and Steven Kwan are the only players with more walks than punch-outs.
But what has made Arráez so successful this season? His .500 BABIP certainly helps, but his chase rate at pitches outside the zone is in the 77th percentile. And when he does swing at a pitch outside the zone, he almost never misses. According to MLB.com’s Baseball Savant, Arráez has swung at 26 pitches out of the zone this season and missed only three of them. His 11.5% out-of-zone swing and miss percentage leads the MLB.
Not bad for a guy making barely above $6 million this season.
Of the 210 pitches he’s faced this season, here’s the breakdown of their location by percentage, with red representing well above MLB average and blue representing below average.
And now here’s Arráez’s batting average by zone. This chart illustrates how he’s not only disciplined, but makes it count when he swings outside the strike zone:
Arráez has swung at just 22.6% of pitches out of the zone so far — a not-so-remarkable 44th-fewest in baseball. But he has made contact so often (88.5%) that good things have happened when he’s put the ball in play. It’s an amazing combination of discipline and striking when he sees pitches he knows he can square up on.
Miami is 8-8 despite a -26 run differential and 5-11 expected record. The Marlins are 6-7 against teams above .500, and that’s one game short of Arizona for the MLB lead in number of games against quality opponents. Arráez is a large part of this unexpected competitiveness and he deserves much more than the $6.1 million he’ll make in 2023. He has two more arbitration years left before reaching free agency following the 2025 season. If he continues at this rate, someone will pay him handsomely as one of the premier contact hitters in the modern era.
Luis Arraez Contract & Salary Details
Type: Arbitration-eligible (Year 2 of 4)
Total value: $6,100,000
Free agency: 2026
Career MLB earnings through 2023: $9,457,805 (via Spotrac)
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