Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, containing detailed articles about a wide variety of players. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on infielder Luis Arraez.
- January 20—traded from Minnesota Twins to Miami Marlins in exchange for Pablo López and prospects José Salas and Byron Chourio
- March 11-18—represented Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic
- April 12—went 4-for-5 in Philadelphia en route to authoring the first cycle in Marlins history
- June 25—entered play hitting .401 ahead of his 73rd game of the season
- July 11—collected two hits and an RBI in MLB All-Star Game
- September 15—recorded first career multi-HR game in 9-6 comeback victory against Atlanta
- September 18—became first Marlin since Dee Strange-Gordon in 2015 to collect 200 hits in a season
- September 19—sprained left ankle during pre-game infield practice
Notable 2023 statistics: .354 BA, 203 H, 5.5 K%, 133 OPS+, 4.9 rWAR
In what was arguably the boldest trade of Kim Ng’s tenure, the Marlins packaged Pablo López and a pair of prospects to the Twins for Luis Arraez. Although fresh off winning the AL batting title, the acquisition of Arraez was risky considering the immense value going the other way and some of the perceived limitations to his game.
Fortunately, the deal paid dividends for both sides. Minnesota quickly locked up López long term, and he responded with a 234-strikeout regular season and two stellar postseason outings for a Twins team that won the AL Central. As for Miami, Arraez thrived under MLB’s new shift restrictions, flirting with a .400 batting average deep into the summer and ultimately finishing at .354 to win his second consecutive batting title.
Arraez is the first player since Josh Hamilton (.359 in 2010) to best a .350 batting average in a non-shortened season and he became the first player ever to win consecutive batting titles in both the American and National League. His new employer also made their first full-season playoff appearance since 2003, thanks in large part to the starring role Arraez played.
No particular pitch type disarms him. On fastballs, Arraez hit .353. On breaking pitches, he hit .359. On offspeed offerings, he hit .351. Whatever you throw him, turn around and get familiar with watching the ball sail into the outfield grass. It’s no wonder he became just the 22nd player since 1901 with at least three five-hit games in a single season.
Arraez’s strikeout avoidance makes him a unicorn in today’s game. He became the first player since Plácido Polanco in 2007 to be K’d fewer than 35 times in a season of 600-plus plate appearances. Getting ahead in the count against him was hardly an advantage for opposing pitchers.
With an average exit velocity of just 88.3 mph, Arraez ranked in the 29th percentile among qualified big leaguers, according to Baseball Savant. However, in an ode to dead ball martyr Wee Willie Keeler, Arraez “hit ’em where they ain’t” to set up and drive in Marlins runs. His average launch angle dropped year-over-year (from 12.9 to 11.5 degrees) and he exploited the middle of the field.
Arraez also tallied a career-best 10 home runs. Since 1951, there have only been five qualified seasons where a hitter hit .350 or better, homered at least 10 times, and struck out less than 35 times: Stan Musial (1957), George Brett (1980), Tony Gwynn (1994, 1997), and Arraez in 2023. Despite living in an entirely different generation, Arraez feels like a hitter in the mold of these men. Marlins fans were enamored with his throwback style.
As the Twins did with Pablo López, it is without debate that incoming Marlins front office leadership ought to extend Luis Arraez and ensure he remains in Miami for the long haul. On a roster that feels primed for a shakeup this offseason, one of the few certainties lies in the fact that Miami can pencil Arraez in as their starting second baseman for 2024.
Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish On First