Luis Arraez didn’t have a chance to defend his American League batting title crown because of an offseason trade that sent him from the Minnesota Twins to the National League’s Miami Marlins. Instead, he conquered his new domain while elevating his game to even greater heights. Resting on Sunday, Arraez (.354 BA) secured the 2023 NL batting title, finishing 17 points ahead of the next-best qualified hitter (Ronald Acuña Jr., .337 BA).
Arraez spent the first half of his age-26 season chasing ghosts, trying to become the first major leaguer in generations to hit .400. That fantasy fell apart once and for all in August during what was arguably the worst month he’s ever had at the plate. Freddie Freeman briefly made Arraez sweat, closing the batting average gap between them to single-digit points.
However, Arraez went 2-for-5 in his final August game, then created breathing room with three more consecutive multi-hit efforts.
Arraez’s supernatural contact skills were on full display in September—he hasn’t struck out since Sept. 9. Unfortunately, a left ankle sprain sidelined him for the much of that period (he started only two of the final 11 Marlins regular season games). The silver lining is those limited at-bats made it virtually impossible to lose his lead. Even better, his teammates produced enough in his absence to secure a postseason berth.
Arraez is the third NL batting champ in Marlins history, joining Hanley Ramírez (2009) and Dee Strange-Gordon (2015). Arraez’s .354 BA establishes a new single-season franchise record, surpassing Ramírez’s .342 mark. It’s also a new personal best for him, shattering the .316 BA that paced the AL in 2022 (Arraez did not have enough plate appearances to qualify in any of his other seasons).
In 2022, the Marlins ranked 14th out of 15 NL teams in batting average (.230 BA). Largely because of Arraez’s contributions, they vaulted all the way to second place in that category this season (.259 BA), trailing only the dominant Atlanta Braves.
Arraez joins DJ LeMahieu as the only players to ever win both an AL and NL batting title, and unlike LeMahieu, he pulled it off in back-to-back years. He figures to be the betting favorite for a three-peat in 2024.
Arraez’s value to the Marlins goes far beyond being a singles merchant. His enthusiasm is infectious in the clubhouse. His defense at second base is better than advertised. His determination to play through hand and ankle injuries demonstrated his desire to compete. The frequency of his hits and his overall style of play make him highly marketable.
There are many intriguing contract extension candidates in Miami. Locking up Arraez long term ought to be a top offseason priority.
Photo by Danis Sosa/Fish On First