It was the morning after a night game in Venezuela, so Luis Arraez was asleep when his phone rang.
At least, he think it rang.
“I got a call that woke me up, telling me, ‘The Twins have added you to the [40-man] roster,'” Arraez said, still shaking his head at the memory. “I didn’t know if I was dreaming or awake.”
Either way, it was a dream come true for the Venezuelan second baseman, who was 16 years old when he accepted a $40,000 signing bonus from Minnesota in 2013. Arraez has moved quickly through the Twins’ system ever since, arriving at Double-A Chattanooga last year shortly after his 21st birthday.
Why so much helium in his career path? Because in five minor league seasons at five different levels, Arraez, twice a batting champion already, is a career .329/.381/.416 hitter who had never hit below .309 in a single season before last year.
Arraez only hit .298 for Chattanooga last season, which was a, still impressive, career-worst. But Arraez, a stocky 5-foot-10 second baseman who may wind up at third base in the future, finished the season on a 5-for-12 tear.
“One more game,” Arraez said, with a laugh
“He knows what he’s doing with the bat in his hands,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who has been impressed with Arraez’s first major league camp, particularly his hustle during workouts, and his mastery at the plate.
Arraez, whose crouch in the batter’s box squeezes his strike zone, has nearly as many walks as strikeouts in his career, and his on-base percentage has never dipped below .345.
“He looks like he’s played in the big leagues already,” Baldelli said.
He might this summer. Placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, which was a mild surprise to most observers, Arraez has arguably passed fellow Twins infield prospect Nick Gordon, and he hopes to reach Triple-A—or higher—in 2019.
It’s all a little hard to imagine for a kid who learned how to hit when his father strung a baseball from the ceiling when he was just three years old.
“He said, ‘Are you hitting lefthanded or right?’ ” recalled Arraez, who will turn 22 in April. “I was righthanded, but I wanted to hit lefthanded because [fellow Venezuelan] Endy Chavez, who played with the Mets, batted that way. So I swung and swung and swung that way. I still practice my swing every day.”