Luis Arraez named postseason Midwest League postseason all-star

Kernels continue push toward playoffs with 2-1 win over Quad Cities

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Walking into the Cedar Rapids Kernels clubhouse after a recent game, you suddenly hear a high-pitched and playful loud squeal from someone.

You ask a player what in the heck that was all about.

“Arraez,” came the reply, without the player even turning around to investigate.

Luis Arraez is only 19 years old, still just a boy in some ways. But his game is very much man.

The Venezuelan second baseman is a Midwest League Postseason All-Star, the league announced Tuesday.

“I’m very proud of myself. All the hard work I’ve been putting into it,” Arraez said, through teammate Kevin Garcia.

The Kernels beat Quad Cities, 2-1, thanks to a two-out RBI single in the seventh inning from Nelson Molina, inching closer to a MWL playoff berth. The teams play again Wednesday night at 6:35.

Arraez went 2-for-3 to improve his league-leading batting average to .349 in 104 games. He’s six points up on West Michigan first baseman Will Maddox and 13 ahead of South Bend outfielder Eloy Jimenez, both of whom also were selected to the 14-player Postseason All-Star team.

Arraez was signed as an international free agent in 2013 by the parent Minnesota Twins. He hit over .300 in his first two professional seasons, so it’s apparent he has the “hit tool,” as scouts say.

He leads the Kernels in hits, doubles (27) and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging). His bat control from the left side has been impressive, as he has struck out just 47 times in 430 official at-bats.

“He’s been our most consistent guy all year, no doubt about it,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “He’s kind of been our Mr. Everything.”

“I think one thing is during the winter he goes back home to Venezuela and plays in their big league,” said Kernels hitting coach Brian Dinkelman. “So I don’t think anything scares him, who he’s facing out there. He knows what he’s doing, has confidence in himself. When he gets in the box, he’s ready to hit. He takes good at-bats and somehow finds a way to make solid contact, at least half the time.”

Questions arise about Arraez’s defensive range and lack of foot speed, something he acknowledges he needs to improve upon. But as the old saying goes, if you prove you can hit, teams will find a place for you to play somewhere.

Mauer pointed to the teenager’s improvement in speaking English as a real positive as well. He understandably requests help from a bilingual teammate when he is approached for interviews, but isn’t afraid to speak it in casual settings.

“That’s very important,” he said, through Garcia. “It’s a great tool to have in order to communicate with the manager and coaches.”

“He’s an exciteable guy,” Mauer said. “One big thing is that his English has gotten better. It’s not to where it needs to be. But he’s more comfortable with it, which is good.”

Cedar Rapids (70-57, 34-24 second half) remains three games ahead of Burlington for second place in the MWL’s Western Division and the first of two available playoff spots. The Kernels moved five up on Wisconsin and seven ahead of Quad Cities.

There are 12 regular-season games remaining.

Jimenez was named the Midwest League’s Most Valuable Player and Prospect of the Year. He went into Tuesday with a .337 average, 38 doubles, 12 home runs and 77 RBIs.

South Bend’s Jimmy Gonzalez was selected MWL Manager of the Year. The postseason team was picked via vote of the league’s managers.

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