Back in January, the Tampa Bay Rays traded away one of their top pitching prospects in Matthew Liberatore as they acquired Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena from the St Louis Cardinals, a deal that broke the mold on how the Rays do business.
It was a shocking move. The Rays have always been an organization that tended to hold on to their prospects, especially those of the pitching variety. The Rays willingness to give up Liberatore, signaled how much they coveted the players they received.
The Arozarena Story
Arozarena was a former Cuban national who was set to compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster before the season was abruptly halted by the pandemic. Then, once Summer Camp opened, Arozarena was among the few Rays players to test positive for COVID-19, delaying his start to the season and leading him being sent to the Rays alternate training site in Port Charlotte.
He made his debut with the Cardinals in 2019, playing in 19 games and excelling as he hit .300/.391/.500 with 1 HR over 23 plate appearances, along with 2 stolen bases, showcasing his capabilities as a potential five-tool player.
Once Arozarena made his much-anticipated debut with the Rays 2020, he picked right back up where he left off in St Louis. Arozarena laid waste to opposing pitch staffs as he hit .281/.382/.641 with 7 HR over 76 plate appearances along with 4 stolen bases across 23 games played, accruing 0.8 fWAR.
Arozarena’s game at the plate resembles a pinball game. Once he puts a ball in play, he goes from 0-to-60 like a sports car, frequently losing his helmet due to his speed around the bases.
Now that he is playing on the national stage, Arozarena has quickly put his many skills on display.
Wild Card Series: The Arozarena Show
Now cemented near the top of the Rays order, Arozarena shined brightest in three plays over the two-game sweep.
Most notably, he laced a triple during the first game of the Wild Card round and then came around to score the game’s first run on a wild pitch that Danny Jansen was too worried about the runner to track down in time.
Earlier in the game, Arozarena helped to keep the Blue Jays off the scoreboard as he made a stellar catch in left field, taking away a potential extra base hit from Jansen after the Blue Jays catcher laced a ball towards the left field corner.
Then, during game two, Arozarena recorded three hits — including two doubles — in four trips to the plate, the most notable was batting in the eighth run of the ballgame.
Here it’s worth noting that Jansen ultimately got his revenge. Arozarena’s only hiccup was an attempted steal of second base, where he made a slide that required a perfect throw from the Blue Jays catcher — which he unfortunately delivered. Tip of the cap, but nevertheless, this week has been Arozarena’s time to shine.
The league has now been put on notice to pay attention to the Rays latest weapon with Arozarena seeming like a budding superstar in Tampa Bay.
The Rays advanced to the Division Series with their defeat of the Blue Jays and will face the New York Yankees in the series opener on Monday, October 5th.