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Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco nominated for Rookie of the Year

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Arozarena is the long running favorite, but Wander’s inclusion is a surprise.

Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The BBWAA has unveiled the finalists for the American League Rookie of the Year, and surprisingly two Rays are on the list: Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco.

Franco qualifies for the award in 2021 having played beyond the rookie eligibility criteria this season for the award (130 AB/50 IP and 45 days on the 26 man roster), and his becoming a finalist comes at the expense of a slugger from Texas named Adolis Garcia.

Here’s how those three hitters compare.

Among these categories Arozarena is the leader in Wins Above Replacement, OBP and BB%, Stolen Bases, wRC+ and wOBA (green highlighting below), still leaving him as the presumptive favorite.

It’s the comparison between Garcia and Franco that is the more surprising result. Despite playing in just under half the amount of games and plate appearances as Garcia, baseball’s top prospect Franco showcased enough talent to knock Garcia out of the running.

Given that lack of playing time, it seems unlikely that Franco will rob the award from his teammate; then again Franco might have shown enough in his limited appearances to sway the voters. Or maybe the two Rays rookies split the vote entirely and the third candidate wins the award.

The third candidate is Houston starter Luis Garcia who made 30 appearances in 2021, throwing 155.1 IP with a 3.30 ERA, 3.63 FIP, and 3.1 WAR. The next closest rookie pitcher was yet another Rays player in Shane McClanahan, who had 25 appearances and 123.1 IP with a 3.43 ERA, 3.31 FIP and 2.5 WAR.

At the end of the day, I anticipate Arozarena still claims the award thanks to his post season performance from 2020 lingering in the minds of voters, and three Rays rookies in the top five of the voting. The results will be released on November 15th.

This is the second time the Rays have had two ROY finalists in the top three following Wil Myers and Chris Archer placing first and third in 2013. Other former Rays to win rookie of the year are JeremyHellickson in 2011 and Evan Longoria in 2008.

Related, the Rays will also have manager Kevin Cash nominated for Manager of the Year in 2021, which will be announced on November 16th. He won the award in 2020, while one of his former coaches Rocco Baldelli won in 2019.

Joe Maddon previously won the award while with the Rays in 2011 and 2008.