Randy Arozarena has big boots to fill coming into the 2021 season... his own.
That is what happens when you help lead your team to a World Series appearance while breaking or tying postseason records held by Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds.
You know, the type of accomplishments all rookies bring to a team.
The rise of Arozarena
The legend of Randy Arozarena is the type of story that is fit for the big screen. Not because I think so, but because he actually sold the rights to his story after the 2020 season. Even if we took the 2020 season as a standalone, it had the elements of an overcoming the monster story archetype.
Randy began the 2020 season diagnosed with COVID-19 which led to him starting the year at the alternate training site and then onto the COVID-19 Injured List and rehab until August 30. During his quarantine, Arozarena had a steady diet of chicken and rice and 300 push ups every day, and he translated that determination into game power in the majors.
He finished the regular season hitting .281/.382/.641 with seven home runs while appearing in 23 games. Then he took his September momentum into October and the postseason, hitting 377/.442/.831 with 10 HR in 20 postseason games.
Can he do it again?
The question leading into the 2021 season is how much of what we all witnessed from Arozarena is repeatable. With more time to analyze his game, there is certainly room to be skeptical if teams can figure out how to stop Arozarena.
It’s just not that simple.
The numbers and results are impressive, though, they do not provide the visual of the ease and beauty on display of Randy’s plate appearances. His hands are fast and his swing is ideal.
Orestes Destrade provided an overview of Randy’s swing back in September to showcase how his hands and flat swing make him a nemesis for opposing pitchers.
In addition to his quick hands, the speed he brings on the bases are an additional area of strength he brings to the table. His run scored as part of Brett Phillips’ walk-off in Game 4 of the World Series was a moment for the ages. It’s a moment that does not happen if not for his speed to be in position to score combined
The projections are fairly consistent in their view of what this season will look like for Arozarena. ZiPS and Steamer (via FanGraphs) and PECOTA (Baseball Prospectus) offer mild enthusiasm, with projections that would rank just outside the top-50 players in baseball.
None of the projections see as much power coming for Arozarena in 2021, which might be fair given the deadball’s return.
- Steamer: .259/.332/.450 with 24 home runs and 20 stolen bases with a 109 wRC+ in 607 plate appearances.
- ZiPS: .262/.339/.475 with 21 home runs and 16 stolen bases with a 117 wRC+ in 482 plate appearances.
- PECOTA: .249/.341/.453 with 24 home runs and 12 stolen bases with a 117 DRC+ in 585 plate appearances
If these projections hold true, Arozarena has a strong chance to become the third player in Rays history to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season joining BJ Upton and Tommy Pham.
“He’s the best player on the planet. He’s incredible.” Those were the words Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier used to describe Arozarena during the 2020 postseason.
If Arozarena plays up to the expectations of him in 2021, he can continue to emerge as one of the most exciting players in baseball. In addition to being fun to watch, it would not be surprising to see him add American League Rookie of the Year to his resume will not be a surprising end result.