Written by: Jake Tillinghast
Follow him on Twitter: @JTillinghast27
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What a Postseason it has been for this man. A name the average baseball fan had no idea existed a few weeks ago, as is the case with most Rays players. But this one even more so. A rookie with extremely limited time in the big leagues, hitting in the heart of the lineup for the team with the best record in the AL will make people open some eyes. But he proved down the stretch he was ready for the pressure that comes with postseason baseball.
Where Did This Guy Come From??
The Cardinals signed Arozarena for $1.25 million in July 2016 Cuba by the St. Louis Cardinals, at the age of 21. So there was some reason to expect a potential late blossoming star. Produced well throughout the minor leagues. But was clearly the Cardinals didn’t see an avenue to everyday ABs for Arozarena so after a brief showing in 2019 with the big league club, the Cardinals shipped him off to the Rays.
The Rays acquired Outfielder Randy Arozarena, First Baseman/Outfielder Jose Martinez, and the Cardinals’ Competitive Balance Round A Draft Pick.
As they sent over to the Cardinals Left-Handed Pitching Prospect Matthew Liberatore, the Rays’ Pick in Competitive Balance Round B, and a lower-level minor league catching prospect.
If you are unaware, Matthew Liberatore is one of the best LHP Prospects in all of baseball. And currently ranked #3 in the Cardinals system per our Rankings, which can be found HERE.
The Start of Something Special
Randy was dealing with COVID-19 early in the season and wasn’t really able to do much due to being stuck in his house. He ate a heavy diet of Chicken and Rice and 300 push-ups a day. Clearly added some strength in the process…
Before September, Arozarena had just 5 AB for the Rays this season. During the month of September, he received 59 ABs. Here were his stats in that final month of September leading into the Postseason.
And if you want to count those 5 extra ABs prior to September, he posted a 90.3 MPH Avg Exit Velocity, 14% Barrel rate, 32.8% Sweet Spot, .416 wOBA, .447 xwOBAcon, 44.7% Hard Hit Rate on the season. To go with 96th percentile Speed according to Baseball Savant.
He flashed this type of potential throughout the minor leagues, was a highly touted prospect at the time of his signing, produced well throughout the minor leagues and ended the 2020 regular season extremely hot heading into the Postseason. So it’s not as if this guy is a complete nobody. He has legitimate tools and talent. Always has. And the Rays were able to bring it out of him at the best possible time.
Shocker, the Rays found the needle in the haystack.
Postseason Hero: Randy Arozarena
After the scorching hot month of September and his Wild Card Series performance against the Blue Jays that saw him go 4-8 with 1 BB, 1 Strikeout, 2 Doubles, and 1 Triple. Scoring 3 runs in those 2 games.
I tabbed Randy Arozarena as the Rays X-Factor for the ALDS series against the Yankees. And boy is he carrying over his torrid stretch and took it up another notch… As he has carried the Rays offense to a 2-1 series lead and just 1 win away from a trip to the ALCS.
Sit back and enjoy some highlights of Randy Arozarena throughout the Postseason. Showing off his Hitability to all fields, Power, Speed
ALDS Game 1: 3-4 | 1 HR | 1 RBI | 2 R
Going 3-3 vs Gerrit Cole producing Exit Velocity of… 107.3 MPH on the 1st inning HR, 102.6 MPH Single… 103.3 MPH Single… (Both singles were to RF) And his final At Bat that came against Chad Green was the hardest hit of the day for Arozarena. 111.4 MPH Lineout that had a .740 xBA according to Baseball Savant. 4 Hard Hit balls in the game (95+ MPH exit Velocity).
ALDS Game 2: 2-4 | 1 HR | 1 RBI
ANOTHER 1st inning BOMB for Randy coming off the bat at 100.1 MPH. His other hit, a single was once again hit hard at 104.5 MPH with an XBA of .910. His other 2 ABs, he grounded out and struck out. Yes. He is still human.
ALDS Game 3: 3-4 | 1 HR | 1 RBI | 2 R | 1 BB
Oh look, another multi-hit game. His first 2 ABs finding Singles with exit Velocities of 81.4 MPH and 102.7 MPH. His 3rd AB he Homered in his 3rd consecutive game of the ALDS. A 398 ft Shot to LF off the bat at 99.8 MPH. You can see the confidence he is playing with throughout the videos.
Shown above was 3 HR in each of the first 3 games of the ALDS. Arozarena took Gerrit Cole to CF in Game 1. Deivi Garcia to RF in Game 2. Masahiro Tanaka to the LF in Game 3.
Showing off power to all fields. That is backed by Elite Bat Speed, Strong Hip Separation, and Spine Tilt. Arozarena gets his front foot down early and keeps his weight and hands back ready to explode through the zone. At no time is he rushed in his approach and with his front foot consistently down early, allows him to track the ball longer through the zone and attack most any pitch and catch high velocity with that bat speed as you saw in that HR against Gerrit Cole. 96 MPH up in the zone. Granted it was a 2-0 pitch and was sitting dead red. But he didn’t miss his pitch.
The HR against Deivi Garcia, (another 1st inning blast) on a High and away Fastball in a 3-2 count. Not trying to do too much, not trying to pull it. A tough 3-2 pitch at 94 MPH. Not an easy pitch to put into the seats, for any hitter.
And how about the HR against Tanaka you ask? Let’s be honest… An Absolute meatball. I’m not sure why Aaron Boone left in Tanaka to face a RED HOT Arozarena in this situation. He had an arm ready in the pen. A clean inning. Instead, he left Tanaka in for 1 pitch to give up the HR and immediately be pulled.
The Power was the 1 tool that evaluators had questions on with him as he signed and worked his way through the minors, not sure if it would play at the games highest level. I think he has started to answer those questions pretty loudly. He likely won’t be a 30+ HR a season guy. But 20+ HR annually is well within reach with that type of bat speed and overall hitability. And could see a few 30+ HR seasons mixed in.
So far this postseason, Arozarena has posted an ungodly (and unsustainable) .600/.636/1.250/1.886 slash line. With 2 Doubles, 1 Triple, 3 HR, 4 RBI. 5 Games played.
Here is a video of Arozarena back in 2019 with the Cardinals minor league affiliate.
Notice the stance, knees are more bent, and no leg kick.
2 things that are featured now in Arozarena’s swing. Being more upright has helped him catch the high Fastball and use the entire field with more consistent ability without sacrificing much power. In fact, His power has taken a step forward with the new swing, as well as continued development. And that newly added strength we mentioned above.
He has a simple approach at the plate, quick leg kick, and early landing that allows him to see the ball early. And with his elite bat speed, he can put a great swing on virtually any ball in any location of the strike zone. High, low, in, and out.
Still rookie eligible heading into 2021. And a prime candidate for AL ROY honors. I’m buying into Randy Arozarena. Are you?
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