Randy Arozarena was basically a middling prospect, some would even suggest a potentially failed one at 25 years of age, heading into the 2020 season. Things started slowly for the outfielder, but in the end the dude was a monster. After impressing during the regular season he’s gone nuclear in the playoffs. Who is this guy?
*Note there is no way I’m gonna type Arozarena over and over again. I’m just going with RA in this piece.
25 years old
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195 lbs.
THE NUMBERS – REGULAR SEASON MAJORS
*Stats from Baseball Reference.
THE NUMBERS – PLAYOFF VERSION
In 14 games before reaching the World Series, here are RA’s numbers: .382-7-10-14 with a 1.288 OPS.
His total of 21 playoff hits this season is the second most in playoff history for a rookie (Derek Jeter had 22 in 2017). Of course, that work doesn’t take into account the World Series, so the record is already his.
THE NUMBERS – REGULAR SEASON MINORS
RA was signed as a free agent by the Cardinals in August of 2016.
January of 2020 he was traded by the Cardinals with Jose Martinez and a supplemental first round pick to the Rays for Matthew Liberatore, Edgardo Rodriguez and a 2020 supplemental second round pick.
Here’s a quick scouting report on RA heading into 2019.
Overall viewed as a 45 type of player on the 20-80 scouting scale. That’s a bench player on an upper division team or a starter for a poor team. It’s not a very encouraging mark (both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America had that same mark of 45). You find notes in his profile with things like the following. Quick bat. Uses the field, gap-to-gap. Hit tool questionable though, and note likely to be more than a moderate power hitter at his peak. Adjustments come slowly. Way too much free swinging. Expands the strike zone. Super aggressive to his own detriment at the dish. An above average runner who could steal 10-15 bases a year in the bigs.
Nothing in that profile suggested what we have seen this season would happen.
THE 2019 SEASON
Despite the above scouting report, he performed exceedingly well last season. He went out and hit .344-15-53 with a 1.003 OPS over 92 games in the minors. Promoted to the bigs, he went .300-1-2 in 20 at-bats.
THE 2020 SEASON
Despite the impressive 2019 effort, he was dealt Then he was dealt in January ’20 to a Rays team that loves to platoon, but one that didn’t have a spot for him. He ended up playing a mere 23 games out of 60, but he was darn impressive with a .281-7-11-15-4 line, with a 1.022 OPS, in 76 plate appearances.
Then the playoffs happened as he morphed into a star right before our eyes.
Sometimes, guys develop slowly.
Sometimes they change their approach/swing at the dish.
Sometimes they refine their mental game.
Sometimes they are just given a chance.
First, he had Covid. Normally, a story that starts that way doesn’t end that well, but this is what happened with RA. He learned how to cook. He improved his diet. He started doing regular exercise. He added 15 lbs. to his rather svelte body and pushed his weight to nearly 200 lbs. He then spent a month at Port Charlotte camp to get back into shape, he showed up with the Rays and just never stopped hitting.
Lots of guys getting better shape, but that doesn’t always lead to a breakout effort. Remember, he was looked at as a guy who could hit 15 homers over a full season. He’s hit 14 homers this season, playoffs included (through the ALCS), in just 37 games.
Second, he changed his swing. RA noted how he changed things while still a member of the Cardinals in the offseason. “[A coach] changed my posture, I was a lot more crossed up at the time that he helped me open up so I can get a better angle towards the ball.” RA has also taken up a training method hitting with – a batting tee. Sometimes, it truly is the little things that make the difference.
Let’s absolve ourselves of the idea that he’s hitting 40 homers next season. Hell, let me suggest that even hitting 30 is likely as stretch. Yeah, I said it. Some reasons why.
RA had a 56.3 percent ground ball rate as a rookie.
This year RA had a 46.5 ground ball rate during the regular season.
He has a mark of 49.2 percent in the playoffs this year through the ALCS.
That’s a lot of ground balls. If we go back to 2019, that full season thing is important, here are the number of men who hit 30 homers with a 46 percent ground ball rate (min. 502 PA): Jose Abreu, Jose Altuve and Eloy Jimenez. Mind you, there were 38 qualifiers so the odds aren’t good.
Second, RA owns a stupid high 40 percent HR/FB rate during the regular season and 58.3 rate during the post season through the ALCS. No person who has ever lived… you know the rest of that sentence.
Third, his 5.6 percent launch angle as a rookie, and the 9.2 percent mark this season say no to the big homer push.
So, we know the power is regressing.
As for the average…
RA has a solid 8.1 percent walk rate. However, he had a 28.9 percent K-rate this season which is starting to get up there, though his early career mark is 26.3 percent (his 13.8 swinging strike rate suggests the K-rate could stay elevated). Remember, he can get wild with the strike zone. The resulting 0.27 BB/K this season, and 0.31 for his career, is only about ¾ of the league average number. Meanwhile, his contact rate was 64.7 percent, and that was miles from the 75.3 percent league average.
Pitchers fed him heaters during the regular season and he crushed them hitting .315 with a SLG of nearly .900 on the pitch. In the playoffs pitchers are adjusting and have dropped the fastball usage against him, but he’s taking his work on heaters to absurd levels this postseason, through the ALCS, with five homers and a 1.421 SLG on the pitching. Come on now.
His 44.2 hard hit rate in the regular season was solid. His 14 percent barrel rate was a significant number compared to the league average of below eight percent. Among players with 25 batted ball events, his 14.0 percent mark was 39th out of 438 while his hard-hit rate was 91st. He pulled 44 percent of his batted balls hitting 33 percent to the opposite field. I would note that, in a limited sample size of course, that he hit .227 with a 38 percent K-rate against righties which are obviously numbers to keep an eye on.
Sometimes players get into a groove. This is clearly one of those times. However, it is easy to forget just how small a sample size we are talking about here. In 2020 RA has 136 total plate appearances through the ALCS over 37 games. That’s not even a quarter of a regular season. He might have added some muscle and found a swing that works for him, but to extrapolate that to mean that he’s going to be an all-star in 2021, that’s a bridge I just can’t take at the moment. Given the venue of his breakout, the entire world has seen this power barrage in the playoffs, you can bet a good chunk of change that he’s going to be highly sought after in 2021. We will have to wait and see what that cost is before rendering final judgement, but I’m about 96 percent sure I’m going to suggest avoiding RA given what is likely to be an extremely high cost in fantasy baseball next season. He’s good, but he’s just not likely to be a star.