As the 2021 regular season is clearly in the rearview mirror and the 2021 postseason is in full swing, it’s now time for us to look back and analyze the best players in the regular season. Most importantly though we want to look at the American League rookies and which player has the best odds to win the 2021 American League Rookie of the Year.
Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays (-180)
Randy Arozarena has been in the league since 2019 but has finally tallied enough playing time/at-bats to be considered a rookie. In order to maintain a player’s rookie eligibility, a player must be on the active MLB roster for less than 45 days, previous to September call-ups, and also have less than 130 at-bats. Arozarena appeared in 19 games and tallied 20 at-bats in 2019 for the Cardinals, and in 2020 tallied 23 games and 64 at-bats. So finally, in 2021, Randy Arozarena has had enough playing time to exceed his rookie limits, hence being the front runner for the American League Rookie of the Year.
Arozarena played in 141 of 162 games this year, for the best team in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays. In those 141 games, Arozarena posted a slash line of .274/.356/.459 with 20 home runs, 32 doubles, and 69 runs batted in. Those numbers equate to a 131 OPS+ with a WAR of 4.2.
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays (+350)
Wander Franco, the 20-year-old phenom came onto the scene for the Tampa Bay Rays, and not only helped the team amass the most wins in the American League, but also give him teammate, Arozarena a run for his money for the American League Rookie of the Year trophy.
Since being called up to the majors on June 22, Franco appeared in 70 regular-season games. In those 70 games, Franco produced a slash line of .288/.347/.463 with seven home runs, three triples, and 18 doubles. Those numbers equate to a 129 OPS+ and a WAR of 3.5. Franco’s WAR is only 0.7 points behind Arozarena, who appeared in 71 more games than the 20-year-old.
Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles (+500)
Ryan Mountcastle rounds out the top three for the American League Rookie of the Year award. Like the other two candidates, Mountcastle is also from the American League East Division, but the complete opposite, as the Orioles were the bottom dwellers of the division this season. Mountcastle appeared in 35 games for the Orioles last season, which as explained at the beginning, wasn’t enough for him to exceed his rookie limits. In 2020 Mountcastle produced a slash line of .333/.386/.492 with five home runs and 23 runs batted in.
Now, for his true rookie season of 2021. Mountcastle appeared in 144 games and amassing 586 plate appearances. In the 144 games this season, Mountcastle posted a slash line of .255/.309/.487 with 33 home runs, 23 doubles, and 89 runs driven in. Mountcastle seems like the typical all-or-nothing type player of 2021, as he also tallied 161 strikeouts during the season. Those numbers equate to an OPS+ of 112 and a WAR of 0.9.
When you break down and truly look at the numbers, I would say the Rookie of the Year race in the American League comes down to Arozarena and Franco. One of the biggest reasons why I’m going to go with Arozarena over his teammate is the fact that he played in twice as many games. If they played the same amount of games, I think Franco would win the award easily. I believe that Franco is going to have the better career in the end, but one thing that he won’t have is the Rookie of the Year Award.