Who could be the Twins' Randy Arozarena?
Image courtesy of © Tim Heitman | 2020 Oct 20Arozarena was brought over from the St. Louis Cardinals as a throw-in component of a January trade that saw Tampa Bay ship out two top prospects - pitcher Matthew Liberatore and catcher Edgardo Rodriguez - in exchange for pitcher Jose Martinez and immediately slotted in as the 19th best prospect in the Rays’ farm system. MLB.com’s scouting report described him as a raw outfield talent with decent power potential and good speed who “profiles as more of a bench outfielder” than an everyday starter.
The 25-year-old Cuban debuted for St. Louis in 2019, where he produced 0.2 WAR, a .891 OPS, and a .200 ISO over the course of 23 at-bats. However, after the trade and with more readily available playing time in the outfield of The Trop, Arozarena’s numbers rose to 0.8 WAR, 1.023 OPS, and a .359 ISO in 76 regular season at-bats.
Arozarena’s rise from random low-tier prospect in his mid-20s to a legitimate contributor on the American League East’s best team would have been a great feel good story in and of itself...but then along came the playoffs where his numbers have ballooned even further - he boasts a 1.222 OPS and .426 ISO in 69 ABs - on his way to being named the ALCS MVP.
Developing a prospect much like the Rays have with their newfound star outfielder is the dream for the 29 other MLB franchises, though the feasibility of doing so is rather low; it is difficult to make chicken salad out of, well, you know. Tampa Bay has established itself over the years as the gold standard for prospect development and helping their athletes achieve levels of play that many thought highly unlikely, or in some cases impossible.
The Minnesota Twins have emerged over the last couple of seasons as another team that has been able to derive more bang from their proverbial buck as it pertains to their young and inexperienced players. So that begs the question: Do the Twins have any candidates to have a breakout season in the mold of Arozarena in 2021?
The short answer is, probably not.
The majority of the Twins’ MLB-ready outfield prospects - Kiriloff (2), Larnach (3), Rooker (12) - rank in their top 15 according to MLB.com and their overall skill sets are stronger and differ than that of Arozarena (though Rooker is probably the closest of the three). However, glancing further down the list of prospects reveals a few names that have the potential to become Arozarena-types two or three years down the line.
Misael Urbina, 18, Rookie Ball
Urbina has an overall similar body type to that of Arozarena - approximately six-feet tall and 180ish lbs - though MLB.com grades his run and field tool slightly faster (they also have Arozarena with a stronger arm). At the ripe old age of 18-years-young, Urbina has plenty of time to grow into his body and develop the kind of power numbers that will rival those of Arozarena. He produced a .825 OPS and .164 ISO in 217 ABs during his lone minor league season.
Alerick Soularie, 21, Fort Myers Miracle
Soularie was the Twins’ second round pick in the 2020 MLB draft almost solely due to his potential to unlock a 20-30 home run per season swing. He clubbed the ball during his final season at the University of Tennessee - 1.068 OPS - but possesses neither the speed nor arm strength to call any outfield position his home, according to MLB.com. He did not appear in a game in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Matt Wallner, 22, Cedar Rapids Kernels
Wallner is much bigger than Arozarena - 6’5”, 220 lbs - however, his minor league numbers approximate those of the Rays’ rookie. His strikeout and walk percentages correlate closely with Arozarena and he has produced similar ISO and OPS numbers as well through his young minor league career. Wallner’s arm grades out stronger than that of Arozarena’s, but both figure to be corner outfielders primarily in the majors, according to MLB.com.
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