By Juan Páez
With the start of the playoff series, the regular round of the 2021 Major League Baseball season came to an end. With the last out of the knockout stage, the period of adding merits for the end-of-season awards, such as the Golden Gloves and the Most Valuable Player, ended. Precisely one of those awards, the American League Rookie of the Year, could have a Cuban player as the winner this year: Jose Adolis Garcia or Randy Arozarena.
Both West Indians had brilliant harvests. Garcia was the surprise of the Texas Rangers and remained a fundamental piece of the heart of the Texas lineup. Arozarena served again as one of the spark plugs for the Tampa Bay Rays, almost always at the top of the lineup.
To give you an idea, Adolis earned his first invitation to the All-Star Game and finished the season with 149 games played. He collected 141 hits, 26 doubles, two triples, 31 home runs, 90 RBIs, 77 runs scored, 32 walks, 194 strikeouts and even 16 stolen bases in 21 attempts. His offensive line ended the year at .243 / .286 / .454, accompanied by an OPS of .741. As a great merit, he broke the record for most home runs for a Rangers rookie, held by Pete Incaviglia (1986).
In Arozarena’s case, the skilled outfielder played 141 times and had 145 hits in his first full season in the majors. He fired 32 doubles, three doubles and 20 homers, with 69 made, 94 scored, 20 pads cheated in 30 attempts, 56 passports received, 170 fans and frequencies of .274 / .356 / .459 / .815. With those numbers, he became the first Cuban and first rookie for the Rays with a season of 20+ full-turn hits and 20+ stolen bases.
If Adolis ends up lifting the Rookie of the Year trophy, he will be just the third player in Rangers history to do so, along with Naftalí Feliz (2010) and Mike Hargrove (1974). If it is Randy who gets it, it will be the fourth novice with that award in the Rays’ showcase, who saw Wil Myers (2013), Jeremy Hellickson (2011) and Evan Longoria (2008) win. If either of them turns out to be a voter favorite, the list of Cubans who have received the Rookie of the Year award will be expanded to six. So far, three Antilleans have won it since 2013: José Fernández (2013), José Abreu (2014), Yordan Álvarez (2019).
But the task will not be easy for them. While they could be the strongest candidates for their offensive and defensive contributions, the American League also has other prominent contenders. Position players Ryan Mountcastle (Baltimore) and Bobby Dalbec (Boston), as well as pitchers Alek Manoah (Toronto) and Luis García (Houston), are emerging as great rivals for the two Cubans in the voting for the precious award. Shortly after the last out of the World Series, in November, we will know if the happy winner will be a Cuban player.