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Randy Arozarena

Better know your pelotero, Part 1, the Rookies

Randy Arozarena highlights a strong crop of Latino rookies in 2021

Time has jumped forward an hour, the weather is heating up and peloteros are going plákata again. In just under a week, Opening Day will arrive and a new season will begin with some special rookies like Randy Arozarena.

Every season has its must-watch rookies, comeback kids, breakout stars and MVP performers. In this edition of Qué Onda, we’re going to tell you all about the peloteros you need to follow. This will be Part 1 of our “Better know your pelotero” series, with Part 2 releasing on Monday in advance of Opening Day. 

Before we can discuss the Latino aces and Most Valuable Peloteros of the league, we have to start with the niños, comeback candidates and breakout ballers. 

So let’s get started:

Los Niños 

It’s crazy to imagine that we’re soon to be three seasons removed from the excellent 2018 class of Latino rookies that gave us Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andújar, Seranthony Dominguez, Jorge Alfaro and Franmil Reyes. 

We may not see the debut of as many big names in 2021, but each of these players included will certainly make a big impact on their respective ball clubs and, potentially, the division races. 

Sixto Sánchez — RHP, Miami Marlins

It seems like we’ve been hearing about Sánchez for some time now, since the Philadelphia Phillies signed him in 2015 and later made him the centerpiece in the trade for catcher J.T. Realmuto. 

And for good reason. His stuff is electric. 

Baseball fans got their first glimpse of Sánchez in ‘20 when he pitched to the tune of a 3.46 ERA in seven starts, going 3-2 in the process with 33 strikeouts. 

Sánchez’s performance down the stretch earned him a spot on the Marlins’ postseason roster where he made two starts, including a legendary outing against the Cubs where he went pitch-for-pitch against Yu Darvish, tossing five shutout innings. 

Sporting the iconic No. 45 this season, expect Sánchez to firmly make a case for National League Rookie of the Year and NL Cy Young in the process. 

Randy Arozarena — OF, Tampa Bay Rays 

We’re just several months removed from Arozarena’s all-time October performance. It would appear that he’s ready to do it all over again, this time over a full 162-game slate. 

His rookie status is still intact. It’s easy to pin him as the odds on favorite to win the year-end award for the American League. 

Arozarena slashed .281/.382/.641 in 23 games for the Rays, clobbering seven home runs and swiping four bags to boot. In October, Arozarena went berserk, hitting .377/.442/.831, crushed 10 home runs, tallied 14 RBIs and had 29 hits overall in 20 games. 

Arozarena slashed .281/.382/.641 in 23 games for the Rays, clobbering seven home runs and swiping four bags to boot. In October, Arozarena went berserk, hitting .377/.442/.831, crushed 10 home runs, tallied 14 RBIs and had 29 hits overall in 20 games. 

It’s no secret that his bat can play and his speed could be an asset on the basepaths. Simply put: the AL Rookie of the Year award is his to lose.

Cristian Pache — OF, Atlanta Braves

Pache’s rise to the show is as unorthodox as it gets. In ‘20, Pache had just four plate appearances (Four!) before becoming the Braves’ center fielder for the NLCS, showing off his heralded glove and some pop in his bat. 

While he hasn’t exactly turned heads this spring with his bat (.172 average), Pache’s glove is platinum worthy. 

It stands to reason that Pache will have no problem finding playing time on the Braves in ‘21. With Adam Duvall on the rival Marlins and Nick Markakis retired, Pache almost certainly has the position on lock. 

Should his bat catch up to his glove, Pache could be another intriguing piece in Atlanta’s lineup that already features ‘20 NL MVP award winner Freddie Freeman, MVP candidate Acuña and slugger Marcell Ozuna. 

At the very least, we’ll see an all Latino outfield with Ozuna acting as the big bat in left field, Pache the defensive wizard in center and Acuña as the do-it-all guy in right.

Alejandro Kirk — C, Toronto Blue Jays 

The Blue Jays have a stacked lineup entering ‘21, and a surplus of catchers to go with it. 

As it stands, Toronto has five catchers on its 40-man with Danny Jansen leading the bunch as the de-facto starter. The lineup becomes that much better with Kirk as the backup to Jansen. 

In his cup of coffee at the Major League level, Kirk, the Mexico native, showed out with a .375 average in nine games with nine total hits, including one game with four hits alone. 

He’s come into camp noticeably slimmer, and has continued to show out in his 10 games played. 

With the AL East as stacked as it is, Kirk could just be the lineup addition that means the difference between the AL Wild Card and an October at home. 

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