Just how remarkable? According to data from thebaseballgauge.com, only two players — both Yankees — have ever hit .600 with three home runs in a postseason series: Babe Ruth in the 1928 World Series and Hideki Matsui in the 2009 World Series. This series is not over, of course, but with a .667 average to go with his three homers, Arozarena could join the list.
“I’ve always considered myself a pretty good player, also a pretty good hitter,” he said through an interpreter this week. “I work hard and train hard in doing so. Ever since the minor leagues and my time in Cuba, I’ve always hit, and I’ve always carried those results over wherever I’ve been.”
Arozarena, a left fielder, defected to Mexico before signing with the Cardinals for $1.25 million in 2016. In 92 games between Class AA and AAA last season, he hit .344 with 15 homers, 17 steals and a 1.003 on-base plus slugging percentage.
He played briefly for the Cardinals and was part of their playoff roster, earning a spot in social-media infamy for live-streaming a private clinching celebration, including a feisty speech by Manager Mike Shildt. The Cardinals excused the mistake, but with a glut of outfielders, they traded Arozarena to the Rays in a deal for Matthew Liberatore, a 20-year-old left-hander considered one of the best pitchers in the minors.
Most low-payroll teams would hold tightly to a prospect like Liberatore, but Tampa Bay revels in the unorthodox. The Rays were eager to build off last year’s playoff appearance and believed Arozarena had the strike-zone recognition and all-around skills to help right away.
“He put together back-to-back seasons that really caught our eye and the guys were excited about,” Cash said. “Then he comes into Port Charlotte in the normal spring training 1.0 and did above and beyond that. We saw the athleticism, the ability to hit to all fields and cover a lot of ground in the outfield.”
Arozarena did not quite hit .600 in the Florida exhibition season, but he was 8 for 12 with a .586 on-base percentage when the pandemic shut things down. When the Rays re-convened for summer camp, Arozarena tested positive for Covid-19. Though he was said to be asymptomatic, it took several weeks for him to test negative.