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They have come into this season with very different experiences in the Major League, but Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India leave the same way, each being named their league’s rookie winner became the annual price on Monday.
The awards given annually by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America came as no surprise: Arozarena (4.1) and India (3.9) were the top rookies in the majors in wins over replacements, each playing a central one Role in his team success that year.
Arozarena, who led the American League rookies in hits (145), runs (94), doubles (32), stolen bases (20) and on-base plus slugging percent (0.815), received 22 votes for first place and beat his fellow finalists, pitcher Luis Garcia of the Houston Astros and shortstop Wander Franco of the Rays, each of whom received two. Texas Rangers’ Adolis García got three votes in first place but wasn’t a finalist as Garcia and Franco got more votes in second place.
India, which led the National League rookies in Runs (98), Doubles (34), Runs Batted in (69), Walks (71) and OPS (0.835), received 29 votes out of 30 for first place. He beat fellow finalists, pitcher Trevor Rogers of the Miami Marlins, who got the other vote in first place, and outfielder Dylan Carlson of the St. Louis Cardinals, who got three votes for second place and 13 votes for third place.
For Arozarena, 26, the only surprise about the award was that he was still eligible to receive it. The dynamic outfielder had played a major role in Tampa Bay’s run to the World Series in the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic, hitting .377 with 10 home runs in 20 post-season games. However, that feat came after just 84 regular bats total in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, which retained his rookie eligibility.
He reinforced his postseason breakthrough by being one of the key figures on a team that won 100 games in 2021. While the Rays were eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in a divisional series, Arozarena and Franco showed their worth in this short series with Arozarena carrying out a rare direct home theft.
Franco, 20, was the youngest of the finalists and had the least time in the majors, but managed to produce 3.5 WAR in just 70 games, most of them at shortstop. He reached the base in 43 consecutive games, pairing him with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson for the longest streak in AL or NL history by a player aged 20 or younger. Garcia, whose wobbly winding for the Astros made him stand out in the postseason, was the best rookie starter in the AL with a 3.48 ERA and 2.6 WAR.
While India, 24, didn’t get into the season with Arozarena’s postseason résumé or hype, he did almost as well, establishing himself as Cincinnati’s lead-off hitter and his most valued positional player on WAR. Number 5 in the 2018 draft, India rode strong spring training and made a spot on the Reds’ opening day list. When he made his major league debut by starting at second base in the first game of the season, he was the first rookie second baseman for the Reds since Pete Rose in 1963.
For voters, that was enough to trump Carlson’s defensive versatility and 3.2 WAR and solid pitching from Rogers, whose won lost record of 7-8 for the Marlins masked a great season of 2.64 ERA and 3.5 WAR.
While rookie classes can vary, 2021 featured a few promising players alongside the six finalists. Among them were thugs like García of the Rangers, who hit 31 homers and had 3.8 WAR, and Patrick Wisdom of the Chicago Cubs, who hit 28 homers with a 0.823 OPS
Top starters included Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays (9-2, 3.22 ERA) and Ian Anderson of the Atlanta Braves, who had a solid regular season (9-5, 3.58 ERA) and with a no-hitter in the world series.
The top rookie replacement was Garrett Whitlock of the Boston Red Sox, a rule 5 draft pick that Boston picked from the Yankees. He had 1.96 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 46 appearances.