The Rays nearly set a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak and went 11-2 overall from May 12-25, the two-week range of dates included in this Rookie Hot List. Entering Wednesday, they own the American League’s best record at 30-20 and sit a half-game ahead of the Red Sox in a crowded four-team AL East race. This run also coincided with Randy Arozarena’s return to stellar form. Coincidence? Likely not.
Arozarena set the baseball world ablaze last year when he set a playoff record with 10 homers in 20 games during Tampa Bay’s march to the World Series. However, he got off to a much more mundane start in 2021, hitting .258/.352/.371 with only three homers through the first 33 games.
His turnaround leads the latest edition of the Rookie Hot List:
1. Randy Arozarena, OF, Rays (graduated from Top 30)
Arozarena hit a stellar .321/.419/.623 over 62 plate appearances during this stretch, dating back to May 12. His four homers in that 13-game span exceeded the number he had hit through the previous first six weeks of the season. What’s more, he accomplished that power surge while walking more times (nine) than he struck out (eight). Arozarena continues to rank in the 85th percentile and above in average and max exit velocity, so there could be even more pop to come as he warms up in 2021.
2. Adolis García, OF, Rangers (not eligible for Top 30)
Even when the rest of his offensive game cools down, the Texas rookie’s power keeps on shining through. García slugged six homers over 12 games in this two-week window, and there were some memorable shots in there too. His three-run dinger on May 21 gave the Rangers a walk-off victory in 10 innings, and the next day, he added a pair of long balls for his second two-homer performance of the season. García hit .284/.314/.673 in his 51 plate appearances, underlining just how important power is to his profile.
3. Cody Poteet, RHP, Marlins (not ranked among Top 30)
The Marlins have gotten some strong performances from rookies in 2021, including many from another pitcher on this week’s Hot List. Poteet’s two-week stretch might be the most pleasantly surprising so far. The 2015 fourth-rounder was first called up on May 12 and fit immediately into the Miami rotation. He has posted a 1.06 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over his three starts for the Fish thus far, having allowed only two earned runs on 10 hits and two walks in 17 frames. He has struck out 13 batters in that time. His latest gem came Sunday when he blanked the Mets for seven innings, two more than he had pitched in either of his two previous outings. Poteet averages 93.7 mph on his fastball and mixes in a slider, curveball and change. Once a low-profile promotion, he is pitching like someone who belongs in the Majors.
4. Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers (graduated from Top 30)
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick has moved past 2020 and early-2021 struggles to become a consistent force in the Detroit rotation. Mize has enjoyed five straight quality starts dating back to April 29. During this latest two-week period in particular, the Tigers right-hander posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.75 WHIP with 17 strikeouts and only six walks in 20 innings. In May alone, his season ERA has dropped from 5.06 all the way down to 3.42. Mize has relied on forcing weak contact with his breaking pitches rather than trying to rack up K’s by the bunches, and it’ll be interesting to see how long that approach will remain as dominant as it has this month.
5. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves (graduated from Top 30)
Much like Arozarena, the Atlanta right-hander is rounding back into the form that made him a consistent performer in last year’s playoffs. Anderson threw six quality innings in each of his two starts during this period and allowed only one earned run on eight hits and four walks in 12 frames in that span. He struck out 10, including six in a scoreless performance against the Pirates last Friday. Anderson ranks second among rookies with 53 K’s this year behind only…
6. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Marlins (graduated from Top 30)
Yes, it is Rogers who leads all rookies with 70 strikeouts this season, 20 of which came over three starts (18 2/3 innings) since May 12. Rogers posted a 1.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP during that three-outing stretch, and he hasn’t allowed more than one earned run in any outing since May 2. He sports a 1.75 ERA and 1.12 WHIP on the season – numbers that not only will make him a Rookie of the Year contender but could earn him a healthy amount of down-ball NL Cy Young Award votes as well.
7. Bobby Dalbec, 1B, Red Sox (graduated from Top 30)
The Red Sox stuck with Dalbec at first base during some rough opening weeks to the season and are being rewarded for that faith now. Six of Dalbec’s eight hits during this two-week window went for extra bases, including three homers. In fact, the right-handed slugger has gone deep more times in his last 10 games (three) than he did in his previous 30 (two). Dalbec has slugged .625 since May 12 and posted a .939 OPS during that time, solidifying his place in Boston’s pursuit of a playoff spot.
8. Adbert Alzolay, RHP, Cubs (graduated from Top 30)
After a 2020 season pitching in multiple roles, Alzolay has settled into starting and continued to make himself a valuable member of the Chicago rotation in the last two weeks, thanks primarily to his control. Alzolay posted a 3.75 ERA and 0.83 WHIP over two starts (12 innings), striking out nine and walking none. The 26-year-old right-hander needed only 86 pitches to get through seven innings against the Cardinals on May 22, and 70 of those 86 were for strikes. Alzolay’s 4.2 percent walk rate ranks ninth in the Majors among the 108 pitchers with at least 40 innings this season, one spot above Jacob deGrom at 4.4 percent.
9. Ha-Seong Kim, INF, Padres (not eligible for Top 30)
Kim replaced Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop for the first segment of this span and Manny Machado at third for the back half, and his steady play has allowed San Diego to go 10-2 in the last two weeks. Kim has lived in the gaps since May 12, picking up 10 hits – six of which went for extra bases including four doubles. His season slugging percentage has jumped from .250 to .327 during this stretch. Kim also picked up three stolen bases, proving his speed and versatility can bring value to the NL West contenders.
10. Andrew Vaughn, OF/1B, White Sox (graduated from Top 30)
All you need to know about Vaughn’s placement on this list is this – he entered May 12 with zero homers in 23 games and proceeded to hit four in his next 14. He, Arozarena and García were the only rookies to go deep four or more times in the last two weeks. That’s more like the Vaughn that crushed 50 homers over three years at Cal, prompting the White Sox to take him third overall in 2019. The right-handed slugger wasn’t as consistent in other aspects of his offensive game – he went 9-for-46 (.196) with 15 strikeouts – but slugging .500 and putting up a .783 OPS over two weeks were positive steps for the 23-year-old trying to find his footing.