The winner of the 2021 American League Rookie of the Year will be the twenty-fourth Latin American player from both circuits to obtain the Jackie Robinson trophy, which is presented annually by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) at the beginning of its recognitions to the Most outstanding players of the MLB season.
Cuban outfielder Randy Arozarena and Dominican infielder Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays and Venezuelan pitcher Luis García of the Houston Astros are the finalists for the young circuit award, while outfielder Dylan Carlson of the St. Louis Cardinals; second baseman Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds and pitcher Trevor Rogers of the Miami Marlins dispute the statuette in the National League.
Last week, the BBWAA advanced the three finalists to its “Grand Slam” trophy, which in addition to Rookie of the Year, includes Manager of the Year, Cy Young for pitchers and Most Valuable Player (MVP).
India hit .269 with 34 doubles, 21 homers, 12 steals, 98 runs and 3.9 WAR; Carlson .266 with 31 doubles, 18 home runs, 79 runs and 3.2 WAR, while left-hander Rogers finished with a 2.64 ERA, 157 strikeouts and 3.3 WAR in 133.0 innings and 25 starts.
The attention of Latin American fans is focused on the American League.
Arozarena, 26, started the season as the top seed for the award and did not disappoint. The Cuban hit .274 with 20 homers, 20 stolen bases, 94 runs scored and 4.2 WAR in 141 games, helping the Rays conquer the East Division for the second year in a row for the first time in their 24-season history.
Franco, 20, was MLB’s No. 1 prospect when he made his big-team debut on June 22. The infielder hit .288 with 30 extra-base hits, 53 runs scored and 3.5 WAR in 70 games. Franco reached base (by hit or BB) in 43 consecutive games, tying Frank Robinson’s major league record for players 20 and under that had held since 1956.
Garcia, 24, was one of the best pitchers on the Astros staff, reaching the World Series for the third time in the past five years. The Venezuelan right-hander was 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA and 2.6 WAR in 28 starts.
From where Venezuelan shortstop Luis Aparicio became first in 1956 to Cuban outfielder Yordan Álvarez in 2019, 23 Latin American players have received the Rookie of the Year award. Of the group, 13 made it into the American League.
By countries of origin of the winners, the Dominican Republic (7) leads the harvest, followed by Puerto Rico (6), Cuba (5), Venezuela (3), Mexico (1) and Panama (1). The Mexican Fernando Valenzuela (LN, 1981), the Dominican Neftali Feliz (LA, 2010) and the Cuban José Fernández (LN, 2013) are the only pitchers.