Manny Machado Named National League MVP Finalist

Manny Machado has proven his most valuable status…

The 28-year-old Dominican-American professional baseball player and San Diego Padres third baseman and shortstop has been named a finalist in the MLB’s National League MVP race.

Manny Machado

Machado, who hit .304 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs for the Padres this season, is nominated alongside Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Atlanta Braves star Freddie Freeman, after balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Meanwhile, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom is going for his third consecutive National League Cy Young Award. He’s facing off Trevor Bauer and Yu Darvish for the honor.

The top three finishers for each BBWAA award were revealed Monday. The winners will be announced next week.

Balloting for the BBWAA awards was completed before the start of the postseason.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Cleveland Indians infielder Jose Ramirez and New York Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu are the top three finishers in voting for the American League MVP award.

LeMahieu, who hit a big league-best .364, and Bauer are free agents after starring during the pandemic-shortened season.

Indian’ pitcher Shane Bieber joined Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda and Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu as finalists for the American League Cy Young Award.

The top finishers in voting for American League Manager of the Year are Tampa Bay RaysKevin Cash, Toronto OriolesCharlie Montoyo and Rick Renteria, who was let go by the Chicago White Sox after the team made the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Miami’s Don Mattingly, San Diego’s Jayce Tingler and the Cubs’ David Ross are the finalists for NL Manager of the Year. Tingler and Ross just completed their first seasons as big league skippers.

The finalists for AL Rookie of the Year are Houston Astros right-hander Cristian Javier and center fielders Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners and Luis Robert of the White Sox. Philadelphia Phillies infielder Alec Bohm, Padres infielder Jake Cronenworth and Milwaukee Brewers reliever Devin Williams are the top finishers for the National League rookie award.

Wonderfilm Media Developing Biopic About Tampa Bay Rays’ Breakout Star Randy Arozarena

Randy Arozarena’s life story is headed to the big screen…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder and Tampa Bay Rays rookie, who broke the MLB record for most home runs and hits in a single postseason, will be the focus of a biopic from Wonderfilm Media.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena, the Rays’ breakout star, came from Cuba and fueled his team’s run to the World Series, which eventually went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games.

Brad Gann, the screenwriter of the Mark Wahlberg-led Invincible and a co-writer of pro surfer Bethany Hamilton biopic Soul Surfer, will write the screenplay.

Arozarena’s story is inspiring. He escaped Cuba on a makeshift boat, landed in Mexico, and started a new life there before making his way to the U.S. and eventually, his Major League Baseball debut in 2017.

Arozarena currently holds the MLB record for most home runs in a single postseason with 10. In his rookie postseason, Arozarena broke Barry Bonds’ record for most home runs as well as Derek Jeter’s record for most hits by a rookie. He was also named MVP of the ALCS.

Rays’ Randy Arozarena Breaks Record for Most Hits in Single Postseason

Randy Arozarena is breaking records like theyre going out of style

 

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder and Tampa Bay Rays rookie, who had already set the MLB record for most home runs in a postseason, now owns the record for most hits in a single postseason after his third-inning base hit off Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in Sunday’s Game 5 of the World Series.

Randy Arozarena

 

Arozarena hit a 1-2 slider to left field for his 27th hit this postseason. He was tied with Pablo Sandoval, who had 26 hits in the 2014 postseason. The single brought home Yandy Diaz, who had tripled.

 

It was the first of Arozarena’s 27 hits with a runner in scoring position. Arozarena was previously 0-for-6 in that category.

 

“Pretty special. Pretty special,” manager Kevin Cash said after the Rays’ 4-2 loss to the Dodgers that left Tampa Bay in a 3-2 series deficit. “He wanted the ball, too. I noticed that. He asked for the ball. Congrats to Randy.”

 

After reaching first base, he signaled for someone to get the ball for him as a keepsake. Arozarena also has a record nine home runs in his first playoff experience, while Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is right behind him with eight.

Game 6 is Tuesday at Globe Life Field.

Randy Arozarena Becomes First MLB Player to Hit Nine Home Runs in Single Postseason

Randy Arozarena is still making history…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder and Tampa Bay Rays rookie has become the first player to hit nine home runs in a single postseason after taking Los Angeles Dodgers starter Julio Urias deep to right field in the fourth inning of Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena already holds the rookie hit record for a single postseason, set in Game 3, while breaking a four-way tie for most home runs.

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager also homered in Game 4 and has eight this postseason.

Arozarena later scored the winning run on Brett Phillips‘ walk-off single, as the Rays beat the Dodgers 8-7 in Game 4 to even the World Series at two games apiece.

Arozarena actually fell down rounding third base, but after Dodgers catcher Will Smith couldn’t handle the relay throw, the Rays’ rookie was able to make it home with the winning run.

Randy Arozarena

“All I was thinking about was just running hard,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “Running hard as I could. Once I got to a certain spot, I saw that the ball got bobbled. I got sent home. I tripped. … I was actually trying to get back to third base because I knew we had already tied the game so, if anything, I was just trying to get in a rundown. Then, I saw the ball get past him, so I turned around and scored.”

Arozarena also holds the record for total bases in a single postseason. He singled to lead off the sixth inning Saturday night, tying Pablo Sandoval for most hits by any player in one postseason.

The 2020 playoffs featured an extra round, meaning Arozarena is playing in his 18th playoff game already.

Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds are the three other players — along with Seager — to hit eight home runs in a single postseason.

Randy Arozarena Named American League Championship Series MVP After Hitting Four Homers vs. Houston Astros

Randy Arozarena is the man of  the hour…

The 25-year-old Cuban professional baseball outfielder continued his historic postseason run on Saturday with his seventh homer, a two-run shot in the first inning that gave theTampa Bay Rays a lead it never relinquished against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

Randy Arozarena

Arozarena was named MVP of the ALCS, becoming the fourth rookie — and first rookie position player — to be named MVP of a league championship series.

He has homered seven times during this year’s playoffs, just one shy of the Major League Baseball record, and now has 47 total bases since the regular season ended.

Tampa Baywill now head to the World Series after holding off baseball’s most infamous team. The Rays beat the Astros 4-2 in Game 7, ending Houston’s bid to become the second team in baseball history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.

“It goes without saying this has been a weird year,” Rays Game 7 starter — and winner — Charlie Morton said. “It was pretty apparent early on the guys had bought into each other during this time.

“It was very challenging, because at first everything was about the protocols and trying to keep guys safe. Just guys come onto the field every day, knowing they could get sick, and staff coming in, and just a ton of work by people behind the scenes. I am so proud of these guys.”

The formula for the Rays is consistency, and it was very much evident in Game 7. They stifle the opposition. They catch the ball on defense. And they ride just enough home runs on offense to bring home the win.

The Rays now head to their second World Series in franchise history. The last time they played in the Fall Classic was in 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Tampa Bay entered the first 16-team playoff format in baseball history with a 40-20 record, tops in the AL, and thus earned the Junior Circuit’s No. 1 seed. That top seed held up, even though the Rays had to recover from losing three straight to Houston after winning the first three contests.

“Pretty special feeling,” Cash said. “I don’t know if I’ve had many better [moments] other than getting married and having three kids. This is right there below that. It can’t get much better than that. This is a special group to be a part of.”

For Houston, it was an emotional loss after a tumultuous season for the organization. The Astros were embroiled in a sign-stealing scandal last winter that tainted their 2017 World Series title and cost manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs.

“The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “These guys are men; they have been through a whole bunch other than on the ballfield. [Now] these guys can forget the problems they had that is out there and come together as a group and be forever friends.”

Hinch’s replacement, the 71-year-old Baker, helped restore some of the goodwill the Astros squandered. But with the Game 7 loss, Baker is still looking for the first championship of a managerial career that began in 1993. Yet, in 2020, there was much more that was brought into perspective.

“You go home and you regroup,” Baker said. “Personally, when I think of [former MLB executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, whose] funeral was today, and you think about the many friends I have lost over the last month, six months. That is the reality of life. Those are far greater losses than losing a ballgame.”

Carlos Correa Hits Game-Winning Home Run to Keep the Houston Astros Alive in the American League Championship Series

It’s a swing and a win for Carlos Correa

The 26-year-old Puerto Rican professional baseball player and Houston Astros shortstop smacked his sixth home run of the postseason, a walk-off homer to centerfield, to propel his team to a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday at San Diego’s Petco Park.

Carlos Correa

 

Game 6 of the series, which the Rays lead 3-2, will take place at 5:07 p.m. on Friday.

“I don’t want to go home yet,” Correa said in TBS‘ on-field interview. “We were down 0-3, we had a players meeting in the clubhouse and we said we don’t want to go home yet, so we better do something about it. We’re down 2-3 and still have a lot of work to do, but it’s a good start.”

The Astros held on a to slim 3-2 lead heading into the eighth before Ji-Man Choi blasted a ball off Astros reliever Josh James 447 feet to right field to tie the game.

The Astros got off to a quick start when George Springer took the first pitch from Rays starter John Curtiss deep to left field for a solo home run.

The Rays tied things up with a Brandon Lowe homer off reliever Blake Taylor in the third.

The Astros regained the lead with a Michael Brantley single to right that scored Josh Reddick and Martin Maldonado.

The Rays’ Randy Arozarena hit a solo homer off Astros reliever Enoli Paredes in the fifth.

The Astros used seven different pitches with the first five being rookies. Luis Garcia, who had made just one start in his big league career, pitched two shutout innings, despite loading the bases in the second. From there, Taylor got a couple outs before handing off to Paredes, who got five outs. Andre Scrubb got four outs, then Brooks Raley threw a scoreless inning. James gave up the homer in the eighth before Ryan Pressly entered to get the game’s final four outs.

The Astros will have Framber Valdez on the mound for Game 6 with a fully rested Lance McCullers ready to go in a Game 7 if they get that far.

Deivi Garcia to Become Youngest Pitcher to Start a Playoff Game in New York Yankees’ Postseason History

Deivi Garcia is set to make baseball history…

The 21-year-old Dominican-born professional baseball player will start in Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, making him the youngest pitcher to start a playoff game in Yankees’ postseason history and the 5th-youngest in AL postseason history, per ESPN Stats Info.

It’s a bold stroke for manager Aaron Boone. Garcia made just six starts during the regular season in his first taste of MLB action. Garcia held his own, going 3-2 with a 4.98 ERA/4.15 FIP and 8.7 K/9 to 1.6 BB/9. His command was particularly impressive, never having limited free passes at such a stringent rate at any point in his minor league career when it’s typical for young players to struggle more with their command upon promotion to the big league.

“We deliberated on that a lot over the last several days,” Boone said ahead of Game 1 of the ALDS at Petco Park. “Masa [Masahiro Tanaka] will now go in Game 3. So just like slot and Deivi in between Cole and Masa was the way we wanted to go.

“I think the way he’s pitched, and the way he’s handled himself and handled every situation so far. I felt like I wanted to go this way a couple days ago but wanted to continue to flesh it out because we could. Ultimately today, this morning, decided this the way I wanted to go. I just felt [we had] a lot of good options there, [different] ways we could have gone. I don’t worry about him not being able to handle it, mentally, emotionally and all those things and I know he’s looking forward to it.”

The rookie concurred.

“Super excited,” Garcia said of his reaction upon hearing the news from Boone. “When they finally told me that I was going to get the ball for Game 2. What can I say? Just so excited about it. At the same time, very thankful for the opportunity and I will try to go out there and do the best I can.”

Garcia’s 5’9″ stature and electric stuff has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez early in his career, and while that’s quite a lofty comparison at this stage, he certainly looks more and more like a player with cult potential in New York.

Over the small sample of major league innings we’ve seen so far, Garcia averages a 91.9 mph four-seamer that serves as the bedrock offering in his arsenal, throwing it about 60% of the time, often up. The Dominican righty utilizes an 80.6 mph change-up away against lefties while mixing in a breaking ball about 12.5% of the time. Against right-handed batters, he goes to a slider/curveball combo more frequently, giving equal love to the slider and curve for a total usage rate of about 33%. He was the Yankees No. 1 prospect coming into the season.

Wander Franco, the MLB’s Top Prospect, Added to Tampa Bay Ray’s 60-Man Player Pool

There’s a ray(s) of sunshine for Wander Franco

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball player’s named has been added tothe Tampa Bay Rays ‘60-man player pool.

wander-franco

Sunday was the deadline for teams to submit player pools, although additions can be made later. Many teams announced pools well below the 60-player limit.

Franco, who plays shortstop, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He spent last season at Class A, so it would be quite a jump for him to contribute in the majors in the immediate future, but putting him in the player pool makes him an option for the Rays — and could help his development in a year when the coronavirus shut down the minor leagues.

Pitcher Brendan McKay and infielder Vidal Brujan, two other top Tampa Bay prospects, also made the pool.

“They are some of our more advanced prospects,” says Rays general manager Erik Neander. “Certainly on the position player side that’s where things went and why Wander was a leading candidate for a spot.”

Franco signed with the Rays in July 2017. He made his professional debut in 2018 with the Princeton Rays. In 2018, at only 17 years old, Franco was named the 2018 Appalachian League Player of the Year after hitting .374/.445/.636 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs over 245 plate appearances for Princeton .

Prior to the 2019 season, Franco was ranked as the fourth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He began the season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He was promoted to the Charlotte Stone Crabs on June 25. He was named to the 2019 All-Star Futures Game.

Wander Franco to Play for Dominican Republic Team for Olympic Qualifing Tournament

Wander Franco is hoping to hit the field at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The 19-year-old Dominican professional baseball shortstop in the Tampa Bay Raysorganization, the top prospect in Major League Baseball, and longtime star Jose Bautista plan to play for the Dominican Republic as the country tries to qualify for the Olympics later this month, according to ESPN.

Wander Franco

Franco, who turned 19 on Sunday, would strengthen a Dominican team jockeying for one of the remaining two qualifying spots in baseball’s return to the Olympics after a 12-year hiatus. He and Bautista, 39, would round out a roster that faces strong competition at the Americas Qualifying Eventon March 22-26 in Tempe and Surprise, Arizona.

Among the teams vying to win the tournament and its single qualifying spot: The Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. 

The winner will join host nation Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea, who already have qualified, while the second- and third-place teams at the event will have an opportunity to lock up the sixth spot at the final qualifying tournament. 

Originally scheduled to be held in Taiwan from April 1-5, the tournament was postponed Sunday because of coronavirus fears until June 17-21 — barely a month before the Tokyo Games’ opening ceremony.

The additions of Franco and Arizona Diamondbacksinfielder Geraldo Perdomo, 20, to the Dominican roster will give the team perhaps the most dynamic middle infield in the tournament. Franco is a transcendent talent who evaluators believe could play in the major leagues today — a powerful, speedy, contact-oriented switch hitter whose slick glove and strong arm allow him to patrol shortstop with aplomb.

While not as highly touted, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Perdomo is an elite athlete whose eye and bat-to-ball talents were rare for someone who played all of last season at 19. A natural shortstop, he played about half his games during the Arizona Fall League at second base and will return there for the Dominican team.

Bautista is expected to play first base, a position he manned 30 times in more than 1,650 major league games during which he hit 344 home runs and drove in nearly 1,000 runs. He last played in the major leagues in 2018, though he spent this winter working out as a pitcher in hopes of returning as a two-way player, sources said. Bautista, who represented the D.R. in the 2009 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, may not pitch in the qualifier but is expected to play a significant role as the D.R. faces Puerto Rico, the United States and Nicaragua during the tournament’s round-robin first round. The two best teams from each four-team pool will face off in a final round that awards the winner and keeps the second- and third-place teams alive.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed last week to allow players who are on teams’ 40-man rosters but not active in the major leagues to join their countries’ qualifying-event teams. The potential infusion of talent could theoretically help a team like the United States, which suffered an embarrassing loss to Mexico at the Premier12tournament in November that prevented Team USAfrom qualifying.

Jose Martinez Traded to the Tampa Bay Rays

Jose Martinez is headed to the Sunshine State…

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded the 31-year-old Venezuelan professional baseball player and Randy Arozarena to the Tampa Bay Rays for touted left-handed pitching prospect Matt Liberatore and low-level catching prospect Edgardo Rodriguez, the teams announced Thursday night.

Jose Martinez,

St. Louis also sent a competitive balance Round A pick (38th overall) to Tampa Bay, which sent its Round B pick (66th overall) to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals and Rays had been in active conversations with multiple teams as Tampa Bay tried to add outfield help and St. Louis sought to divest itself of its surplus, according to sources with knowledge of the teams’ intentions.

Liberatore, 20, is a consensus top-100 prospect and is regarded by some as the second-best left-handed prospect in the minor leagues behind San Diego’s MacKenzie Gore.

Chosen with the 16th pick of the 2018 draft, Liberatore spent 2019 in the Rays’ low-A affiliate with Bowling Green of the Midwest League and posted a 3.10 ERA over 78⅓ innings. He struck out 76, walked 31 and allowed only two home runs.

With a farm system regarded as the best in baseball, Tampa Bay reached into its cache of prospects to supplement its major league team, which won the American Leaguewild-card game and took the Houston Astrosto a deciding fifth game in the division series.

The Rays had been targeting outfield help to complement left fielder Hunter Renfroe, center fielder Kevin Kiermaierand right fielder Austin Meadows. They should get it with Martinez, a right-handed batter who hit .305 with 17 home runs and 83 RBIs in 2018. His numbers dipped some this past season, as Martinez posted a .269-10-42 line and missed time in August with a shoulder injury.

Martinez has a .296 batting average since his first full season in the majors in 2017, which is the eighth-best mark in the National Leagueamong the 83 players with at least 1,000 at bats, per ESPN Stats & Informationresearch.

The speedy Arozarena, meanwhile, was called up by St. Louis in August when Martinez went on the injured list. The Cuba-born 24-year-old was hitting .344 in the minors before his call-up, and then went 6-for-20 for the Cards during the regular season before making five postseason appearances (0-for-4). 

Rodriguez, 19, was in the Gulf Coast League this past season, hitting .400 in limited action (25 at-bats).