While All Eyes Are on Franco, Rays’ Arozarena Heats Up Again

Baseball card collectors and investors are in love with Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays. And why wouldn’t they be? Franco has been the golden child of the 2021 season since being called up to the Majors.

But what about his teammate, Randy Arozarena? Does anyone even remember how bonkers the hobby went for the Rays’ Cuban slugger during the 2020 post season?

And has hot as Franco has been and as much love as the hobby has been giving him, Arozarena has been tearing it up since the beginning of August and has quietly become the frontrunner for the 2021 AL Rookie of the Year Award.

Yes, you read that correctly. Last year’s post season hero could be this year’s Rookie of the Year.

Arozarena broke into the Major Leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019, playing in 19 games and getting 23 at bats. The Cardinals had signed him three years earlier as an international free agent. His first full professional season was in 2017, where he was a Florida State League All-Star with the Palm Beach Cardinals.

He represented the Cardinals in the 2018 All-Star Futures Game, and also showed some his post-season prowess. Arozarena and teammate Tommy Edman were named co-MVP of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

In the post-season, Arozarena caught fire. In 20 games, he had 29 hits and 10 home runs. He also became the first rookie position player to be named MVP of the ALCS, as the Rays beat the Astros to reach the World Series. He hit 10 home runs in the World Series, which established a new Major League record. His 29 hits also set a new record.

Because of his post-season heroics, the expectations were lofty for Arozarena’s first full Major League season. Arozarena has had ups and downs this year, including time off for COVID, and a situation at home where his wife, who was nine months pregnant, contracted COVID-19.

Better Numbers Than Franco

Since August 1, Arozarena has hit .364. His totals for the season improved to a .274 average with 17 home runs, 58 RBIs, 119 hits, 76 runs, a .351 on base percentage, a .455 slugging percentage, and an OPS of .806. He leads AL rookies in hits, runs, doubles and OPS.

Franco, on the other hand, did not start the season with the Rays. Since his call-up, he has a .272 average with six home runs and 32 RBIs, a .333 OBP and a .775 OPS.

Not only is Arozarena heading into September as the favorite to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award – a year after setting all of the post season hitting and home run records – but the Rays look like the team to beat in the American League. The post-season stage is awaiting Arozarena’s return.

The sports card market has certainly not kept pace with Arozarena’s recent return to success.

His rookie card listings in Beckett are peppered with down arrows. On eBay, there were no Arozarena cards that sold for more than $1,000. In fact, only two of his 2020 rookie cards sold for $1,000 by fixed auction on eBay over the last month, and both were PSA Graded 10. One was a 2020 Topps Update #U208 Clear 01/10, and the other is a 2020 Topps Chrome Update Sapphire Orange Refractor numbered to 25.

His base rookie cards are cheap enough that they can be had for the change that’s probably sitting in your car.

Randy Arozarena’s 2020 Topps rookie card features him with the St. Louis Cardinals. Arozarena broke into the Majors with the Cardinals in 2019, but they traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays before the 2020 season.

For collectors looking for a rare or high grade Arozarena RC, there some options out there as many collectors are reacting to the downward trend on his cards.  Unlike a lot of today’s players, though, his unusual path to the majors means he doesn’t have any traditional Bowman Chrome prospect cards, which means a less complicated search for potential targets.

The average price for an Arozarena rookie card over the last three months is less than $32–and that includes all of the numbered parallels and autographed cards factored into the calculation.

Of course, part of the downward trend is the market stabilizing itself after Arozarena’s super human performance in the 2020 post season. Whatever expectations there were for him, they were not realistic.

But here is something interesting. How will Franco and Arozarena drive each other in the sports card market if they both have a successful post season? The Rays are the team to beat in the AL. Consider that the Yankees went on a 13-game win streak and barely gained any ground on the red hot Rays. What will happen to both of their cards if the Rays win the World Series?

The question then is, can the hobby embrace two red hot players on the same team?

Of course it can. Think back to Jordan and Pippen, Gretzky and Messier, Montana and Rice. Fernando Tatis Jr. has not taken attention or value away from Manny Machado. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has not taken any focus away from Bo Bichette. And wait until next year when Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani are in the same line-up for a full season.

The bottom line is that Randy Arozarena is getting hot again, and it’s at the right time. And every collector or investor who jumped off the bandwagon and unloaded their Arozarena graded rare cards may soon regret their choice to sell.

About Jeff Morris

Jeff Morris is a hobby veteran who has been a collector for more than 50 years. Originally a hobby journalist, he became brand manager at Pinnacle, and then was an executive for Collector’s Edge and Shop at Home before joining Pacific Trading Cards as VP Marketing. He is the former editor and publisher of Canadian Sports Collector magazine, and he was also a columnist for ESPN.com.

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