Arozarena, Cruz, Zunino named Silver Slugger Finalists

Despite the Rays suffering an early exit in the 2021 postseason, this past week has brought much-needed positive news to the Tampa Bay area.

On Monday, the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award finalists were announced, and three Rays players: Randy Arozarena, Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino, were named finalists at their respective positions.

It’s the first Silver Slugger finalist nomination for both Arozarena and Zunino and Cruz, a four-time Silver Slugger winner himself, is a regular during awards season.

2021 was a breakout year for Zunino behind the plate as he set career-highs in home runs, runs scored, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+, wRC+ and WAR. He hit 33 home runs in just 109 games played, finishing second to only Salvador Perez in homers as a catcher.

However, his numbers averaged out over a full season would rival that of Salvy, who set a new MLB single-season record for most home runs as a catcher in 2021.

Cruz, despite becoming the oldest player in league history to hit 30+ home runs in a season, struggled in a Rays uniform, posting a .725 OPS and 103 OPS+ in 55 games. His numbers in Minnesota were more than enough to nominate him as a finalist for DH.

Arozarena had an impressive first full season in MLB, hitting .274/.356/.459 with 20 home runs, 69 RBI, 32 doubles, 94 runs scored and a 131 OPS+. His 4.2 bWAR was first among all rookies this season.

The most notable and egregious omission of any player, not only on the Rays, but in all of baseball, was Brandon Lowe. Somehow, DJ LeMahieu, who was a league-average/below league-average hitter this season, was nominated over Lowe, but we’ll discuss that in a separate article.

Winners will be announced on MLB Network on Nov. 11 at 6 PM EST.

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