The Rays announced Friday that they’ve placed outfielder Randy Arozarena on the Covid-19-related injured list and recalled fellow right-handed-hitting outfielder Jordan Luplow from Triple-A Durham. The league’s 2021 health-and-safety protocols stipulate a seven-day absence for close contacts.
Arozarena, 26, has been on a tear over his past 14 games, hitting at a .404/.443/.842 clip with six homers, five doubles and a triple in 61 trips to the plate. The 2020 postseason sensation has had a strong year all-around at the plate, turning in a .268/.344/.458 batting line that’s about 25 percent better than league average when weighted for his home park and league, by measure of wRC+.
With Arozarena away from the team for the immediate future, the Rays will turn to the recently acquired Luplow, who came over from Cleveland alongside righty reliever DJ Johnson in a trade that sent pitching prospect Peyton Battenfield back to the Indians. Luplow, 27, will be making his team debut the first time he steps into a game setting for Tampa Bay.
But while this’ll be Luplow’s first action with the Rays, it’s hardly his first exposure to the big leagues. He comes to the organization with more than three years of MLB service time, spread across parts of five seasons between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Luplow is a lifetime .222/.327/.452 hitter in the Majors but offers a skill set the Rays have often maximized: platoon excellence and generally strong defensive ratings in the outfield corners (with the ability to play center in a pinch). Patrick Kinas of NBC Sports tweets that Luplow has been getting some workouts in at first base, as well.
Luplow has had some uncharacteristic struggles against left-handed pitching in a small sample of 65 plate appearances so far in 2021, but over the course of his career, he’s quietly been one of baseball’s most powerful hitters against southpaws. That’s not hyperbole, either. Despite this year’s struggles, Luplow is a career .251/.371/.556 hitter when holding the platoon advantage. Focusing in only on his 2017-20 production, Luplow is a .275/.379/.603 hitter against lefties (154 wRC+).
The average isn’t especially high, and his OBP against lefties is strong but not elite, but Luplow’s .328 ISO (slugging minus batting average) in that stretch ranked fourth among 282 hitters with at least 250 plate appearances against lefties. The only names ahead of him are J.D. Martinez, Giancarlo Stanton and Nolan Arenado — impressive company for a player who has been a largely anonymous part-time outfielder.
The Rays can control Luplow for three more seasons after the 2021 campaign, so if he’s able to rediscover that form against lefties and right the ship in the season’s final months, he could be a long-term bench option for the Rays. He’d be a cost-effective one, at that, as Luplow’s part-time role suppresses his counting stats and will limit his earning power in arbitration. This offseason will mark his first time going through that arbitration process.