Yoel Araujo has needed to be patient with his teammates as they learned to pronounce his name. How would you guess to pronounce it? Don’t even try. Per a Rays press release it’s pronounced “Joel Ara-oo-hoo.” Good luck getting people to pronounce that right. But the patience regarding his name is just the start for Araujo. It’s tough to be a 17 year old kid given an $800,000 signing bonus right out of the Dominican Republic. When that type of money is paid, people want to see immediately results, instant dividends. But especially with a player so young, that’s not the way it works. But the Rays have calmly waited as they have watched Araujo play his two first years as a professional and they are finally starting to see some flashes the player they were so excited about back in 2010.
Araujo is an athletic 6’0″, 190 and stands out most for his above-average speed and great power potential. His swing got long at times and his arm was just average for an outfielder, but the Rays hoped that his game will come together. Things didn’t start out so well. In 2011, Araujo played for the Rays’ Dominican Summer League team and posted just a .221/.348/.379 line with 11 doubles, 5 homers, 23 RBI, 6 of 8 stolen bases, and 76 strikeouts versus 32 walks in 57 games and 228 plate appearances. The Rays hoped that he would be better in his first season in the US in 2012.
Araujo was left back in extended spring training before reporting to the GCL Rays in June. In 7 games, he hit just .167 with 9 strikeouts versus just 1 walk before heading back to extended spring training. After returning in late July, he hit just .217 in 6 games to close out the month, striking out 7 times versus not a single walk. But finally in August, something has begun to click. In 14 games, Araujo has posted a .348/.423/.457 line with 3 doubles, a triple, and 4 RBI. He has struck out 17 times but has begun to show some plate discipline, walking 4 times. It’s still just baby steps for Araujo. But the 19 year old outfielder now has some positives to look back on this season. On the year, he has posted a respectable .274/.333/.400 line with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 1 homer, 9 RBI, and 4 of 5 stolen bases in 28 games and 106 plate appearances. He has seen time at all three outfield positions making just 1 error. Araujo hasn’t exactly lit up the competition since signing. But progress is being made and the Rays hope that will continue.
Yoel Araujo is not a player you’ll be hearing about among the Rays’ top prospects, at least not for a while. He’s a long way away from doing anything as a baseball player. But the ability is still there, and now all we can do is wait. It’s frustrating- we’d rather see quicker results- but don’t think it’s a waste of time. Araujo still has a chance to be a very good baseball player and we’ll have to see if it ever happens.