With April in the books, it is time to look at the 2021 MLB MVP ladder in both the American League and the National League. If the season ended today, who would snag the league MVPs?
Stats are accurate as of April 30.
2021 MLB MVP: American League
No.1: Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
While Byron Buxton has missed six of the Minnesota Twins’ first 24 games, he leads Major League Baseball in bWAR. He has a ludicrous slash line of .426/.466/.897 while playing spectacular centerfield defense and stealing bases per usual. He is in the 100th percentile in both hard-hit rate and expected slugging percentage. His 98th-percentile sprint speed and 87th-percentile are cherries on top for Buxton’s best month in his career. Even if Buxton steps back from his OPS+ of 289 to a more reasonable figure, he has a well-rounded portfolio.
No.2: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout currently leads the Majors in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and OPS+. However, this stems from Buxton not having enough plate appearances to qualify for those leaderboards. Regardless, Trout just finished the best month of his career. He is well on his way to finishing in the top five of MLB voting for the 10th year in a row. He has a 1.304 OPS and a 265 OPS+, both massive improvements for the best player in baseball. The batted-ball data tells a similar story as he ranks in the 95th percentile or better in xwOBA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, and barrel percentage.
No.3: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays
Perhaps the most important stat that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has produced in 2021 is his walks. In 243 plate appearances in 2020, Guerrero walked 20 times. So far in 2021, he has walked 20 times in 102 plate appearances. He may not be productive outside the batter’s box, but Guerrero has been tattooing the baseball so far. He has a .350/.490/.663 slash line with accompanying 1.153 OPS and 226 OPS+ figures. He ranks third in the AL in oWAR behind the top-two on this ladder.
No.4: J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Do you like counting stats? J.D. Martinez has you covered. He leads MLB in doubles, home runs, runs batted in, and total bases. His rate stats are elite as well, bolstered by a 1.175 OPS and 224 OPS+. Martinez is the main catalyst in a Boston offense that is producing 4.78 runs per game, the fourth-best mark in the American League. After a comparatively poor 2020 season, Martinez is back to the ridiculous form that brought him to the Red Sox in the first place.
No.5: Yermin Mercedes, Chicago White Sox
No one in Major League Baseball has been more surprising than Yermin Mercedes. Coming into the season with one career plate appearance, the 28-year-old currently leads the Majors in hits, racking up 34 in his first 82 at-bats. He has a slash line of .415/.455/.659, and he is among the AL leaders in counting stats. He is in the top-10 percentiles of xwOBA, expected batting average, and expected slugging, so maybe this flash-in-the-pan is more than a hot April.
2021 MLB MVP: National League
No.1: Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
Even with a pair of missed games, Ronald Acuna Jr. has been a menace. Acuna is rocking with a .341/.443/.705 slash line. His .705 slugging percentage leads the NL as does his 1.148 OPS and 201 OPS+. He leads the Majors in runs, and he has an impressive array of batted-ball stats. He is in the 100th percentile for expected batting average, 99th for xwOBA and expected slugging percentage, and 97th for average exit velocity. Acuna is one of two players in Major League Baseball to have an xwOBA of .500. Couple his elite bat with 95th-percentile sprint speed and 64th-percentile defense, and the Atlanta Braves may have back-to-back MVPs.
No.2: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Stop if you’ve heard this before: Jacob deGrom is good at baseball. The 2018 and 2019 NL Cy Young Winner has distanced himself from the rest of the competition in that debate. He has his eyes on a bigger prize: NL MVP. So far, deGrom has a 0.51 ERA, 15.2 K/9, and a 747 ERA+, all of which lead the Majors. With his 100th-percentile fastball velocity, deGrom has been pumping hitters with a career-high number of fastballs to excellent results. According to Baseball Savant, deGrom’s fastball has a run value of -6, making it one of the 20 most valuable pitches in baseball.
No.3: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Kris Bryant has been the best hitter for a wildly inconsistent Chicago Cubs offense. Sporting a slash line of .322/.412/.667 with an OPS+ of 199, Bryant is performing past even his 2016 MVP-winning season. Bryant joins Acuna as the only NL players to post 1.6 oWAR in April. He is in the top 10 in all three of the slash-line stats, and he is tied for the NL lead in doubles. He is second to Acuna in runs scored and total bases. His wOBA of .452 is in the 96th percentile in MLB.
No.4: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
While Bryce Harper‘s slash line of .321/.448/.615 is impressive and deserving a spot in the MVP ladder, his expected stats indicate there could be another level for Harper to jump to as the season progresses. The 2015 NL MVP is in the 100th percentile for xwOBA, expected batting average, and expected slugging percentage. Harper currently has an xwOBA of .535, 35 points higher than any other hitter (Acuna). His expected slugging percentage of .856 is 45 points higher than any other hitter (Rafael Devers). Harper is for real, and expect him to be in the top five for the rest of the season.
No.5: Carson Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks
Carson Kelly, like Buxton, has missed a few games, and he does not qualify for most stat leaderboards. However, even when you add in hitless plate appearances, Kelly leads the NL with a .507 on-base percentage. His .340/.507/.717 slash line is dominant, and Kelly has been a strong defensive catcher. He leads all NL position players in WAR, and he is tied for first in total runs saved according to the Fielding Bible. Kelly has one of the highest barrel percentages in baseball (89th percentile), and he ranks in the 98th percentile for xwOBA. A catcher has not won NL MVP since Johnny Bench in 1972.
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