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Unexpected MLB MVP Candidates in 2021

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It is only May and the MVP awards will not be handed out for another couple of months. However, there has been enough of the season to take a look at some of the unexpected MLB MVP candidates in the AL and NL.

Unexpected MLB MVP Candidates in the American League

J.D. Martinez

2021 MLB Season Stats: 34 G, .338 BA, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1.073 OPS, 2.0 WAR

It is a rare occasion to see a designated hitter take home the MVP award, but with the numbers, J.D. has put up with Boston, he argues. Martinez is currently the league leader in runs batted in, tied for the lead in home runs, and is tied for second in WAR with AL MVP favorite, Mike Trout.

Coming off a down year in 2020, many wondered if the best years of Martinez were behind him. Turning 34 this season, the Red Sox DH proved the doubters wrong and has turned it around as he is one of the unexpected MLB MVP candidates in the AL.

Byron Buxton

2021 MLB Season Stats: 24 G, .370 BA, 9 HR, 17 RBI, 1.180 OPS, 2.7 WAR

Although Buxton has missed time this season with a hip strain, he still has a shot at winning the AL award this season. With an OPS over 1.000, and claiming the best WAR in the American League, the Twins center fielder has as good of a chance as anyone.

For Buxton, it was always a matter of when not if. Coming into the league, he was a top prospect but never had his breakout season. Maybe the 2021 MLB season is the time to shine for American League MVP candidate Byron Buxton.

Shohei Ohtani

2021 MLB Season Hitting Stats: 32 G, .266 BA, 10 HR, 26 RBI, .915 OPS, 1.1 WAR

2021 MLB Season Pitching Stats: 4 GS, 18.2 IP, 30 K, 2.41 ERA, 0.7 WAR

Back in March, Ohtani registered with the seventh-best odds to win the 2021 AL MVP. Obviously the clear favorite then and now is another Los Angeles Angel, but Ohtani’s breakout much like Buxton, was expected.

Injuries have clearly derailed Ohtani’s MVP candidacy in the past few years. This season, he is fully healthy and producing. Ohtani is currently tied for the league lead in home runs and is the second-best pitcher for the Angels in WAR.

The numbers are not gaudy for the star two-way player, and that is why he cracks the unexpected candidate’s list. More walks than innings pitched, and a below-average on-base percentage, it is shocking to see a two-way player check-in with the second-best odds to win the AL MVP.

Unexpected MLB MVP Candidates in the National League

Buster Posey

2021 MLB Season Stats: 23 G, .385 BA, 8 HR, 12 RBI, 1.191 OPS, 0.8 WAR

Although Posey does not have enough at-bats to register in the OPS race, the 2012 MVP would be atop the stat with his impressive 1.191 OPS.

After opting out of the 2020 season many questioned what Posey had left. Like J.D. in the AL, Posey hushed the critics with a re-tooled swing at the start of this season.

As previously mentioned, Posey does not have enough at-bats to check-in atop the OPS statistic, and that will be the same argument against Posey’s MVP candidacy. At 34, the Giants catcher is not playing every day, and that will knock his MVP hopes. However, if San Francisco stays atop the NL West, Posey will be a big reason why furthering the claim as he is an unexpected MLB MVP candidate in the NL.

Jesse Winker

2021 MLB Season Stats: 26 G, .359 BA, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 1.052 OPS, 1.1 WAR

Winker has started his 2021 MLB season off hot as he currently possesses the best batting average and OPS in the National League. Before the season, Winker’s odds to win the NL MVP were not in the top 25, so his monumental start has come as a huge surprise to everyone.

The Reds may have two surprise MVP caliber outfielders with Winker and Nick Castellanos, but the reason Winker cracks the list is his hitting in high-leverage situations. With runners in scoring position, Winker is hitting over .400. If the Reds can climb into postseason positions, both Castellanos and Winker should be a surprised candidate to win the NL MVP for the 2021 MLB Season.

Kris Bryant

2021 MLB Season Stats: 32 G, .308 BA, 9 HR, 22 RBI, 1.047 OPS, 1.5 WAR

After a woeful 2020 campaign from the Cubs third basemen, Bryant has turned it completely around. With the upcoming free agency for Bryant, a jump in statistics was expected, but MVP level production is something else. The Cubs’ third basemen always had the talent, as we saw an MVP season in 2016. But a turnaround in 2020 has made him one of the many unexpected MLB MVP candidates this season.

It is clear in the AL that Mike Trout is the MVP favorite, but that does not take away some new thrilling names that have come into the race. In the National League, the race feels a bit more open. Ronald Acuña Jr. currently is the favorite to win MVP, but some new (and old) names have emerged in what will be a thrilling race throughout the season!


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