With the lead-up to the 2021 MVP announcements, let’s mimic the process the BBWAA takes, ranking the top-10 contenders in both leagues.
10. Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox, Third Baseman
Previous: 12th in 2019
Rafael Devers bounced back from a down (by his standards) 2020 season with a mammoth 76 extra-base hits and 132 OPS+. He was critical in helping the Boston Red Sox back to the playoffs after a dismal 2020 season. Devers racked up 3.5 bWAR, 38 home runs, and 113 runs batted in. He set a career-high in walks en route to a strong .352 on-base percentage. He was eighth in the AL in slugging, seventh in OPS, and fourth in total bases.
9. Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros, Right Fielder
Kyle Tucker‘s first full season of MLB was spectacular. He excelled at the plate and in the field, and he could secure both a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. In 2021, Tucker notched an exceptional 147 OPS+ with a .294/.359/557 slash line. He mashed 37 doubles and 30 home runs. All told, Tucker posted a 5.7 bWAR, a mark that would have been higher had he not been a right fielder. Tucker finished 10th in the AL in bWAR, third in OPS, and third in slugging percentage.
8. Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, Catcher
Previous: 22nd in 2013, 17th in 2020
Ranking Salvador Perez is difficult. Using counting stats, Perez has an argument to win the MVP outright. Using advanced stats, Perez might not even be on your ballot. Here, we will strike a balance. Perez led all of MLB in both home runs and runs batted in, strengthening his traditional case. He posted a 5.3 bWAR, but this figure does not include his framing. Fangraphs was much more pessimistic, giving him just 3.4 fWAR. Perez finished third in the AL in total bases and at-bats per home run.
7. Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, First Baseman
Previous: 21st in 2019
Matt Olson slumped to an OPS+ of just 103 in 2020, but he responded massively in 2021. He posted an OPS+ of 153 with one of the most well-rounded approaches of his career. He had the highest batting average and on-base percentage of his career while nearly matching his 2019 slugging percentage. All told, Olson launched 39 home runs and 35 doubles. He posted 5.8 bWAR and was a good defensive first baseman. He was third in the AL in OPS+ and fourth in walks.
6. Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles, Center Fielder
Cedric Mullins came out of nowhere to have one of the best seasons in baseball. Mullins joined the 30-30 club, finishing with exactly 30 home runs and 30 steals. He played stellar defense, and he could be in line for a Gold Glove. Mullins set career-highs in all of the slash line stats, and he ended with a sturdy .878 OPS and 135 OPS+. He was fifth in the AL in doubles, fourth in hits, and second in stolen bases.
5. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians, Third Baseman
Previous: 17th in 2016, 3rd in 2017 and 2018, 2nd in 2020
To the surprise of no one, Jose Ramirez continued to mash. He had 30 home runs and 30 doubles for the second time in his career, tacking on 27 steals. He posted a 141 OPS+ on the heels of a .893 OPS. Ramirez played sound defense at the hot corner, giving him one of the most well-rounded profiles of any candidate. Ramirez racked up 6.7 bWAR. He was fifth in the AL in bWAR, sixth in OPS, fifth in runs scored, and ninth in runs created.
4. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros, Shortstop
Previous: 24th in 2015, 17th in 2017
Surprisingly, Carlos Correa has not received an MVP vote since 2017. Regardless, the star shortstop fired off a special season. Correa totaled 61 extra-base hits en route to an OPS of .850. His OPS+ of 131 was his best among seasons he played at least 110 games. He racked up a career-high 7.2 bWAR, accumulating 5.2 oWAR and 2.9 dWAR. He led all American League position players in bWAR and dWAR. Correa was eighth in the AL in oWAR.
3. Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays, Second Baseman
Previous: 3rd in 2019
Marcus Semien‘s first year in Toronto was perhaps his best. He obliterated 45 home runs, and he had a total of 86 extra-base hit. He had a career-high 351 total bases. While he did lead the majors in games played and plate appearances, he was efficient in his appearances. He had a career-high .538 slugging percentage to put him with a .873 OPS and 133 OPS+. He finished third in the AL in WAR, 10th in OPS, and fourth in home runs.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, First Baseman
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had one of the best seasons in recent memory, but he has to settle for second here. He launched a Major League-leading 48 home runs (tied with Perez) and led the AL in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+. He led the Majors in both runs scored and total bases. Guerrero racked up an impressive 6.8 bWAR despite defensive adjustments from playing first base. He led the AL in oWAR.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, Designated Hitter/Pitcher
Shohei Ohtani defies belief. He accumulated a mammoth 9.0 bWAR: 4.9 as a hitter and 4.1 as a pitcher. At the plate, Ohtani led the Majors in triples, but his lasting impact was his 46 home runs. He slashed .257/.372/.592 en route to a 158 OPS+. On the mound, Ohtani twirled a 3.18 ERA, striking out 10.8 batters per nine. He had one of the lowest hits per nine tallies in baseball. He only threw 130 innings, so he does not qualify for pitcher leaderboards, but he will likely receive some down-ballot Cy Young votes.
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