MLB MVP Rankings: Young sluggers keep on raking
Welcome to the second edition of theScore's 2021 Most Valuable Player rankings, where we pick the top players from each league.
5. Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
Semien has rediscovered the form that made him an AL MVP finalist in 2019. The 30-year-old went on a tear in May, collecting 12 multi-hit games and eight home runs, resulting in a .916 OPS heading into June after managing a .658 OPS in April. The second baseman's fWAR is the fourth best in baseball and second in the Junior Circuit behind only his teammate, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
4. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Bogaerts often gets overlooked as marquee sluggers Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez enjoy stellar 2021 seasons. It's about time to change that because the Aruba native is a legitimate MVP candidate. The two-time All-Star shortstop ranks fourth in the AL in WAR and batting average, and sits top 10 in on-base percentage and wRC+. He's well on his way to another five- or six-win campaign that could resemble his brilliant 2019 season. The Red Sox are enjoying a surprisingly hot start to the season, and Bogaerts has been at the forefront.
3. Gerrit Cole, Yankees
Every five days, Cole takes the mound and basically saves the Yankees from themselves. He continues to lead the AL in ERA and walks per nine (1.15) while ranking second in WHIP and third in strikeouts. At one point this year, he struck out 61 batters without issuing a walk to set a new major-league record. Only one everyday player has accrued more WAR than Cole thus far. His value is undeniable, as the underachieving Yankees would probably be lost without him. For a pitcher to be genuinely considered an MVP candidate, they have to go well above Cy Young-caliber pitching, and Cole's doing exactly that right now.
2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
There was plenty of preseason chatter about a breakout campaign for Guerrero after he dropped 40-plus pounds during the winter. The 22-year-old slugger's performance has exceeded expectations. The first baseman leads the majors in fWAR and OPS. He's first in batting average and homers among AL players and is second in RBIs. What's even more impressive is that he's walked just as many times as he's struck out (32). Oh yeah, he's also playing Gold Glove-caliber defense at first, which would've been a crazy thought last season.
Guerrero could've been No. 1 on this list, and he may end up with the hardware at the end of the season if Toronto makes the playoffs.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
It took a few years, but the real two-way version of Ohtani has finally shown up in Anaheim - and oh, is he a sight to behold. As a designated hitter, he ranks fifth in the AL in OPS while sitting two off the lead in homers and six back in RBIs. He owns a higher slugging percentage than Devers and has stolen seven bases. On the mound, he's got a higher K/9 rate than Cole and has allowed just three home runs. A true two-way player, he's made four appearances as a corner outfielder, including one where he moved to right field after striking out 10 as a pitcher. Combine his work as a pitcher and hitter, and he's accrued a total of 2.3 WAR, trailing only five players.
Ohtani is doing things baseball fans on this side of the Pacific haven't seen in well over a century. That he's doing this on a terrible and injury-riddled Angels team is hardly of consequence here. It's starting to feel like the AL MVP could be his to lose.
5. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
It's been a difficult season for the Braves, but Acuna certainly isn't to blame. In fact, he seems to have somehow improved. He's leads the NL in homers. He ranks second in runs scored, third in OPS, and is tied for fourth in WAR. He's lowered his strikeout rate by nearly 10% from last year. His OBP has dipped slightly from one year ago, but he's balanced that by slugging above .600, leading to an overall improved slash line.
4. Kris Bryant, Cubs
Reports of Bryant's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. The 2016 NL MVP is making a big case to win this award again, returning to prominence as one of the Senior Circuit's premier hitters. Bryant's fourth in the NL in OPS and third in extra-base hits. He's lowered his strikeout rate from one year ago, with both that and his walk rate now closer to where they sat in his All-Star 2019 campaign. Bryant's value to the Cubs goes beyond the plate; while not an exceptionally gifted defender, he's been a virtual Swiss Army knife for manager David Ross, making at least five starts at four different positions.
3. Nick Castellanos, Reds
It's impossible to ignore what Castellanos is doing despite the Reds' struggles. The 29-year-old leads the NL in batting average, OPS and is tied for first in slugging percentage. The outfielder also had 12 multi-hit contests in May, including a five-hit effort against the Cubs on May 2. His teammate, Jesse Winker, is also off to a blistering start, but it wouldn't feel right to put two Cincinnati players on an MVP list while the team sits a few games below .500.
2. Jacob deGrom, Mets
Watch out Ohtani, deGrom is coming for your title as the best two-way player in baseball. The Mets ace is slashing .450/.450/.500 with four runs and three RBIs over 20 plate appearances this season. On the mound, the two-time Cy Young winner is off to a historic start despite an IL stint. The right-hander's ERA is the lowest for a qualifying starter through May since Chris Short sat at 0.64 in 1964. DeGrom's brilliance allowed New York to stay on top of the NL East while the club navigated an avalanche of injuries.
1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
Tatis has been a beast since coming off the IL on May 19. The 22-year-old star has gone deep seven times to push him into second place in NL homers. Unsurprisingly, the Padres have lost only five times since he was reinserted into the lineup. His slugging percentage would be tops in the majors if he played enough games to qualify, and he is tied for the NL lead with 12 stolen bases. The shortstop has also accrued 37 RBIs in 39 games, which is an outrageous pace. San Diego is tied with the Giants for the most wins in the NL, and if Tatis continues to put up otherworldly numbers while his club keeps rolling, it wouldn't surprise anybody for the best player on the top team to win MVP at the end of the season.
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