Top 10 MLB players of 2021
The 2021 campaign was chock-full of special moments, entertaining games, and special players, as baseball returned to its regular 162-game schedule following a shortened campaign.
Here are the 10 big-leaguers who performed the best during the 2021 season.
*Both regular-season and playoff performances were considered when creating this list
10. Trea Turner, Dodgers
Postseason stats: 11 hits, 2 doubles, .216 AVG
Turner continued to cement himself as one of baseball's brightest stars with another fantastic campaign. The 28-year-old won the National League batting title with a .328 average, led his league in steals, and ranked first in hits and fWAR in the majors. A natural shortstop, Turner also shined at second base for the Los Angeles Dodgers after they acquired him from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline, amassing three defensive runs saved in 436 2/3 innings.
9. Carlos Correa, Astros
Postseason stats: 17 hits, 9 RBIs, .368 OBP
Correa delivered one of his best seasons ahead of his first trip into free agency and is expected to sign a lucrative long-term contract as a result. The 27-year-old posted career highs of 26 home runs and 104 runs scored while playing sensational defense. Correa's 20 defensive runs saved led the majors, earning him his first Gold Glove. He also continued his impressive play in the postseason, adding another nine RBIs to a growing total that ranks sixth all time.
8. Robbie Ray, Blue Jays
Ray won the American League Cy Young Award after the finest campaign of his career. The southpaw led the majors in strikeouts and topped the AL in ERA, innings, opponents' batting average, and WHIP. He also posted the lowest walks-per-nine rate of his career and stranded runners at an MLB-best 90.1% clip. Ray's season earned him a five-year, $115-million contract from the Seattle Mariners.
7. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
"El Nino" is one of the game's most electric performers and his abilities were on full display once again in 2021. The San Diego Padres shortstop finished third in NL MVP voting after crushing a league-leading 42 homers alongside 31 doubles, 97 RBIs, and 25 steals. Tatis also finished with the second-highest isolated power (.328) and slugging percentage (.611) in the majors, and his 156 wRC+ ranked fourth.
6. Marcus Semien, Blue Jays
Semien finished third in AL MVP voting for the second time in three years after an excellent campaign for the Toronto Blue Jays, setting career highs in homers (45), RBIs (102), steals (15), and slugging percentage (.538). The 31-year-old also finished first in UZR and second in defensive runs saved among qualified second basemen during his first full campaign at the position. The Texas Rangers liked what they saw so much that they signed Semien to a seven-year, $175-million contract.
5. Juan Soto, Nationals
Arguably baseball's best hitter, Soto did things this past season that no one his age has ever done before. The 23-year-old finished second in NL MVP voting, won a Silver Slugger, and led the majors in walks (145) and on-base percentage (.465). He joined Ted Williams as the only players in history to lead the big leagues in OBP twice before turning 23, and he had the most walks in a single season since Barry Bonds in 2004. Soto also posted video-game numbers in the second half, slashing .348/.525/.639 with 18 homers, 53 RBIs, and 87 walks in 72 games.
4. Bryce Harper, Phillies
Harper captured his second MVP award after an unbelievable 2021 campaign that included an MLB-best 42 doubles, a .615 slugging percentage, and a 1.044 OPS. The 29-year-old also finished first in the majors in wRC+ and xwOBA and third in fWAR, isolated power, and walk percentage. FanGraphs' rating system considered him the best offensive player in the NL, and he posted career-high marks in average exit velocity and barrels.
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
In any other year, Guerrero would have walked away with the AL MVP award. Even though he finished second, the 22-year-old had a fantastic season, leading the AL in several offensive categories including homers (tied with Salvador Perez), runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. The All-Star Game MVP posted the best walk rate of his career (12.3%), bettered his previous high in isolated power by nearly 100 points, and finished second in barrels and third in average exit velocity, according to Baseball Savant. Guerrero was also one of just four players to appear in at least 161 games.
2. Corbin Burnes, Brewers
Postseason stats: 6 IP, 0.83 WHIP, 6 K
Burnes became the first Milwaukee Brewers pitcher to win a Cy Young Award since Pete Vuckovich in 1982 after an unreal season that included a 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, and 12.6 K/9. The 27-year-old's new reliance on a filthy cutter, which he threw more than 52% of the time, resulted in 117 punchouts and led to improved curveball performance - opposing hitters batted .069 against his breaker. One of his most notable achievements was allowing just seven homers in 167 innings after he gave up more than twice as many over 49 frames in 2019.
1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels
What Ohtani did in 2021 was something that baseball fans might never see again. The two-way sensation took home unanimous AL MVP honors after recording 46 homers, 100 RBIs, eight triples, 26 steals, and a .965 OPS as a hitter. His results as a pitcher were impressive too: In 130 1/3 innings, he posted a 9-2 record with a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts. Ohtani's combined fWAR as a hitter and pitcher was a ridiculous 8.1, while his combined win probability added (7.64) was nearly three points higher than the next-best player (Aaron Judge, 4.65).
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