Last season, in a 60-game shortened season, we saw two first-time MVPs. First basemen Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman won in the AL and NL, respectively. With a full season underway, there are plenty of familiar faces we can expect to throw their ball cap in the ring. Don’t forget about some surprise choices, too, though.
These are some of the guys we can expect to see in the voting, because, well, they’re always in the voting:
Mike Trout, LAA Outfielder
Mike Trout has never finished below 5th in the MVP voting and that low finish was in 2020, where the entire season was weird. Trout is the best player in baseball, and if we’re being honest, he should win it every year. Voter fatigue is real, though, but since he didn’t win it last year, voters probably won’t suffer from that.
Expect Trout to hover around a .300/.400/1.000 slash line with over 30 home runs and 8+ WAR. Those numbers are relatively pedestrian for Trout, but will probably easily win him his fourth MVP.
Mookie Betts, LAD Outfielder
Betts is your best player in the league if Trout doesn’t exist; what an honor. If it wasn’t for Trout, Betts would be unanimously considered the best player, and for good reason. Betts could’ve won it last year after winning it in 2018. Now that he isn’t competing with Mike Trout in the AL, it’s entirely likely that they win all of them until they retire after their mega contracts expire.
Betts won’t hit lower than .300 and figures to pair that with 20+ home runs and stolen bases and elite-level defense. Oh, and the Dodgers will probably have the best record in baseball. That’s all the voters will need.
Jose Abreu, CWS First Baseman
Abreu, last year’s winner, followed up his career-best year by starting Opening Day the season with MLB’s first grand slam. What a start to the encore. If Abreu can stay healthy and maintain close to 2020’s level of success, he could garner some real MVP attention again. Couple that with the White Sox figuring to be one of the AL’s top teams and a .270/.350/.950 season with 40 home runs could make for an MVP repeat for Abreu.
Cody Bellinger, LAD Outfielder
How good are the Dodgers? They hold the 2018 and 2019 MVP’s in their outfield. Bellinger’s 2019 was off the charts, and although he struggled for most of 2020 (who didn’t?) he did finish strong and will likely benefit from a full season playing with Betts. The only issue is that he’s competing with a teammate and will likely have to really outplay him to win. What a problem to have.
Fernando Tatis, Jr., SD Shortstop
Tatis took the world by storm last year with his electric style of play and infectious personality. Not to be outdone, though, his on-field performance was stellar. He posted a 149 wRC+ (weighted runs created) and was an MVP candidate. Now, the Padres shortstop has a stronger team around him, and that can sometimes be the difference. He’s only in his third season, so a better season than last year isn’t out of the running. And if he’s able to do that, look out, baseball.
Aaron Judge, NYY Outfielder
Judge’s last full season, sadly his first season, was extremely good. Judge’s stats were incredible and most people would concede that he should have won MVP that year. .284/.422/1.049 is tremendous. 52 home runs were tops in the American League and a rookie record at the time. The voters have shifted into more analytics nowadays, which would have boosted his chances in 2017.
Even with injuries, he’s been one of the best hitters since then. A full, healthy season of Judge likely results in 40+ home runs and an on-base percentage north of .400. He’ll benefit from being a Yankee and having recognition, but a win would likely be deserved.
Ronald Acuna, Jr., ATL Outfielder
Acuna was nearly a 40-40 (home runs and stolen bases) player in 2019, which is a very exclusive club. Doing that, which won’t be much of a challenge for Acuna, and hitting over .280 will insert him firmly into the conversation. The competition will be stiff in the NL, but Acuna remains one of the best and most electrifying players in baseball. He is young too, so an improvement isn’t unlikely.
Francisco Lindor, NYM Shortstop
Lindor is arguably the best shortstop in baseball. He plays a premium position with excellent defense, he’s one of the biggest personalities in the game, and he plays in New York now. Lindor will likely hit around .280 with a high on-base percentage, 30+ home runs, and elite-level defense. He also hasn’t won it, and sometimes voters like the new guy.
Lindor had over 7 WAR in 2018 and if he can replicate that success, he might have a shot. He’s also got some stiff competition, but he’s definitely got a shot.
Bryce Harper, PHI Outfielder
Harper probably shouldn’t be considered a dark horse candidate. Despite what his sometimes lackluster traditional stats would have you believe, Harper is routinely one of the better players in baseball. He hasn’t quite lived up to his Trout comparisons, but who would?
He’s won an MVP before, making him a slightly familiar face. If Philly can put together a good season, and if Harper returns to form, don’t be shocked at an MVP campaign for him. .260/.380/.920 with 35+ home runs and good defense can be expected, and depending on the field, who knows?
Matt Chapman, OAK Third Baseman
Chapman is an absurd defender at third base. He’s quite possibly the best defender in all of baseball. He pairs that with the underrated offense. His raw numbers won’t bear it out, because he plays in one of baseball’s most pitcher-friendly parks.
That’s where his wRC+ comes in. They factor that in, and in both 2018 and 2019, he was stellar, posting 139 and 126 respectively (league average is 100). If he really breaks out and maintains his league-best defense (which he will), he could garner some MVP attention as he did in 2018.
Anthony Rendon, LAA Third Baseman
Rendon is one of the best third basemen in baseball. He plays solid defense and is an extra-base hit machine. Since 2017, he’s posted a 141, 140, 154, and 154 wRC+ (in that order). Those are phenomenal stats. He’s a 30 home run candidate with a high on-base percentage.
He does suffer from playing in Trout’s shadow, and it’s going to be pretty hard for someone to play for the Angels and win MVP regardless, Mike Trout notwithstanding. But, Rendon’s got the talent to do it.
Randy Arozarena, TB Outfielder
This one is a long shot, given that he barely had any playing time last season before the postseason. But his postseason was one for the ages. He rewrote the playoff record books and carried Tampa Bay all the way to within two games of a championship. Sure, they were a great team, but Arozarena was nearly impossible to get out the entire postseason. That kind of success is hard to replicate over a full season, but he’s certainly proven he’s got the ability.
Nolan Arenado, STL Third Baseman
Advanced stats tend to dislike the Rockies. The thin air and stadium make it a hitter’s paradise and often when players leave they take an offensive hit. However, Arenado’s stats are really good. He can play, and now he’ll have the chance to prove it in St. Louis. He’s going to benefit in the voter’s eyes from not being in Colorado anymore, and if he can put together a typical (for him) season, then it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some votes go his way.
Giancarlo Stanton, NYY Designated Hitter/Outfielder
Being a designated hitter will kill the most chance of Stanton winning the award, but given that injuries are likely to occur, he could see enough time in the outfield to boost his eligibility. Stanton won MVP before, followed that up with a 38 homer season, and then was hurt much of the next two. Much like Arozarena, his 2020 postseason was incredible, reminding fans just how good he actually is. If he can return to close to his MVP form and play enough outfield with good enough defense, he’s certainly worth a shot.
I’m going with the safe, but ridiculously smart choices here. Trout and Betts are the two best players in baseball. That’s all I really need to know. Injuries are possible, but both of these players haven’t had a lengthy injury history.