By: Dylan Drummey and Will Prater
The MVP. An award that from the start of the season to the finish, everyone has their eyes on it. From the fans to the players themselves, everyone wants to know: who is the best? For this edition of the blog, both authors submitted their thoughts on who they personally believe will win this award at the end of the year.
The NL MVP
Will’s Pick: Nick Castellanos
The Cincinnati Reds are the closest team to me and my whole life they have struggled to win any big titles. The Reds have made the postseason only 4 times in the 18 years that God has gifted me on this earth, and I have never truly been a fan, until last year. In the year of the improbable, the Cincinnati Reds made the postseason for the first time since 2013. Though they exited early, it was exciting to see a local small market team succeed. The team was led by OF Jesse Winker and Nicholas Castellanos and a Cy Young performance by Trevor Bauer. Castellanos had a solid year last year, but I believe that this year he is playing at an MVP level, and he will win it.
Castellanos is leading the NL with a .343 batting average while posting a .397 OBP, .991 OPS, and 14 home runs to his name. Castellanos has shown no signs of slowing down since the start of the season, exceeding expectations at all corners of his game. I am taking Castellanos over other NL players like Acuna and Adam Frazier because almost his hitting alone is leading to the Cincinnati Reds success this season. They’re over .500 and can easily snag a wild card spot heading into the postseason. Compared to players like Tatis and Acuna, he doesn't have the home run numbers. But, home runs should not determine who is the MVP, as he is hitting leagues ahead of them. Tatis also leads all MLB players in errors, dropping him in my eyes in the MVP race. Not only does he have the best beard and hair in baseball (Sorry Bryce!), Castellanos is the all-around best hitter in the NL and is leading his team to a possible postseason berth. Castellanos for MVP and I will die on this hill.
Dylan’s Pick: Jacob deGrom
If you’re reading this article, then you are more than likely aware of the absurd season that Jacob deGrom is having. He is doing so well, he is on pace to set numerous MLB records, such as Bob Gibson’s Single Season ERA record of 1.12. While Jacob has admittedly struggled through various injuries throughout the season, leading to questioning about his longevity, his stints on the IL or being classified as day-To-day have been very short. And even with the Mets being extra cautious about his innings, he looks better than any other player in the time he is given. But, do his stats justify being given an award that a pitcher has not won since 2014?
Currently, deGrom carries a 0.50 ERA or 0.99 (almost an entire run) below any other pitcher. His FIP, which adjusts more accurately to events a pitcher controls, is 0.86; 1.54 runs below his closest competitor. On top of that, he has posted an MLB-leading 14.63 K/9, or a 194 K%+, as well as 4.2 WAR. While he is not entirely unhittable, with deGrom not throwing a no-hitter this season, it is extremely difficult to do well against this superstar. With a mixture of his 99.2 MPH average fastball (100th Percentile in MLB), a nasty slider (58.4% Whiff Rate), as well as a changeup and a curve, he is nearly impossible to figure out. Having his season being compared to a 1999 Pedro Martinez (1.39 FIP, 13.2 K/9, 11.6 WAR) and a 1965 Sandy Koufax (1.93 FIP, 10.24 K/9, 10 WAR), he may contend to have one of the best pitching seasons of all time. Not only are fans witnessing a pitcher whose dominance outshines both any pitcher or hitter this season, but a year that is history in the making.
The AL MVP
Will’s Pick: Shohei Ohtani
In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki won the AL MVP, making him the first and only Japanese-born baseball player to win the prestigious award. There have been great Japanese players in the MLB, such as Hideki Matsui, Yu Darvish, and Hiroki Kuroda to name a few, but no others have come close to winning an MVP… until now. Shohei Ohtani has been incredible this year and that's the reason I believe he will be the 2021 AL MVP. Last week, Shohei Ohtani put up one of the greatest 6-game spans that I have ever seen. The absolutely ridiculous week that Ohtani had gained attention from lots of MLB websites and fan pages. Shohei posted a .318/.423/1.136 with 6 home runs through 26 plate appearances. On the other side of the ball, he pitched 6.1 innings, while only allowing 1 run, 1 walk, and 5 strikeouts. The two-way anomaly should be the AL MVP when it is all said and done.
Why do I believe that Shohei will be the AL MVP? Because of his versatility, his home run total, and Vladdys stamina. Ohtani is the most versatile player in all of Major league baseball, period. This year has been his best so far pitching-wise, with a 3-1 record and a 2.58 ERA, and a total pitching WAR of 2.9 through 11 starts. Along with his lights-out pitching, Ohtani has been an all-star caliber hitter. As of today, Ohtani is batting .268 with an OBP of .354, a batting WAR of 5.0, and is tied for first in the home run race with 24, neck-and-neck with Vladdy. If Ohtani is to stay at this pace, he would finish the year with 50+ home runs, a task no pitcher has ever accomplished. Ohtani shines bright with his powerful swing and has stayed consistent through most of this season. After the all-star break, Ohtani will keep up this pace, while Vladdy will begin to slump. As my colleague Dylan Drummey stated in his section of the article, pitchers will figure out Vlad and focus more on throwing him off-speed pitches, which he has notoriously struggled with. Ohtani is a wild card at the plate hitting for power against both lefties and righties. When Vladdy finally cools off, Ohtani will pass him and win the 2021 AL MVP.
Dylan’s Pick: Xander Bogaerts
While the reader may be surprised that I expect Xander Bogaerts to win the Most Valuable Player award over AL frontrunner Vladimir Guerrero Jr, I assure you there is solid reasoning behind this. While Vladdy Jr. has swept headlines throughout the 2021 season being the current MLB home run leader, Xander has been sneakily incredible this season. Leading the 44-31 Red Sox, a factor that should not matter but generally does in MVP voting, Bogaerts has shown that he can contribute to a winning team. One has to ponder; can he win this award when most of his statistics currently trail others in the AL?
To clarify, the main issue with Vlad is his overall sustainability. Even though his current records look to be on pace for a historic season, I just don’t believe he can maintain this type of performance. His expected stats to his actual stats may be on a similar ratio to that of Bogaerts, but I believe the main cause of this to be pitchers. Although he was exposed to both 3/4ths of the 2019 season and the shortened 2020 season, I believe that pitchers will learn to figure him out. Particularly, his dislike for offspeed pitches. While in 2021 they account for 13.4% of all pitches he sees, they make up for only 5.6% of his total hits, showing his struggle. His wOBA is also a .306 on these pitches, 224 points below his fastball wOBA. With fastballs accounting for 57.7% of every pitch he has seen this season, any pitcher who adapts to throw more offspeed to him could greatly hurt his overall production. Insert Xander Bogaerts. With his .321/.386/.546 statline, a 150 wRC+, 3.4 WAR, and a .397 wOBA, his numbers across all pitch types are more leveled than Guerrero. This suggests a pitcher adapting to a scouting report would have a harder time knowing what to throw, making Xander’s level of production much more sustainable than his opponent. For those reasons, I believe Bogaerts will take home his first MVP award this year.