Each individual author covered the following:
Beatty: C, 1B, 2B
Brennan: All Relievers, 3B
Dylan: All Starting Pitchers, SS
Matt: All Outfielders, DH
With the offseason at a standstill and the 2022 season's outcome being uncertain, we have all had more time as fans to reminisce on the 2021 season. Beginning in 2019, the MLB allowed fans the oppurtunity to vote on who they believed were the best at each position the past season. Given that fans are, in their nature, overwhelmingly bias, we decided to review who we believed to be the best players at each individual position during 2021. With each author contributing, here are our selections:
C - Salvador Perez
The 31-Year-old franchise catcher put up some very impressive numbers this season, nearly doubling his former career-high home runs (27) with 48. Some may consider this to be a career-high year, however, some statistics show otherwise. In the 2013 season, Perez obviously didn’t hit the long ball as much, but his quality contact rate was very high (.311 BABIP). In 2013 he posted a 3.5 fWAR, compared to his 3.4 fWAR in 2021. Perez had very impressive numbers for his age and still likely has a few years left in the tank. It will be interesting to see what the Royals future will look like with their best player being on the older side. Perez ranked 1st in games played (161, 1 off from a full season), wRC+, wOBA, and xwOBA for this struggling Kansas City squad. After such a fantastic year, it is no wonder we consider him the best catcher during the 2021 season.
1B - Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The 2019 #1 Overall prospect had a pretty tough rookie season. Being the son of a Hall of Famer, expectations were high from every single baseball fan. Guerrero easily proved his doubters wrong after finishing 2nd in AL MVP voting. He slashed .311/.409/.601 and blasted 48 home runs. For Comparison, Guerrero’s wOBA was .419 - Mike Trout’s in 2019 (during his 4th MVP) was .436. He was ELITE, and that is indisputable. Vlad was never really known for defense - it was his weak point entering the league. However, he put in the work during the offseason and brought his UZR (a tell-all defensive stat) up from -1.8 to 1.8. With this type of year, he makes our All-MLB team. The kid surely has many great years upon him that will make baseball fans love him even more.
2B - Marcus Semien
Semien was a bright spot for the Blue Jays this year despite falling short of the playoffs. The second best Blue Jays hitter this season, Toronto got him for a steal at $18 million. While never a highly anticipated player, he has a pretty interesting background. From 2013-2018, he produced just 9.8 fWAR in 643 Games played. In 2019, he produced 3/4th of that with a 7.6 fWAR in only 162 games. He followed up his breakout 2019 with 6.6 fWAR in 2021. Pairing value and a solid defensive presence, Semien was the best Second Basemen in 2021. The experienced slugger has a future with the Rangers - pairing Corey Seager in what will be an interesting outlook for this team and the league.
3B - Austin Riley
This season, Riley was quite easy to overlook. Yet, even with this star-studded roster, he still shined. By mid-summer (after the release of Marcell Ozuna and injury of Ronald Acuna Jr) he was batting 4th, and for good reason. In 2021, Austin had a .303 batting average. For someone who batted .239 in 2020, he stepped up. 55% of his career long balls came in 2021, racking up 109 RBI’s in the process. He was a huge factor in the Braves power department. Riley wasn’t just hitting home runs, either. Posting a .367 OBP, he was timing up everything. His percentage of balls hit up the middle was at a career-best 56%, and the writers took notice of these numbers. Finishing 7th in the NL MVP voting and winning a silver slugger, the young third basement deserves all the credit we can give him.
SS - Trea Turner
One of the Dodgers key acquisitions at the deadline, former Nationals shortstop Trea Turner was nothing short of phenomenal during the 2021 season. Producing a league-leading 6.9 fWAR (0.2 above nearest competitor), he has become the definition of a complete player. On offense, he impressed. Pairing a .328/.375/.536 statline with a .386 wOBA and 142 wRC+, the new slugger also hit a career-high of 28 home runs. On the base paths, he was ferocious. He managed a 5.0 BsR rating by Fangraphs (6.0 is considered great), swiped 32 bases, and led the MLB with a 30.7 ft/sec Sprint Speed. On defense, he heavily improved. With most defensive stats failing to tell the whole picture, I often utilize UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) as a good measure for how a fielder is doing. While lifetime a below-average fielder (-15 - 0 is below average, 0 - 15 is above), Turner managed to slip into the positive for the first time since 2018, handling a 2.6 UZR. My MVP in 2021, Trea made himself valuable in every aspect of the game. Outshining the other shortstops, he holds this spot on our All-MLB team.
OF- Bryce Harper
Philadelphia outfield Bryce Harper leads the outfield contingent of The Drummey Angle’s All-MLB team. In 2021, Harper was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player for the second time in his career. The former top prospect hit .279 with 35 home runs and a .429 on base percentage. Harper saw a return to his previous form with his slugging percentage climbing to a league leading mark of .615 and a 49.7% hard contact rate. Harper remains under contract through the 2031 season and figures to be a central figure in the growth of the Phillies offense and the MLB itself.
OF - Nick Castellanos
Cincinnati Reds corner outfielder Nick Castellanos was named an All-Star for the first time in 2021 and was also named a National League Silver Slugger. He rebounded from a down 2020 campaign to hit for a .309 average and clubbed a career-high 34 home runs. Castellanos posted a .362 on-base percentage and slugged at a .576 clip, pairing greatly with his 100 runs batted in. The Florida native managed a 46.9 rate of hard contact, making him one of the most difficult outs in the National League. Castellanos has opted out of his contract with the Reds and figures to cash in on his 2021 All-MLB caliber season in free agency.
OF - Juan Soto
Soto, a 23-year-old Washington outfielder, was honored with his first All-Star Game appearance in 2021. Juan led the National League with 145 walks, leading to a league-high .465 on-base percentage. He hit for a .313 average and slugged a .534, racking up 29 home runs in the process. Soto was named a Silver Slugger for the second time in his young career and was second in National League Most Valuable Player voting. His continued progression in 2021 lent potency to an otherwise struggling Washington offense and lands him on The Drummey Angle’s All-MLB Team.
DH - Shohei Ohtani
American League Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani holds down the designated hitter spot on The Drummey Angle’s All-MLB team. Ohtani’s 2021 campaign was the stuff of legends - the 27-year-old racked up All-Star and Silver Slugger honors with his MVP award. While Ohtani only mustered a .257 average, he smacked 46 home runs while leading the league in triples. He posted a .372 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage while driving in 100 runs. This glorious season also saw the two-way star record a 53.7% hard-hit rate, one of the highest in his career. Put quite simply, the 2021 version of Shohei Ohtani was unreal.
SP1 - Corbin Burnes
For our best Starting Pitcher in all of baseball, Brewers NL Cy Young Corbin Burnes takes home the honors. Beginning the year, the ace recorded 58 strikeouts before allowing a walk, setting a new Major League record and a tone for the rest of the year. By the end, his Walk Percentage was only 5.2%. Arguably one of the most dominant pitching seasons in recent history, Burnes had a 1.63 FIP, 2.43 ERA, 35.6% K Rate, and a league-leading 7.5 fWAR through 167 IP. And while this could be looked at as a fluke, the stat cast statistics say otherwise. Ranking above the 90th percentile in almost every major category, his 97th percentile Whiff % and 98th percentile Chase Rate truly demonstrate how difficult it was to face this man.
SP2 - Max Scherzer
Mad Max. Debuting in 2008, it is a miracle that the righty is still considered elite, let alone the Top 5 in baseball. And in the need for total fairness, age was not even considered in this restructured team. Scherzer is just that amazing at 37. In his split season between the Nationals and the Dodgers, Max managed a 2.97 FIP, 2.46 ERA, 34.1% K Rate, along with 5.4 fWAR. While this season was statistically not his best year, he still outshined his fellow competitors, especially in the second half. After being traded to the Dodgers, his FIP fell to 1.96. During that same period, he split both his Home Run and Walk Rates in half. Similar to prior seasons, his usage of the slider as a put-away proved as one of the most devastating pitches in all of baseball, with opponents whiffing on 48.5%. Serving as the No. 1 for the best rotation in all of baseball, it should be of no surprise that a player of his caliber is ranked at number 2.
SP3 - Zach Wheeler
Leading the entire MLB with 213.1 innings pitched, the 31-year-old Philly was a force of nature. In the best season of his lengthy career, Wheeler pitched a 2.78 ERA, 2.59 FIP, and a 10.42 K/9. With long innings and a solid line, it should be expected that he produced the 2nd-most fWAR this season at 7.3. Largely dependent on his fastball, Wheeler ranked in the 94th percentile for Fastball Velocity, a career-high. Conversely, he allowed very little quality contact, which is especially surprising considering his speed. With both quality and quantity backing up his excellence, Wheeler is at least the SP3 for this past season.
SP4 - Brandon Woodruff
Often the afterthought behind Burnes in the Brewers rotation, Brandon Woodruff was flawless in 2021. Through 179.1 innings pitched, he held a 2.56 ERA, 2.96 FIP, and 29.8% Strikeout Rate, earning him 4.7 fWAR. In evaluating Woodruff, one word specifically comes to mind - dependability. While not producing the most pitching WAR on his team, he did lead them in innings, recording two more outings than Corbin. Of his 30 games started, 20 (or 66.7%) were deemed quality starts, showcasing his ability to be stellar consistently. In these consistent performances, the most fascinating aspect has to be pointed at his relatively odd pitch diversity. While most pitchers will have a dominant pitch that is generally thrown between 40% - 60%, his leading fastball only accounted for 33.7%. Comfortable with his remaining pitches, his Slider (26.7%), Curveball (16.7%), and Changeup (14.2%) combo made it extremely difficult for hitters to guess against. With this superb breakout season, Woodruff fairly earned a spot on The Drummey Angle All-MLB team.
SP5 - Robbie Ray
The AL Cy Young award winner, Robbie Ray had one of the most surprising breakout seasons in all of baseball. With a 5.84 FIP in the shortened 2020 season, the odds of seeing him decrease that number to 3.69 were very slim. Yet, it somehow happened. This season, Ray cemented himself in the history books, having the highest amount of strikeouts in 1000 IPs with 1241. With a 2.84 ERA, 32.1% K Rate, and 3.9 fWAR in 193.1 innings pitched, Ray provided a lot of value for a competing Jay’s team. The southpaw also fared well on statcast metrics, placing in the 87th percentile for Whiff % and the upper quartile for both Expected Batting Average and Fast Ball Velocity. And while his numbers don’t justify an SP1 spot, Ray easily produced enough to be seen as a Top 5 pitcher for the 2021 season.
RP - Josh Hader
When I see Josh Hader (as I have done many times before), I always get nervous. The guy is a monster. He has a three-pitch repertoire with a 4-seam fastball that tops at 100mph, a slider that will sit in the low-mid 80s range, and a very rarely thrown changeup. Let’s start with his most thrown pitch, the fastball. This sits in the high 90s - coming from a lefty, it is devastating. It has some serious run to it, which is highly effective. It moves 12-13 inches vertically. That is 2-3 inches ABOVE the average for fastballs in the MLB. The opposing batting average on that pitch is .103. The other two pitches he throws significantly less. He also consistently gets the spin rate up in the 2000s, a very good place to be for a fastball. His combined pitch % of his changeup and slider is 34%. His other pitches are still really, really good. His changeup (which he only throws 6% of the time, so take this with a grain of salt) has a 43% whiff rate. It isn’t thrown a lot, but it is deadly. His overall stats are also tremendous, holding a 1.23 ERA and 3.4 WAR. He only gave up 8 runs the entire season, landing him on TDA's All-MLB Team.
RP - Liam Hendriks
The Sox put a lot of trust in pitcher Liam Hendricks. They took a gamble by giving him a very high innings count, and it paid off. He was an All-Star, had a 2.54 ERA, and finished 8th in CY Young voting as a reliever. Instead of focusing primarily on pitches (like I did with Hader), let’s look at overall stats. He averaged 16 strikeouts per win. 16. That’s a lot of strikeouts. More impressively, his BB/9 was 0.9. He didn’t even average a walk per game. This means he just pounds the zone, and his stuff is just so great that batters can’t hit it. He punched 113 tickets, with 3 (technically 4, but he threw only 1 recorded change up last year that was a ball, so no point in talking about it) pitches - a fastball, slider, and curve. He doesn’t throw the curve that much, as he has issues locating it. The slider was effectively paired with the four-seam, with the former carrying an xBA of .100 and BA of .089. The slider looks exactly like the fastball for the first ⅓-½ of the way there. His fastballs sit in the high 90s, even touching 100. Teamed with a nasty combo of pitches, he is insanely elite, making this mock squad.
While our team personally believes that these are the best possible selections, there are definitely arguments for every position. Competition among the MLB's best never seems to wane - with players seemingly becoming more skilled every year. Hopefully, this pattern will continue on in a regularly schedule 2022 season.