Which players can rival Mike Trout for AL MVP in 2021?

MIke Trout swing
Who can stop Mike Trout winning AL MVP? Photo from Taiwan News.

Once again, Mike Trout is the overwhelming favorite in the AL MVP race.

Trout is the best player in baseball. His fifth-placed AL MVP finish in the shortened 2021 campaign was his worst return in a full campaign, having won the award thrice and been a runner-up four times. Where other awards are less predictable, the AL MVP race comes down to Mike Trout versus the field.

2021 AL MVP Race

Trout is quite simply that great. It takes an historic season to trump him for MVP. It was Mookie Betts in 2018. An injury saw Trout finish down in fourth in 2017, though he was on an MVP pace. Josh Donaldson was fortunate to beat out the Angels superstar in 2015. Peak Miguel Cabrera got in his way in the early seasons.

Previous winners show what it takes to topple Trout in 2021. This AL MVP race is not wide open, and it would be dishonest to pretend otherwise. Award predictions should reasonably lean to Trout.

The usual names surround Trout. Aaron Judge, Alex Bregman and Jose Ramirez are among the best of the rest, along with Trout’s teammate Anthony Rendon. Some will be lured in by the promise of the game’s younger talent like Luis Robert, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Yordan Alvarez.

What’s required to beat Trout to AL MVP?

Reliability of elite performance is usually the key for being an MVP candidate. The top-tier players are going to be there or thereabouts, giving themselves a chance at the award every season. It’s been different in the AL MVP race.


Upside is the crucial factor. Other great players having a great season obviously puts them in the mix, but they need to have the potential to do something spectacular. Cabrera at the top of his game was that sort of talent. Betts did the same, combining all-world defense, base running and a complete package of hitting.

The AL MVP race 2021, if Trout is healthy, will only be an interesting debate if someone else can border on 1.000 OPS. These are the standards Trout has set. Only six players were above an .981 OPS in the last full MLB campaign.

That included Nelson Cruz, who will find almost impossible to win MVP from DH. Bregman, Rendon and Trout all passed that threshold. Trout has been above .981 OPS in every season since 2014. For others, this greatness is less of a guarantee. Bregman’s shorter career has not had another season at that level. The same goes for Rendon, and the former National will struggle to win MVP while playing alongside Trout.

It’s one of the strange travesties of sport that Trout has just three MVP awards. Celebrating his 30th birthday in August, the eight-time All-Star looks destined to a fourth award before he turns 31. This is so often the case, however. Trout is always the obvious pick for MVP, yet someone frequently puts in a season spectacular enough to pip him.

There’s a raft of players capable of such a campaign. Predicting who can put up Trout-rivalling numbers is not easy, and while Trout is a lock to be among the finalists, the field to challenge for the award is wide open.

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About Sam Cox 684 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

3 Comments

  1. It is not a travesty of sports that Trout has “only” 3 MVP awards. The definition of “MVP” is “Most VALUABLE Player”, not “Best Position Player”, or “Best Hitter”, or the closest to modern practice: “Best Hitting Position Player Who Is Not A Total Loss In The Field”.

    In order to be the “Most Valuable”, shouldn’t the player’s team at least make it to the postseason? After all, if the Angels miss the postseason, couldn’t they do that just as easily without Trout? Not that salaries drive the MVP discussion, but one could argue that spending $37m/year on Trout is counterproductive in the years when they could have had a lower payroll with no loss of postseason action that was known to be out of reach before the season began. I would argue that nobody is all that “valuable” on a team that misses the postseason. The goal of playing the game is to win. The ultimate proof of value is helping your team to win games. There is no value in losing.

    The Red Sox traded a similar high-value player — Mookie Betts. The theory of trading such a player is that you receive a combination of players, prospects, draft picks, and salary savings (including luxury tax) that can produce more wins than the high-value player can provide. Time will tell if this is a good strategy or not.

    I suppose it’s reasonable to consider Trout as a perennial MVP candidate if you factor in his potential trade value. Since his postseason performance is non-existent except for the 2014 ALDS, either Trout is not all that valuable, or he really IS that valuable — but only if the Angels unlock that value by trading him.

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