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.