Where it’s all about Mike Trout in the American League, the NL MVP race in 2021 is open. The usual stars sit atop the class, but picking a favorite is not easy.
World Series winners Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts are destined to contend. In the same division, Fernando Tatis Jr and Manny Machado will fancy their chances. Perhaps Mike Yastrzemski can build on another great season in San Francisco.
NL MVP Race 2021: NL West stars lead field
Outfield sensations Betts and Juan Soto are tied atop the odds. This is a crowded field, however, with Bellinger, Tatis and Ronald Acuna all close behind. On the back of an historic contract, Mets offseason acquisition Francisco Lindor is a name to keep an eye on.
The National League is packed with two-way talent. The majority of the aforementioned NL MVP contenders are not only elite hitters, but they also bring Gold Glove caliber defense, and in some cases, could post 20+ stolen bases.
That could prove to be a decisive factor here. As great as Soto is, and it’s impossible to overstate how impactful he is as a hitter, his defense is not in the same class as Bellinger, Tatis or Betts. Could that ultimately be the tiebreaker?
The increased talent level in the NL MVP race in recent years is remarkable. We haven’t even mentioned Bryce Harper, Trevor Story or Kris Bryant yet. That trio perhaps all fall into the ‘outsiders’ bracket despite having two MVP awards between them already.
Further down the field, players like Javier Baez, Pete Alonso and Ozzie Albies will consider themselves candidates. Each have their weaknesses, but the potential is there for an MVP level campaign.
Alonso, for instance, is among the best pure power hitters in the game. It’s not infeasible that he hits 60 homers, and follows the Giancarlo Stanton blueprint for an MVP award. Alonso’s MVP case could be aided by the Mets being the National League East champions, too.
For Albies and Baez, it’s likely to be a mix of power and high average. The two are capable of highlight reel plays but combining that with consistency at the plate is the key here.
Set for thrilling race
Where the AL MVP race can be framed as Trout versus the rest, this is far less clear cut.
The National League might be top heavy with a handful of teams far ahead of the rest, but its MVP debate is not as divided. There’s 15 or more players with a very reasonable shot at the award. Another group beyond that can make a claim based on past performance or upside.
This should go down to the wire. There’s a catalogue of players capable of posting massive numbers, and a group who will be the subject of viral highlights on a weekly basis.
Voting on the 2021 NL MVP could be divisive. It could break down to star power versus raw production. Perhaps one of the league’s superstars combines the two for an all-time great season.
Whatever the outcome, the National League is loaded with entertainers. This should be fun.