With less than a week before the start of spring training, we take a stab at ranking the top 20 MLB players for the 2021 season. We did numbers 20-11 yesterday, which you can read here. Now without further ado, here is the Top 10.
10. SS Francisco Lindor – New York Mets
Our third middle infielder on the top 20 list is another guy who was traded this winter, Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets. The four-time All-Star is the offseason acquisition Mets fans have waited years for, and he has some big shoes to fill in the Big Apple. Lindor is widely considered the best shortstop in baseball and his numbers back up that claim. The 27-year-old hit 30 plus home runs in his last three full seasons and has been one of the best defenders in the game.
9. SP Gerrit Cole – New York Yankees
Our second starting pitcher on the list is the $300 million dollar man, Gerrit Cole. In his first season in Pinstripes, Cole was very solid. The 30-year-old went 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 94 batters in 73.0 innings. Cole’s FIP of 3.89 was his highest since 2017, but he still finished fourth in the American League Cy Young voting. With his Yankees looking like the favorites in the AL, Cole should have another Cy Young caliber season in 2021.
8. OF Cody Bellinger – Los Angeles Dodgers
We’re back to the outfield for this one, and it’s our first member of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. If you look at his 2020 regular season stats, Cody Bellinger did not have a great year. The former MVP slashed .239/.333/.455 with just 12 home runs and 30 RBIs. While his performance in the regular season was rather pedestrian, he came up big when his team needed him most. Bellinger hit a huge go-ahead home run in Game Seven of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves and played some excellent defense in the World Series. As a member of the best overall roster in baseball, Bellinger should bounce back nicely in a full 162 game slate.
7. SP Jacob DeGrom – New York Mets
Our top pitcher on the board is the undisputed best starter in baseball, Jacob DeGrom. 2020 was a tale as old as time for the right-hander. He was absolutely dominant and his team got him no run support. DeGrom finished the year with an outstanding 2.38 ERA but racked up just four wins. His 104 strikeouts in 68.0 innings led the National League. With more overall firepower on their team, the Mets should be able to get their ace a few more wins this season. DeGrom is the clear Cy Young favorite in the NL entering 2021.
6. 3B Nolan Arenado – St. Louis Cardinals
We finally get to our top infielder in third basemen Nolan Arenado. After an unusually low amount of production in 2020 (.253BA 8 HR), Arenado was moved to the St. Louis Cardinals in the blockbuster deal of the offseason. Despite moving away from Coors Field, Arenado should post some big-time production in his first year as a Cardinal. The 29-year-old has won eight consecutive Gold Glove awards and hasn’t hit less than 37 home runs in any full season since 2014.
5. OF Christian Yelich – Milwaukee Brewers
If you’re talking about a disappointing season, no player in baseball fits the category more than Christian Yelich in 2020. The former MVP hit just .205 last year after finishing top two in MVP voting in both 2018 and 2019. Yelich still did have 20 extra-base hits and walked 46 times, so he was able to get on base at a decent rate. Simply put, Yelich is far too talented to have another season like he did in 2020 and I see him bouncing back in a big way this year.
4. OF Juan Soto – Washington Nationals
If Juan Soto didn’t miss games due to Covid-19 last season, he’s probably the 2020 NL MVP. When on the field, no player in baseball was more productive than Soto last year. The 22-year-old slashed .351/.490/.695 to go with 13 home runs, 14 doubles, 37 RBIs, and a 1.185 OPS. That’s not just Hall of Fame numbers, that’s best player of all time stuff. Washington got Soto some protection this offseason, but probably not nearly enough to force teams to consistently pitch to Soto. The star outfielder will still have an amazing year, but look for lots of walks and not a ton of chances to drive in runs.
Here’s where things get interesting. This won’t sit well with many Nationals fans, but Ronald Acuña Jr. is my third-best player in baseball for the 2021 season. After a slow start, Acuña was red hot down the stretch. He finished with 14 home runs in just 46 games, and an OBP over .400. I project Acuña to be more productive than the players below him in 2021 simply because he’ll be on a better team. The Braves have one of the best lineups in the National League, which will give the 23-year-old tons of protection behind him.
2. OF Mookie Betts – Los Angeles Dodgers
Not many players had a better 2020 than Mookie Betts. In his first season in Los Angeles, Betts was an absolute star, finishing second in the NL MVP voting and leading his team to a World Series title. Betts slashed .292/.366/.562 with 16 home runs and 39 RBIs in the regular season. In the playoffs, Betts hit .296, drove in eight runs, and played some spectacular defense. The 28-year-old figures to have another dominant year in 2021.
1. OF Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
The consensus best player in baseball had another excellent season in 2020. Despite a dip in average, Trout still slashed .281/.390/.603 with 17 home runs, 46 RBIs, and a .993 OPS. The three-time MVP figures to be the early frontrunner to win the award for the fourth time in 2021.
What do you think of our rankings? Let us know on Twitter at @HalfStHighHeat on who you think should be in the Top 20. And don’t forget to listen to the Half Street High Heat podcast, now releasing episodes twice a week!