Today we take a look at some MVP projections for 2021. It’s always easy to predict the frontrunners, but if you are looking for some dark horse players to take home the award, look no further. We’ll start by looking at three under-the-radar MVP candidates for the National League.
(Note – Odds for MVP are via DraftKings)
1. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 3 (2013,2015,2017)
If you were making a list of the most underrated stars in Major League Baseball, Paul Goldschmidt would be right near the top. The 33-year-old first basemen has been one of baseball’s most productive players since 2013. Goldschmidt has made seven All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger awards, and won three Gold Gloves.
In 2020, his second season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Goldschmidt had a very solid year. The first basemen produced a slash line of .304/.417/.466 with 13 doubles, six home runs, and 21 RBIs. According to Baseball Savant, Goldschmidt finished in the 94th percentile in BB%, 93rd percentile in xwOBA, and the 86th percentile in xBA and xSLG. Looking ahead to 2021, DraftKings has the veteran as +3300 to win the 2021 NL MVP. That’s lower odds than guys like Kris Bryant, Pete Alonso, and Ozzie Albies.
Goldschmidt certainly should be higher in these projections, especially now that he’ll have All-Star third basemen Nolan Arenado in the lineup alongside him. With the Cardinals projected to win the NL Central, Goldschmidt easily could have another 30-35 home run season with 100 plus RBIs, potentially putting himself back in the MVP discussion.
2. Manny Machado, 3B, San Diego Padres
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 2 (2016, 2020)
While all the focus was on his teammate, Fernando Tatis, third basemen Manny Machado quietly had one of the best seasons in baseball in 2020. The 28-year-old recorded a slash line of .304/.370/.580 with 12 doubles, 16 home runs, and 47 RBIs. Baseball Savant had Machado in the 95th percentile in xBA, and 91st percentile in xwOBA and xSLG. Machado’s dominant 2020 season saw him finish third in the NL MVP voting, the closest he has ever got to winning the award in his nine-year career.
Projecting ahead to 2021, Machado has a good chance to have another dominant season. The San Diego Padres figure to be one of the best teams in baseball, and you could make an argument Machado is their best player. FanGraphs has Machado projected to hit 36 home runs and drive in 104 RBIs. If he’s able to put up these numbers and lead San Diego to 90-95 wins, he’s got a great shot to put his name in the MVP conversation. (DraftKings has Machado with +2200 odds to win the MVP in 2021)
3. Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 0
If you’re looking for a real underdog pick, Trea Turner is your guy, just ask @dcNATSHACK. DraftKings has Turner with +5000 odds to win the 2021 NL MVP. That’s the same odds as Jeff McNeil, Alec Bohm, and Trent Grisham. Those are all solid players, but that’s some serious disrespect to the Nats shortstop.
In an article last week, we broke down just how dominant Turner was in 2020. Here are some statistics to back it up.
“When you dive deeper into some of his 2020 statistics, you see just how outstanding Turner was. According to Baseball Savant, Turner was in the top 10% of the league in XWOBA (.372), WOBA (.406), and XBA (.307). The shortstop’s sweet spot percentage, (34.2%), barrel percentage (9.5%), and exit velocity (90.5 mph) were all career-highs. Baseball Savant also had Turner ranked in the 99th percentile in sprint speed, the 96th percentile in expected batting average, and the 92nd percentile in expected weighted on-base percentage.”
Turner finished seventh in the 2020 NL MVP voting, and has a chance to finish much higher this season. FanGraphs has Turner projected to produce a slash line of .284/.352/.475 with 35 doubles, 24 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases. Personally, I think the projected average seems very low as Turner is a career .296 hitter.
The Nationals’ shortstop has a great shot to go 30-30-30 (doubles, home runs, stolen bases). If he is able to keep his average around .300, and more importantly the Nationals are able to make it back to the postseason, Turner could put himself back into the MVP discussion again in 2021.