On Monday we looked at three under-the-radar candidates to win the NL MVP. Today we flip to the American League side of the conversation and look at under-the-radar candidates to win the 2021 AL MVP. (MVP odds via DraftKings)
1. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 1 (2019)
Xander Bogaerts is one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. The 28-year-old shortstop has been one of the more productive players at his position over the past three seasons. In 2020, Bogaerts posted another solid year. He produced a slash line of .300/.364/.502 with eight doubles, 11 home runs, and 28 RBIs.
Bogaerts’ last full season in 2019 was by far the best showing of his career. In 155 games he slashed .309/.384/.555 with 52 doubles, 33 home runs, and 117 RBIs. This showing earned him his third Silver Slugger award, along with finishing fifth in the 2019 AL MVP race. As we get back to reality and another full 162-game slate in 2021, Bogaerts has a chance to be up near the top of the race again.
FanGraphs has the shortstop projected to slash .279/.359/.486 with 26 home runs and 94 RBIs. Personally, I think they are sleeping on Bogaerts’ talent. Even playing on a Boston team that figures to miss the postseason, he easily could hit 30-35 home runs, drive in 100 plus RBIs, and hit right around .300. DraftKings has Bogaerts with +3300 odds to win the MVP in 2021. That’s outstanding value for a guy who is one of the best players at his position in the game.
2. Yordan Álvarez, DH, Houston Astros
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 0
This is an out-of-the-box pick, but hear me out on this one. As a rookie in 2019, Yordan Álvarez played in just 87 games. Not a huge sample size, but the numbers were out of this world. The 23-year-old hit 27 home runs in those 87 games. That’s close to a home run every three games.
Baseball Savant demonstrates even better how dominant Álvarez was in 2019. He finished in the 98th percentile in xwOBA, xSLG, and Barrel %, and the 94th percentile in Exit Velocity and BB%. Looking at these numbers it’s no shock the 23-year-old slugger won the AL Rookie of The Year award despite playing in a little over half a season.
Álvarez did this in his first real exposure to Major League pitching, at just 22-years-old. After an injury-plagued 2020, the slugger gets a chance to put his talent on full display again in 2021. FanGraphs has him projected to slash .281/.372/.570 with 25 doubles, 37 home runs, and 99 RBIs. With the Astros projected to run away with the weak AL West, Álvarez has a good shot to be a legit contender in the MVP race. DraftKings has him with the same odds as Bogaerts, +3300, to win the award.
3. Giancarlo Stanton, DH, New York Yankees
Top-Five MVP Finishes: 2 (2014, 2017 MVP)
From one slugger to another. This time we’re talking about 31-year-old Giancarlo Stanton, a guy who has some experience being in MVP races. The now New York Yankee won the NL MVP in 2017 as a member of the Miami Marlins, producing a dominant season. He slashed .281/.376/.631 with 32 doubles, 59 home runs, and 132 RBIs.
After one of the best seasons in recent baseball history, Stanton was traded to New York. In his first season in the Bronx, Stanton hit 38 home runs to go with 100 RBIs, and played in 158 games. Since then, things have been a disaster. Injuries have limited Stanton to playing in just 41 games over the past two seasons. During that time, he’s combined for just seven home runs and 24 RBIs.
This pick is more of a projection, and hope for his sake, that Stanton can finally stay healthy in 2021. When he’s healthy, Stanton is one of the more exciting players in all of baseball to watch. FanGraphs has him projected to slash .250/.346/.530 with 39 home runs and 100 RBIs. Those are numbers that surely would put him in the MVP race, it’s just a matter of if he can stay on the field enough to produce that kind of production. DraftKings has Stanton as a +4000 underdog to win the 2021 MVP, so if you’re looking for a real value pick he’s your guy.