PTST Roundtable: 2021 MLB Awards

PTST Roundtable: 2021 MLB Awards

by November 8, 2021 1 comment

With the 2021 MLB season over, our staff came together to share their picks for the annual end-of-year awards. As always, these picks only take into consideration regular-season action and were not influenced by postseason games.

Most Valuable Player

American League

Carter LaCorte: Shohei Ohtani
Hitting-wise, Ohtani was still very close to Guerrero. Add not just mediocre but ace-level pitching to that and he’s the MVP.

Carson Babbini: Shohei Ohtani
This was a hard decision between Ohtani and Guerrero Jr. However, we haven’t seen the things that Ohtani has done in a very long time on the diamond. To bat and pitch at an elite level? It was truly incredible to watch. Batting-wise, he notched 46 home runs 100 RBI. Pitching-wise, 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts. It was truly incredible to watch and Ohtani is very deserving of the MVP award.

Logan Lockhart: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani’s value to the Angels on the mound and at the plate was not only team-changing but historic. If the MVP award is really meant to serve as a piece of baseball history, then the Angels slugger is undoubtedly the winner in 2021. Ohtani’s output was so extraordinary that he should still be able to deny Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of capturing the honors.

Jordan Leandre: Shohei Ohtani
He’s doing things we’ve never seen in MLB history. He’s not the best hitter in the sport, he’s not the best pitcher in the sport. But he was top-five offensively, where he plays every day, and roughly top-25 as a starter. It’s a no-brainer.

B.J. Martin: Shohei Ohtani
9.0 WAR (4.9 as hitter and 4.1 as pitcher), 46 home runs, 100 RBI, 103 runs, 26 stolen bases, nine wins, sub-3.20 ERA, and 10.8 K/9 on the mound. Only shared line-up with Trout and Rendon for 19 games this year. Ace of pitching staff returning from Tommy John surgery. Started All-Star game at pitcher and as the lead-off hitter for the American League. An absolutely unprecedented season.

Johnnie Black: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani is simply the Most Valuable Player and not just because he can pitch and hit. It is the fact that he does both at an elite clip. His 9.0 rWAR is evidence of that.

Rephael Negnewitzky: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
It’s an extremely close race between Vlad Jr. and Ohtani, but I think Vlad Jr comes on top. If you compare home runs, RBI, and batting average, Guerrero is better. Ohtani is not far behind.

Yehuda Schwartz: Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani on just one end of the ball is deserving of an award. Now, when you play All Star-caliber baseball on both ends, you are more than worthy of MVP. Not only did Shohei last a full season, but he also lasted a full season both pitching and hitting. Ohtani also is the first player ever to log 45-plus home runs, 25-plus stolen bases, and five triples. More than worthy.

Alex Kielar: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani did what no one has ever seen before this season. He was a force to be reckoned with at the plate and on the mound. The Ruthian player slashed .257/.372/.592 with a 152 wRC+, 46 homers, and 26 stolen bases while holding a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts in 130.1 innings.

Ben Fadden: Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani not only hit 46 HR this season but was also the ace of the Angels’ pitching staff. He compiled 9.0 WAR, too. (9.0!) That’s the definition of an MVP.

Andersen Pickard: Shohei Ohtani
Guerrero is spectacular, but Ohtani is on a whole different level thanks to his unheard-of two-way prowess. It’s fun to imagine how the Angels would perform with Ohtani, Mike Trout, and the entire crew actually healthy for a full season.

National League

Carter: Fernando Tatis Jr.
He is the perfect all-around candidate. He did everything at an amazing level, finishing second in the league in WAR, first in homers, with a 166 OPS+. His defense wasn’t great but the Padres’ failure wasn’t on him.

Carson: Bryce Harper
Another tough race between Harper, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. However, of these three, Harper had a tremendous second half. For example, in the last month alone, Harper had nine home runs and 21 RBI with a .496 OBP and a .779 SLG. This was the Bryce Harper the Phillies were hoping for when they signed him, and this year should be the year he becomes the Phillies’ first MVP since Jimmy Rollins in 2007.

Logan: Juan Soto
As the Nationals’ firesale took place in July, protection for Soto in the lineup dwindled. But it didn’t seem to matter. Soto is re-defining what it means to get on base, as his .465 OBP and league-leading 145 walks made him a prime target to get pitched around each and every day of the week. While the 22-year-old is not present in the postseason, the other prime candidates to win the award are also not participating in October baseball. 

Jordan: Juan Soto
His advantage in rWAR over Bryce Harper was much greater than his deficit in fWAR this season. He was just off the pace as Harper offensively but blew him out of the water on defense. He also walked more than he struck out, which is incredibly impressive given the era of baseball we’re in.

B.J.: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Battling injuries at shortstop, Tatis kept himself in the Padres’ lineup with a move to the outfield. In 130 games for San Diego, he finished second to Juan Soto in NL WAR at 6.6. His 7.3 oWAR was the best in the NL, as were his 42 home runs. His .972 OPS, 25 stolen bases, 99 runs scored, and 97 runs batted in ranked among the top in the senior circuit. Juan Soto was a close second to Tatis for the award.

Johnnie: Trea Turner
The fact that Turner put up 6.5 rWAR while switching teams and switching positions is insane. He led the league in stolen bases as well as batting average, total bases, and hits.

Rephael: Bryce Harper
Tatis and Soto both are contenders, but Harper just had a better year. He hit .305 with 34 homers and 82 RBI. Those are MVP stats. He also led MLB in OPS (1.033).

Yehuda: Juan Soto
Juan Soto is just 22 years old, yet the numbers look like those from a player who is in his prime on a Hall of Fame trajectory. With an on-base percentage among the league leaders and a hit tool among the top in the game, Soto is a game-changer no matter how his team fares. Add in the more-than-adequate defense and very solid power and you have an MVP at the age of 22. This is astounding.

Alex: Bryce Harper
Harper was the reason the Phillies were even in the playoff hunt up until the last week of the season and showed a great blend of plate discipline and power. He paced the MVP candidates in OPS (1.044), OPS+ (179), wRC+ (170), and slugging (.615).

Ben: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis led the National League in homers while stealing 25 bags and literally fulfilling the word “valuable” in the MVP award. He went to play a position that he never had played before in the middle of the season so he could increase his chances of staying healthy and helping his team win every night. Then, he moved back to shortstop and showed improvement defensively. Harper and Soto may have had a case if their teams made the playoffs … but they didn’t, so Tatis is the obvious choice.

Andersen: Juan Soto
Soto has it all, boasting tremendous vision at the plate, excessive power, and a strong glove, too. Perhaps even more impressive than his home run total was the number of walks that Soto drew. And while age doesn’t factor into his case for this award, the fact that he was just 22 years old this past season is even more incredible. The Nationals need to build around Soto because he is a truly special ballplayer.

Cy Young

American League

Carter: Robbie Ray
Ray is the perfect all-around, traditional candidate. He was easily first in AL pitching rWAR, strikeouts, WHIP, and ERA. Gerrit Cole comes close but Ray has him beat.

Carson: Gerrit Cole
Another two-headed race with Robbie Ray and Cole, but the biggest stat that comes in Cole’s favor is that amazing 12.06 K/9. That was second in the American League to only Dylan Cease, not to mention a 5.93 K/BB ratio, best in the AL. His ERA isn’t great, but it isn’t always about the basic stats. This could finally be the year that Cole wins a Cy Young Award.

Logan: Robbie Ray
By the time the month of June came around, Ray had already established himself as a prime starter in Blue Jays’ rotation. Still, his emergence into the Cy Young conversation may be the most unexpected turn of events in the award’s history. If there was ever a time to credit a coach for a pitcher’s turnaround, it would be now. Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker found something in Ray that no one did before. After an inconsistent and sometimes disastrous run in Arizona with the Diamondbacks, Ray has become a premium arm in the AL after posting a league-leading 154 ERA+ in 2021.

Jordan: Gerrit Cole
It’s incredibly close. Robbie Ray had the best ERA, Nathan Eovaldi had the best FIP and highest fWAR, but Cole is better in basically everything else. His xFIP was the best of the three, his strikeout rate was the best of the three, and his strikeout-to-walk rate was the best of the three. Not to mention the only two that posted better SIERAs this season were Max Scherzer and Corbin Burnes.

B.J.: Shohei Ohtani
I know, it’s crazy to consider giving the award to a pitcher with only 23 starts and nine wins. When you consider the same player had 639 plate appearances, 4.1 WAR, 10.8 K/9, and a .207 OBA, though, you realize that Ohtani is simply remarkable as a pitcher. Robbie Ray and Gerrit Cole had outstanding seasons on the mound but Ohtani’s starts were two-way performances. The American League All-Star starting pitcher was in the Angels’ lineup for 19 of his 23 starts in 2021, contributing to his cause with six doubles, three home runs, nine runs batted in, and a stolen base during those starts.

Johnnie: Robbie Ray
Ray has been dominant this season and led the league in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. While Gerrit Cole has been excellent, he hasn’t matched Ray’s consistency over the whole season.

Rephael: Gerrit Cole
Robbie Ray did have a spectacular year, but I think Cole deserves Cy Young. Although Ray beats Cole in ERA and strikeouts, Cole beats Ray in most stats and was also more dominant.

Yehuda: Robbie Ray
Robbie Ray had one of the best seasons by any Blue Jays pitcher in recent memory. He paired this season with rookie Alek Manoah, HyunJin Ryu, and Jose Berrios along with a scary offense to come within one game of the wild card. Ray beat out division rival Gerrit Cole for the top honors in my opinion.

Alex: Gerrit Cole
The race is between Cole and Ray, and the latter has gotten the better results of late. But Cole bounced back from a rough couple of months in the middle of the season. Despite not finishing off on the best of notes in the last few starts, the Yankee ace still was the better pitcher most of the season. He had the better K/9 (12.06), BB/9 (2.03), HR/9 (1.19), and FIP (2.91).

Ben: Robbie Ray
This is more about Gerrit Cole’s struggles than Robbie Ray’s greatness, although he did carry Toronto’s pitching staff most of the season. Cole, Ray’s biggest competition, got caught cheating with spider tack and then wasn’t the same pitcher the rest of the way.

Andersen: Robbie Ray
The AL Cy Young race might be one of the most interesting to watch unfold. Can the strong New York market propel Gerrit Cole over Robbie Ray? It’s tough to tell, but the answer should be no. Ray was phenomenal this year, serving as one of the main reasons why Toronto had so much success in 2021. On the other hand, Cole’s end-of-season struggles put New York in an unfortunate position. This costly showing from Cole is something that isn’t acceptable from a Cy Young award winner. Ray is pretty clearly the choice here, in my opinion.

National League

Carter: Corbin Burnes
In reality, the award could go to Max Scherzer or Zack Wheeler, but it should be Corbin Burnes’ to lose. He led the NL with a 2.43 ERA, a 1.63 FIP, and a 176 ERA+. Not to mention a .4 HR/9 and a 12.6 K/9.

Carson: Corbin Burnes
What an outstanding year for Corbin Burnes. He led the National League in ERA (2.43), K/BB ratio (6.88), and K/9 (12.6) while finishing second in WHIP (0.94). A fantastic year that should be capped off with a Cy Young award.

Logan: Zack Wheeler
Wheeler led the NL in both strikeouts and innings pitched in 2021. His performance was not only dominant but also a statement. After signing a lucrative contract with the Phillies prior to the 2020 campaign, the jury was out on the right-handed hurler. Safe to say, it’s not anymore. Wheeler’s two complete-game shutouts topped all NL hurlers in an era where “going the distance” is quickly becoming a thing of the past for starting pitchers.

Jordan: Corbin Burnes
Since Jacob deGrom was hurt, that left only one pitcher competing for the title of best pitcher in the game this season. It’s not particularly close, either. Of the three pitchers I believe should be the finalists (Burnes, Zack Wheeler, and Max Scherzer), Burnes leads in fWAR, ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA, strikeout rate, and strikeout-to-walk rate. Across the board, he was better at everything. The only case against him is his innings output, but that shouldn’t be held against him.

B.J. Martin: Max Scherzer
The three-time Cy Young winner earns his fourth after going 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 208 ERA+, and 11.7 K/9 since being acquired by the Dodgers. Finishing second in NL in strikeouts and ERA with the lowest WHIP in the league. The 37-year-old’s 6.0 WAR trailed only Zack Wheeler and Walker Buehler in the NL. The free-agent-to-be gets the award over other worthy candidates in Wheeler, Corbin Burnes, and Kevin Gausman.

Johnnie: Zack Wheeler
This one is close as Corbin Burnes and Max Scherzer have compelling arguments. Wheeler threw the most innings this season and led the league in rWAR for pitchers, as well as strikeouts. He finished second in FIP.

Rephael: Corbin Burnes
Burnes had a dominant season. He led the NL in ERA along with 234 strikeouts. Although many pitchers had a better record than him, I think Burns had a slightly better season than the other competitors.

Yehuda: Zack Wheeler
Zack Wheeler is a very interesting case as he wasn’t the most dominant pitcher in the National League. Max Scherzer and Corbin Burnes were more dominant but Wheeler was more complete. He finished fifth in the league with a 2.78 ERA, first in strikeouts with 247, fifth in WHIP with 1.01, and first in innings with 213.1. Despite the Phillies failing to make the postseason, Wheeler is the reason they sniffed it.

Alex: Corbin Burnes
Burnes led the Brewers’ pitching staff as their ace and had an unreal season. The right-hander leads all candidates in HR/9 (0.38), FIP (1.63), ERA (2.43), and WAR (7.5). In fact, his FIP was the second-best mark for any season since 1969, behind Pedro Martinez‘s 1.39 FIP in 1999.

Ben: Max Scherzer
Scherzer had ERAs under three in Washington and Los Angeles, and when he came over at the deadline, he carried the Dodgers’ pitching staff when Kershaw got hurt.

Andersen: Corbin Burnes
There are a few good candidates here, but Burnes was otherworldly, leading the Brewers’ rotation for the entire year. He finished the year 11-5 with a 2.43 ERA and was especially dominant on the road, posting a 1.53 ERA throughout 10 games away from Milwaukee.

Rookie of the Year

American League

Carter: Luis Garcia
This comes down to Garcia and Shane McClanahan, with Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase a dark horse in the race. In the end, Garcia throwing 32 more innings than McClanahan won him the race. He was spectacular, logging a 3.30 ERA, 130 ERA+, and 9.7 K/9.

Carson: Adolis Garcia
Yes, I know this is a controversial pick, but what is this without a little bit of controversy? It comes down to a couple of different categories that Garcia leads in: RBI (90) and extra-base (59). Not to mention the fact that he hit 31 home runs, ranking second in the American League. Yes, his second half was a downturn, but his first half proved that he can take this award.

Logan: Randy Arozarena
After a dazzling 2020 postseason, this year’s AL Rookie of the Year award was surely Arozarena’s to lose. Even though Texas Rangers rookie outfielder Adolis Garcia showcased more power throughout the year, Arozarena’s consistency combined with an OPS north of .800 should notch him the honors in 2021. The Rays outfielder fit  nicely in a lineup that contributed to the success of the AL’s best team during the regular season.

Jordan: Emmanuel Clase
There aren’t any standout rookies in the American League. Adolis Garcia looked like a no-brainer pick at the All-Star Break, but he’s regressed to a 100 wRC+. Clase has been one of the best relievers in the sport this season, and from an fWAR/150 innings pace, he’s the best of the bunch not named Tanner Houck. (Houck slightly edges him out but only has 18 appearances.)

B.J.: Luis Garcia
Garcia was a consistent and reliable starting pitcher for the AL West-winning Houston Astros, finishing his rookie campaign with an 11-8 record, 3.30 ERA, 167 strikeouts, and 55 walks in 155.1 innings pitched. He gets the edge over Shane McClanahan, Alek Manoah, Randy Arozarena, and Adolis Garcia.

Johnnie: Randy Arozarena
A postseason here for the Rays gets this award. Adolis Garcia has an argument, but Arozarena finished with a higher wOBA and wRC+. Meanwhile, Garcia fell off toward the end of the season.

Rephael: Adolis Garcia
In his first full MLB season, Garcia was extremely impressive. He smacked 31 home runs with 16 stolen bases and 90 RBI. For a rookie, those stats are incredible. It was a tight race between Garcia and others, but the young centerfielder came out on top.

Yehuda: Wander Franco
The top prospect in the game had his struggles to start and faced an injury before season’s end. Overall, though, he had a remarkable season. This included an on-base streak that tied a record of 43 games by a player under 22. Additionally, he helped the Rays get their first 100-win season in franchise history. 

Alex: Wander Franco
This race will likely come down to Franco and his teammate, Randy Arozarena. The young shortstop tied Frank Robinson‘s 43-game on-base streak record for a player 20 years old or younger. In 70 games, Franco hit .288/.347/.463, including .355/.409/.545 over the last 30 games.

Ben: Wander Franco
Franco replaced Willy Adames pretty well at shortstop for the No. 1 seed in the AL.

Andersen: Randy Arozarena
Franco had a special season, but the fact that he was a midsesaon call-up and suffered an injury on top of that hurts him in comparison to Arozarena. The latter demonstrated five-tool ability this season and likely has an MVP award in his future. Rookie of the Year honors belong to Randy.11

National League

Carter: Trevor Rogers
Sorry, Reds fans, but it’s Rogers over Jonathan India. India’s 113 OPS+ was nice, but Rogers was just on another level for the Marlins. He threw 133 innings, allowing six home runs with a 2.64 ERA and a 2.55 FIP. The southpaw also struck out 157 while racking up a 10.6 K/9.

Carson: Jonathan India
In the easiest decision so far, India takes NL Rookie of the Year. He totaled a .377 on-base percentage, 56 extra-base hits, and other thresholds that many rookies have reached including Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, and Ichiro Suzuki, among others. India had a great year with the Reds and is clearly the future of the team.

Logan: Jonathan India
The first-round pick in 2018 announced his presence to the Reds in 2021 by posting 3.9 WAR while hitting 21 home runs and owning an OPS of .835. Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Rogers and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson deserve consideration, but India’s ability to hit at the top of the Reds’ lineup and showcase power right away should be good enough to notch him Rookie of the Year honors in 2021.

Jordan: Trevor Rogers
Rogers was brilliant this season, posting a 2.55 FIP and an NL rookie-leading 4.2 fWAR. Jonathan India will likely win the award, but Rogers deserves it despite only pitching 133 innings.

B.J.: Jonathan India
Since Opening Day, the rookie second baseman took charge of his opportunity in the Reds’ everyday lineup, hitting .269 with 34 doubles, 17 home runs, and 12 stolen bases for a Cincinnati team that exceeded many experts expectations. India gets the nod for Rookie of the Year over pitchers Trevor Rogers and Ian Anderson.

Johnnie: Jonathan India
India narrowly beats out Dylan Carlson of the Cardinals. The former had a better walk and strikeout percentage and also had the edge in wOBA and wRC+.

Rephael: Jonathan India
India has had an amazing rookie season with the Reds. He held a .261 batting average with 21 home runs and 69 RBI. The minute the young second baseman came into the league, everyone knew he would dominate.

Yehuda: Trevor Rogers
Trevor Rogers had one of the best seasons by a lefty this year not named Robbie Ray or Carlos Rodon. He also was a rookie. The Marlins didn’t have a great season, but the reason they were fun to watch was because of Mr. Rogers and his electric pitching. The 23-year-old had a 2.64 ERA through 133 innings with 157 strikeouts.

Alex: Jonathan India
The Reds’ young second baseman led all rookies in on-base percentage (.376) and all NL rookies in total bases (244). India also had a 3.9 bWAR and 113 OPS+, along with a league-leading 23 hit by pitches.

Ben: Jonathan India
India was a big reason why Cincinnati remained in the Wild Card race going into September.

Andersen: Trevor Rogers
Rogers was the highlight of the Marlins’ season, posting a 2.64 ERA and 1.15 WHIP while striking out 157 batters over the course of 25 games. An injury that held him out of play in August makes this race slightly closer, but the southpaw is still the deserving recipient.

Manager of the Year

American League

Carter: Kevin Cash
While Alex Cora and Tony La Russa led their teams to great things in their first year under their second terms with the franchise, Cash had to win. Once again, the Rays were heavily doubted, although rather unfairly this time. They went on to win 100 games, the most in the American League, without having a major weakness. The front office is the main contributor in that, but Cash plays an important part as well.

Carson: Kevin Cash
Cash has done a great job turning the Rays into a contender, even as the team’s future in Tampa Bay continues to fluctuate. He guided the team to a 100 win season, and started the development of Randy Arozorena and Wander Franco. The future looks bright for the Rays and Cash will continue to be great behind the helm.

Logan: Scott Servais
Servais and Rays manager Kevin Cash are bound to be the top vote-getters for AL Manager of the Year. Servais, however, managed a team with expectations much lower than what was outputted by his club in 2021. While dealing with a number of injuries early in the season, and after the team traded closer Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline, the Mariners made a serious bid to end their 20-year playoff drought. If nothing else, Servais has sparked optimism in Seattle for years to come after his team’s performance in 2021.

Jordan: A.J. Hinch
The award will likely and deservedly go to Kevin Cash of the Rays, but Hinch deserves a ton of credit for the year the Tigers put together. They were expected to be vying for the No. 1 pick this season, and they ended up threatening a .500 record. The culture there is completely different than it has been at any point since Jim Leyland was manning that Detroit dugout.

B.J.: Kevin Cash
Cash continued to outduel the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and talented young Toronto Blue Jays line-up for a 100-win season. Working with a young line-up and pitching staff, Cash’s Rays ended the season with five more wins than any other team in their league while playing in a division with three postseason teams.

Johnnie: Scott Servais
Yes, the Mariners missed the playoffs for the 20th consecutive season. However, they finished with 90 wins, which are the most they have had since 2003. Being in the race until the last weekend of the season has given Seattle fans hope.

Rephael: Tony La Russa
La Russa took an All-Star team and made them into one of the best teams in MLB. His White Sox were crowned champions of the AL Central with a record of 93-69. To perform that well at the age of 77 is incredible.

Yehuda: Scott Servais
Scott Servais did one of the most remarkable jobs in recent memory. He took an extremely young roster with mostly players in their first two seasons and took the team within one game of the postseason. With help from the rookies like Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Taylor Trammel, and others, Servais went 90-72, better than many AL teams.

Alex: Scott Servais
The Mariners weren’t supposed to go over .500 this season and wound up being in the playoff hunt up until the final day. Behind Servais, Seattle finished 90-72 and just five games behind the AL West champion Houston Astros.

Ben: Scott Servais
Servais led a team that wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the playoffs. Seattle instead ended up playing in a game that mattered going into the last day of the season

Andersen: Kevin Cash
Scott Servais and Charlie Montoyo can make a case here, but Cash’s Rays were a whole new level of dominant. Tampa Bay impressed by overtaking the first place spot in the AL East and never looking back; Cash deserves much of the credit for this.

National League

Carter: Gabe Kapler
Is this really a question? Kapler was run out of Philadelphia and the Giants looked foolish for hiring him. Yet with a team made out of nobodies and diminishing veterans, San Francisco was the best team in the league. They finally dethroned the Dodgers in the NL West. How can Kapler not get this award?

Carson: Gabe Kapler
What a year for Kapler and the Giants. Going from a 29-31 season last year to a 107-win season and an NL West division crown? Extremely impressive. Kapler oversaw the resurgence of Brandon Crawford, who had a fantastic year. Kapler will take this award and hope for a long postseason run with the Giants.

Logan: Gabe Kapler
Kapler and the Giants denied the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers an NL West division crown in 2021. San Francisco won games in a number of different ways with a lineup and pitching staff that wasn’t as eye-catching as many of the other postseason suitors. After being fired two years into his reign in Philadelphia, Kapler has emerged as one of MLB’s elite managers in San Francisco.

Jordan: Gabe Kapler
Did anyone have the Giants putting up the best record in the league? Mike Shildt could win based on the massive winning streak that propelled the Cardinals into October, but the Giants playing at that level with no fall-off is hard to top.

B.J.: Gabe Kapler
Not many thought of the San Francisco Giants as a serious postseason contender at the beginning of the season. Kapler’s Giants not only won the NL West but finished with an MLB-best 107 victories, getting the best of his cast of veterans and great Comeback Player of the Year performances from most of his starting rotation.

Johnnie: Gabe Kapler
This one isn’t close. If anyone had the Giants pegged for winning 107 games or even coming out as division winners at the beginning of the season, they would’ve been called nuts. But here we are.

Rephael: Gabe Kapler
There’s one word to describe the season that Gabe Kapler put together for his club this season: incredible. He took an average team and made them into one of the best teams in baseball. Kapler definitely deserves NL Manager of the Year.

Yehuda: Gabe Kapler
Gabe Kapler is one hell of a story. Coming from a Phillies roster that featured many stars, Kapler was fired after lackluster results over a few seasons in Pennsylvania’s capital. The Giants needed to replace one of the best managers in history, Bruce Bochy, and Kapler improved. The Giants went 107-55, leading the majors in wins and taking an unlikely roster to the NL West crown, dethroning the Dodgers’ streak of almost a decade.

Alex: Gabe Kapler
This is an easy pick. No one expected the Giants to be good this year. They were not only good, but they held the best record in all of baseball at 107-55. Kapler led the way, really managing the depth well and overshooting all the expectations.

Ben: Gabe Kapler
Nobody was thinking the Giants would contend for a playoff spot. Not only did they do that under Kapler, but they won 107 games.

Andersen: Gabe Kapler
If you predicted 107 wins for the Giants, I’d laugh in your face. Heck, I still can’t confirm that I wasn’t dreaming. In all seriousness, San Francisco was special, and although they weren’t able to get a world Series ring, Kapler deserves to be recognized for this fantastic run.

Comeback Player of the Year

American League

Carter: Trey Mancini
There are some good candidates in the AL like Lucas Luetge and Paul Sewald, but Mancini takes the cake. He missed all of 2020 dealing with cancer treatment, then came back around and played in 147 games for the Orioles. Not only did he play in them, but he was also above-average with 21 home runs and a 104 OPS+.

Carson: Trey Mancini
I mean, it has to be. The man has come back from cancer and played baseball. Forget the stats and everything else baseball-related. Cancer sucks, and Mancini is an inspiration to all of us.

Logan: Mitch Haniger
After missing the entirety of the 2020 campaign, Haniger returned with a 39-home run and 100-RBI season in 2021. His power surge in the month of September played a key part in getting the Mariners close to their first postseason berth since 2001. Most importantly, though, Haniger surpassed his previous career-highs in home runs, RBI, and runs in 2021.

Jordan: Trey Mancini and Eduardo Rodriguez
This should be a year of co-winners. The fact of the matter is both were in life-threatening situations with their health in 2020 and came back to have productive 2021 campaigns. I can’t pick against either of them in good conscience.

B.J.: Yordan Alvarez
Appearing in only two games in 2020, Alvarez returned to his Rookie of the Year form from 2019, slugging 35 doubles, 33 home runs, and 104 RBI for the AL West champion Houston Astros.

Johnnie: Trey Mancini
Another no-brainer here. Mancini battled cancer last year and made it back to play a full season at a high level, for the most part, blasting 21 home runs with a respectable 104 OPS+.

Rephael: Trey Mancini
It’s amazing to see how Mancini went from cancer to hitting 21 home runs. Last year, Mancini was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. Now, he’s batting .255 with 71 RBI. Truly incredible.

Yehuda: Mitch Haniger
Mitch Haniger has had one heck of a journey. Starting out as a Diamondback when drafted, Haniger was part of a blockbuster trade that sent him to Seattle several years ago. He broke out in 2018 and has been great ever since. Now, after coming back from surgeries and other ailments, Haniger had one of the better seasons from center fielders leading the Mariners within one game of the playoffs.

Alex: Trey Mancini
After fully recovering from Stage 3 colon cancer, Mancini came back and played 147 games this season. The numbers don’t even matter in that case, but he still put up solid numbers. He has the heart of every baseball fan in the world for his outstanding courage and grit.

Ben: Chris Bassitt
Bassitt wasn’t hurt last year, but he got nailed by a line drive in the face and came back weeks later.

Andersen: Trey Mancini
Mancini had a strong season in a miraculous comeback from Stage 3 colon cancer. The first baseman was specifically strong at home, hitting .284 with 14 home runs through 75 games in Baltimore. His prowess in front of the home crowd made his dominant year that much more special.

National League

Carter: Buster Posey
The NL version goes to another guy who missed all of 2020, although the now-retired Posey merely opted out. Once the best catcher in baseball, Posey was a shell of his old self in 2019, hitting just seven home runs with a .688 OPS and an 83 OPS+. Following an awful season and a missed year, expectations were low. But Posey absolutely delivered, posting the second-best OPS of his career at .889. Only his 2012 MVP season has that beat.

Carson: Buster Posey
After opting out of last year due to the pandemic, Posey put up some of his best numbers batting-wise since 2017 in batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS. He also had 18 home runs, his best since 2015. He not only had a comeback year himself, but he also helped with the comeback of the Giants. 

Logan: Buster Posey
After opting out of the COVID-riddled, shortened 2020 season, Posey, the face of the franchise, returned to play a vital role with the 107-win Giants club in 2021. The 34-year-old made the All-Star team for the first time since 2018 while hitting for a .304 average and posting an OPS of .889. His OPS had not been that high since his MVP- and World Series-winning season in 2012.

Jordan: Buster Posey
It felt like, with the trajectory his year-to-year performance was taking, Posey’s career as a top-flight catcher was effectively over after he opted out. Instead, he came back and had the third-best season of his career in terms of wRC+ and his sixth season of at least 4.9 fWAR. Posey not only cemented himself as a Hall of Famer this year, but he is a major reason the Giants made the playoffs.

B.J.: Joey Votto
After seeing his OPS drop to .768 in 2019 and his batting average down to .226 in 2020, Votto rebounded into an MVP candidate in 2021. His .266/.375/.563 line, 36 home runs, 99 runs batted in, and .938 OPS put the All-Star back onto a Hall of Fame-trending track.

Johnnie: Buster Posey
After taking last year off, Posey returned with renewed vigor. He got back to being the engine that drives the Giants and it showed not only in his stats but also in San Francisco’s record.

Rephael: Buster Posey
Posey did not attend the 2020 season because he and his wife adopted twin babies. Posey came back this season and dominated, hitting 18 home runs with a .304 batting average. For a 36-year-old catcher, Posey made a great return to the MLB before announcing his retirement this past week.

Yehuda: Buster Posey
Buster Posey has many accomplishments to his name. No one expected a season where, going into June, he was the leading hitter in the league. Posey led the Giants to over 100 wins and a division title over the powerhouse Dodgers.

Alex: Buster Posey
Posey was one of the opt-outs in the 2020 season and wasn’t very good when he last played in 2019. A lot of people thought the Giants’ catcher job would belong to Joey Bart, but Posey slashed .304/.390/.499 and helped San Francisco to a franchise-record 107 games.

Ben: Miles Mikolas
Mikolas missed 2020 due to surgery and came back in 2021 to help the Cardinals make it to the Wild Card game.

Andersen: Buster Posey
It’s going to be weird without Posey gracing the field next season, but he went out on a high note and deserves some hardware for his strong 2021 showing. The veteran backstop returned following a COVID opt-out and slashed .304/.390/.499 with 18 homers, 56 RBI, 56 walks, and 87 strikeouts.


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Andersen is a teenage sportswriter and reporter whose articles have appeared across the Prime Time Sports Talk, Sports Illustrated Kids, FantasyPros, and SB Nation platforms. He has also received credit from RotoWorld, CBS Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, The Athletic, SB Nation, NBC Sports, NY Post, and dozens of other sports sites for his reporting work.

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