MLB awards are part of the wonders of baseball discourse. For some, it’s a simple decision, for others, there’s a large process into what makes someone the best or most valuable in their field. Then some players are worthy of recognition but don’t meet the requirements to qualify. That’s what’s being discussed here: the MLB awards for those who didn’t qualify in 2021. Who are the MVPs in each league if we removed all qualifying players? Let’s find out who takes home the MLB awards for non-qualifiers.
Be sure to check out our Roundtable 2021 MLB Awards.
Most Valuable Player
American League: Byron Buxton
Buxton finally blossomed into the player he was supposed to be in 2021. However, the injury bug bit him yet again, limiting him to just 61 games. The Minnesota Twins center fielder hasn’t played more than 87 games since the 2017 season. Nevertheless, he was the best player in baseball among non-qualifiers in 2021. Across 254 plate appearances, the 27-year-old slashed .306/.358/.647 with a wRC+ of 169.
Buxton also managed to accumulate 10 defensive runs saved in center field despite playing only 509.2 innings out there. On top of that, Buxton led all non-qualifiers in baseball with 4.5 rWAR. It’s hard to come to an exact conclusion for what his production could’ve been over a full season. However, he was at a 46.7 home run, a 24.6 DRS, and an 11.1 rWAR per 150-game pace.
National League: Ronald Acuña Jr.
It was a year of hardware for the Atlanta Braves; unfortunately, not for Acuña. Yes, he still will receive a ring at next year’s ceremony, but an ACL tear in July put a damper on what was a potential MVP season. In 360 plate appearances, Acuña put up 3.6 rWAR and slashed .283/.394/.596 with a wRC+ of 157. The 3.6 rWAR was tied for fourth among non-qualifying National League players. His per-150 clip, however, was nearly a full win higher than Harrison Bader (3.9 total rWAR) and Corey Seager (3.7). Acuña’s 6.6 rWAR/150 only amounts to 59.5 percent of what Buxton’s was, but it doesn’t change how tragic not getting a full season of Acuña was.
American League: Carlos Rodón
From being non-tendered a contract to being a 2021 All-Star, this season was a whirlwind for Rodón. One that should be recognized for more than just a great story, he was downright dominant. In 132.2 innings, the left-hander had a 2.65 FIP (best among non-qualifying AL starters), a 3.17 xFIP (best), a 4.9 fWAR (best), and a 2.96 SIERA. He also threw a no-hitter back in April against the Cleveland Indians. He was awesome, as he got his first All-Star Game nod in 2021.
National League: Logan Webb
Webb was, in short, brilliant in 2021. The right-hander wasn’t an easy choice, as there are strong cases for Trevor Rogers and Freddy Peralta. However, Webb eeks out a victory thanks to leading the three in xFIP (2.79), SIERA (3.13), walk rate (6.0), and hard-hit rate (26.9). Webb also forced opposing batters to put 60.9 percent of batted ball events on the ground––allowing him to be as successful as he was without proficiently striking hitters out.
Reliever of the Year
American League: Clay Holmes
At the time of acquisition, Holmes was not a popular move among many New York Yankees fans. He soon became one of the most dominant relievers in the American League. Among AL relievers between 20 and 39.2 innings pitched, Holmes was second in FIP (2.10), first in xFIP (2.18), first in K-BB rate (29.1), and ground ball rate (61.5 percent). Not too shabby for a guy many didn’t know about before the Pittsburgh Pirates sent him to the Bronx.
National League: Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Chicago White Sox at the trade deadline, putting an end to his bid at NL Reliever of the Year. However, in 36.2 innings, Kimbrel was historically great. A 1.10 FIP, a 1.99 xFIP, a 46.7 strikeout rate, and a 1.85 SIERA are all unfathomably elite. There was no stopping Kimbrel in the Windy City in 2021.
Gold Gloves – Catcher, Infield, Outfield
American League Catcher: Jonah Heim
Heim churned out a fantastic season behind the plate. Among catchers with fewer than 700 innings, he led in frame runs (8.3), defensive value (15.8), and runs extra strikes (eight). The latter was tied for second among all catchers in the league this season.
National League Catcher: Tomás Nido
Like Heim, Nido led NL catchers (max 699.2 innings) in frame runs (5.1). He did that in 365.2 innings, while also ranking in a ninth-place tie for runs extra strikes (four).
American League Infielder: Taylor Walls
Walls logged just 378 innings at shortstop for the Tampa Bay Rays this season. In those innings, he placed fourth among all AL shortstops with 10 defensive runs saved. The only shortstops with more DRS than Walls were Carlos Correa (21), Andrelton Simmons (14), and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (11).
National League Infielder: Ha-Seong Kim
Two others tied with Kim for the fifth-most DRS among all major league shortstops this season. Those two are Trevor Story and Kevin Newman. The major difference: They combined to log over 2,200 innings at short, Kim put up nine DRS in just 260. Moreover, if you were to combine his defense across all three of his positions, you’d come up with 18 DRS in 573.2 innings. Unheard of.
American League Outfielder: Chas McCormick
In 686 innings, McCormick logged 14 DRS and 12 outs above average this season. He didn’t qualify for a Gold Glove, but he certainly had the numbers to potentially win the award if he did.
National League Outfielder: Tyrone Taylor
Rounding out the MLB Awards is Taylor, who logged just 526 innings in the outfield for the Milwaukee Brewers this season. In those innings, he registered seven defensive runs saved. At the pace he was playing defense this season, he and teammate Jackie Bradley Jr.––who was a finalist in center field––would’ve tied in DRS over a 1,000-inning sample. While MLB Awards rightfully have certain benchmarks a player needs to qualify, it’s certainly worth looking into some of the non-qualifying seasons. Some of them are too good to forget or go unrecognized because the hardware isn’t there.
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