Vlad, Semien finalists for AL MVP Award

November 9th, 2021

TORONTO -- and have been named finalists for the American League MVP Award by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, capping a pair of record-breaking seasons for the duo that powered one of baseball’s best lineups.

Guerrero and Semien will be up against Shohei Ohtani of the Angels. The winner will be announced during an MLB Network special at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 18. Only two Blue Jays have won the AL MVP: Josh Donaldson in 2015 and George Bell in 1987.

For Guerrero, who’s still just 22, this could be the first of many MVP runs. This first one is particularly special, though, as it represents Guerrero finally stepping into his full potential as one of the most gifted players in the game. This took some learning experiences over his first two seasons, but when Guerrero arrived for Spring Training in February with significantly improved fitness, something changed.

The result was one of the best offensive seasons in club history. Guerrero hit .311 with 48 home runs, 111 RBIs and a 1.002 OPS, keeping him involved in a Triple Crown chase late into the season. His streaks were few and far between, too. It seemed that, week in and week out, Guerrero would post the exact same line, frustrating opposing pitchers by pairing his elite plate approach with one of the biggest power bats in the sport.

Guerrero’s all-around game took an important step forward, too. The spotlight will always be on his offense, but Guerrero was quicker on the bases in 2021 and looked very comfortable at first base, his new full-time position. The plays that gave Guerrero trouble in '20 were suddenly routine this year, and his hands at first base saved plenty of throws, often with Guerrero dropping into the splits.

Standing a few feet to Guerrero’s right was Semien, the veteran star who joined the Blue Jays on a one-year, $18 million deal to play second base for the first time since 2014. It worked, as Semien immediately formed a chemistry with shortstop Bo Bichette and put up a massive season of his own offensively.

Semien’s 45 home runs set a record for second basemen, giving him 102 RBIs on top of a .265 average and .873 OPS. Much of this came out of the leadoff spot, as Semien helped the Blue Jays weather the storm with George Springer on the IL, and he was nearly unstoppable once the calendar flipped to May, when he won AL Player of the Month.

On Sunday, Semien also earned his first career Gold Glove Award, an incredible accomplishment given his position change. The 31-year-old was universally respected throughout the Blue Jays’ clubhouse and front office, immediately becoming a leader on a roster that still leans young, so his value goes beyond the numbers you see. Now a free agent, Semien will be one of the Blue Jays’ top priorities this winter, but he’ll have plenty of suitors. 

All this being said, going up against Ohtani is a tall task. Not only did Ohtani hit 46 home runs with a .965 OPS, he also posted a 3.18 ERA over 130 1/3 innings, striking out 156. His season was historic, and while Semien and Guerrero are both worthy of consideration for baseball’s top on-field honor, they’re up against one of the most uniquely valuable seasons we’ve seen. Ohtani’s 8.1 fWAR combined between hitting and pitching ranks him ahead of Guerrero (6.7) and Semien (6.6). 

Guerrero and Semien, along with fellow All-Stars Bichette and Teoscar Hernández, formed an offense that led MLB with a .796 OPS and ranked third with 846 runs scored. Their 91-71 record wasn’t enough to reach the postseason, falling just short on the final day of the season, but with Guerrero’s prime years ahead, this won’t likely be his last shot at the MVP.