It may be early in the season, but the MVP Award races are off and running and an impressive field of frontrunners is already taking shape.
While there are many worthy challengers, we asked our panel of experts to rank their top three in each league. Players were assigned a point total on a 5-3-1 scale (5 points for a first-place vote, 3 for a second-place vote, 1 for a third-place vote).
Here are the results of MLB.com's first MVP Award poll of the 2021 season. (Stats are through Tuesday's games.)
1. Mike Trout, OF, Angels (70 of 94 first-place votes)
When you think Trout can’t possibly get any better, he finds a way. After finishing fifth or better in the AL MVP voting in each of the past nine years and winning three times, the Halos’ superstar center fielder has started off this season with the best month of his career, hitting .431/.538/.815 (277 OPS+) with six homers, 14 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 19 games. Although not a unanimous selection, Trout received 19 more first-place votes than any player in either league.
2. J.D. Martinez, DH, Red Sox (7 first-place votes)
So much for that decline. Martinez’s .680 OPS last season is already a distant memory, as the veteran slugger has mashed his way to a 1.145 mark in 2021. He already has as many home runs (seven) as he hit in 54 games last season, and he’s chipped in 10 doubles. With a Major League-leading 61 total bases and 21 RBIs in 22 games, Martinez has helped Boston grab first place in the AL East a year after finishing last.
3. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels (12 first-place votes)
Ohtani’s been such a monster with the bat that he likely would have received some MVP love even if he wasn’t pulling double duty. The fact that he's combined a .969 OPS over 89 plate appearances with a 3.29 ERA and a 15.1 K/9 rate across 13 2/3 innings got him a spot in the top three, and he even took 12 first-place votes away from his teammate Trout. The two-way star seems to be making history on a daily basis. His latest feat? Becoming the first player since Babe Ruth (nearly 100 years ago!) to start a game on the mound after entering that day leading the Majors in home runs.
4. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins (2 first-place votes)
Buxton’s career has been a roller-coaster ride, but more than five years after he was the No. 1 prospect in baseball, the outfielder is firing on all cylinders for the Twins. The 27-year-old has been a powerhouse at the plate, producing seven homers and a sparkling .390/.429/.847 slash line over 63 plate appearances, and he’s still providing plenty of value with his legs and glove, too. Entering Wednesday, he was neck and neck with Trout for the AL lead in FanGraphs wins above replacement.
5. Yermín Mercedes, DH, White Sox (1 first-place vote)
One of the feel-good stories of the young season, Mercedes’ out-of-nowhere April onslaught has put the slugger in the MVP conversation. After logging exactly one big league plate appearance prior to 2021, the 28-year-old has stepped into the void left by the injured Eloy Jiménez, who tore his left pectoral muscle in Spring Training. Mercedes entered Wednesday as the MLB leader in hits (32) and batting average (.432), and he tallied four homers -- including the Majors' longest of the year at 485 feet -- with 15 RBIs in his first 20 games.
Others receiving votes: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Gerrit Cole (1 first-place vote), Matt Olson (1 first-place vote), Shane Bieber, Danny Duffy, Yuli Gurriel, Nelson Cruz, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers
1. Ronald Acuña Jr., OF, Braves (51 of 94 first-place votes)
Coming off three straight NL East titles, the Braves are off to a rocky start in 2021, but Acuña has done his best to keep them afloat. Atlanta’s do-it-all superstar leads MLB in homers (eight) and runs (23) and the NL in slugging percentage (.776) and OPS (1.233), and he’s striking out at a career-low 15.2% clip. Somehow, he’s still just 23 years old.
2. Jacob deGrom, RHP, Mets (39 first-place votes)
deGrom is like the pitching version of Trout in that every time we think he’s reached his apex, he finds another level. The flamethrowing right-hander struck out 14-plus batters in three straight starts that culminated with a two-hit shutout and 15 K’s against the Nationals on Friday. He has a 0.31 ERA and a 50-to-3 K/BB ratio in 29 innings this season. Only two pitchers -- Clayton Kershaw in 2014 and Justin Verlander in ‘11 -- have won an MVP Award in the past 29 years, but deGrom could join them if he continues to work his magic.
3. Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies
Harper won the NL MVP Award in 2015, but he hasn’t received a single MVP vote from the BBWAA since ’17, when he finished 12th. The way he’s hitting, Harper looks poised to change that this year. Granted, the Phillies’ $330 million man typically is a hot starter, but some of the underlying metrics suggest he’s more dangerous than he’s ever been at the plate. Over his first 93 PAs, Harper has produced six homers, 10 RBIs, 16 walks and a 1.083 OPS (200 OPS+).
4. Justin Turner, 3B, Dodgers
For all their stars -- several of whom are former MVPs -- the only Dodgers player to receive votes from our panel was Turner. Los Angeles’ decision to re-sign the 36-year-old to a two-year deal in February is looking like a brilliant move: He’s hitting .341 with five homers, an NL-leading 19 RBIs and a 1.032 OPS (188 OPS+).
5. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres (4 first place-votes)
Despite dislocating his left shoulder and missing nine games, and despite hitting .118 with 14 strikeouts in his first 39 plate appearances, Tatis managed to crack our top five. Some of our experts were obviously impressed by Tatis’ outstanding performance in Los Angeles last weekend. The shortstop hit .500 with five homers, helping the Friars take three of four from the rival Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
Others receiving votes: Corbin Burnes, Jesse Winker, Yadier Molina, Kris Bryant, Carson Kelly, Brandon Woodruff, Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, Joe Musgrove, Omar Narváez, Rhys Hoskins