MLB's 2021 yearbook superlatives

The only thing missing are the signatures on the inside cover

November 23rd, 2021
Designs by Ben Marra

With all the awards except for All-MLB out of the way -- AL MVP to Ohtani? Yeah, that makes sense -- and the arguments over the importance of innings pitched having died down after Corbin Burnes narrowly defeated Zack Wheeler for the NL Cy Young Award, it's time to move on to the silliest and most relatable awards in sports. That's right: It's time for some high school yearbook-style superlatives.

I mean, if Nolan Ryan could win Most Handsome Sophomore (an actual award he won in his actual high school), then we definitely should be giving these out at the Major League level.

So, after hours of debates in the yearbook offices, who took home the prizes? Let's find out.

Class clown: Jesús Aguilar

An upset in our first category! While some may have expected the sardonic Joey Votto to take home the award for his near-constant ribbing of fans and teammates, or for Brett Phillips' goofball antics, it was Aguilar's on-field pranking that earned him the title.

There was the time he decided, "Screw it, I can't catch this," so simply hurled his glove at the ball:

Or, there was the time when he happily escorted Raimel Tapia back to his dugout after recording the out at first base:

Remember when Kevin Kiermaier took a catcher's signal card and ignited a brief war between the Rays and Blue Jays? Well, Aguilar tried to do the same -- he just didn't bother hiding it.

This is the look of a kid being caught by his parents trying to sneak a cookie before dinner.

Best hair: Jazz Chisholm Jr.

The right side of the Marlins infield has these awards on lock. Chisholm switched up his 'do -- going with partially bleached braids and nightclub-ready purple at times -- but he stood out immediately when he unveiled the Marlins-appropriate electric blue locks.

It was the perfect look for one of the game's most exciting players and put fans on notice: Keep your eyes on Chisholm unless you want to miss something spectacular.

Best fashion: Joc Pederson

About 50 years ago, the only way to show off on the field was with some facial hair and maybe -- gasp -- some white cleats. Fortunately, the game has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Players regularly wear neon-bright kicks, rock fashion accessory-worthy gear (Fernando Tatis Jr.'s pink armbands anyone?), and the chain game has absolutely exploded.

José Ramírez wore a "Major League" necklace and a chain featuring a photo of himself wearing a chain. Insert the "Inception" BWONG here.

But nobody changed the on-field fashion game quite like Joc Pederson when he started rocking pearls.

Heck, all of Atlanta seemingly showed up to World Series games with their own pearls after that. Once you set a trend, the title is basically yours.

Best facial hair: Andrew Chafin

There are mustaches and then there's what Chafin grew: A fuzzy lip-warmer that was so robust, it may have developed sentience of its own.

He looked like he could have been one of the Bears Superfans while with the Cubs at the start of the year, and when he went to Oakland, he quickly brought back some serious 1970s throwback vibes.

Like a little black dress, Chafin's mustache is perfect for all occasions.

Most popular: Mookie Betts

There are two ways to look at this: First, there's jersey sales, where Betts once again outpaced the competition. Or, you could test this in your own life. Ask even the most intense Yankees or Giants fan about Betts and the answer you get will probably sound like a love song.

Most changed since rookie season: Anthony Gose

When Gose first arrived in the big leagues in 2012, he was an outfielder with speed (70 SB in Double-A in 2011) and power, earning him a spot on basically every top-100 prospect list that was printed.

But when he returned to the big leagues in 2021, he was a new man. Forget tracking down fly balls or cracking dingers: Gose's job was to pump triple-digit heaters so batters wouldn't be able to hit those dingers.

Gose appeared in six games, struck out nine batters, walked only two and had a 1.35 ERA. Welcome back to The Show.

Oldest: Albert Pujols

It's not how old you are on paper, it's how old you feel. Pujols' Jan. 16, 1980 birthday may have earned him the title (he's nearly three months older than Rich Hill), but it's the future Hall of Famer's passion for the game that makes this an honor.

Pujols is spending his offseason playing in the Dominican Winter League for the first time in his career -- 19 years after he was the first overall selection in the LIDOM draft. That's some serious love for the game.

Youngest: Wander Franco

If you were anything like me at 20, you spent most of your time playing video games, eating instant ramen and wondering "just how many more days can I go without doing laundry?" Instead, Franco made his Major League debut -- smashing a home run that same day -- and ended up getting on base in 43 consecutive games.

Doing that at any age is impressive, but doing all that before he could legally drink? Honestly, that should be illegal.

Future two-way star: Anthony Rizzo

In one corner, there was Ohtani, doing the most remarkable things any baseball fan has ever seen. In the other was Gose, accomplishing the difficult feat of rebuilding a Major League career at a new position. And then there was Rizzo.

Called on to pitch against Atlanta during the Cubs' 10-0 loss in April, Rizzo had the most fun one could have on the losing end of a blowout. He smiled, he laughed, he displayed great joy pantomiming all the things pitchers do during the game's most tense moments.

And then ... he struck out Braves legend Freddie Freeman.

"You try to have fun as much as you can in this game," Rizzo said afterward. "You don't know how long it's going to last."

Besties: Fernando Tatis Jr. & Charlie Freeman

The magical relationship between Tatis and Freddie Freeman's son, Charlie, is what all friendships should strive for. It all started when Charlie told his dad that he needed to pick up his performance to get voted to the All-Star Game. Why? So he could meet the Padres' superstar, of course.

"That was the only thing he wanted me to do, was to make it so he could meet [Tatis]," Freddie said.

Fortunately, Freeman got hot, made it to the ASG and, sure enough, Charlie and Fernando got to hang out in the dugout.

This wasn't a quick meet and greet, though. The very next week, Tatis sent Charlie his jersey after a game.

The only thing left for them to do is start a podcast together. I've even got a title if they want to use it: "El Niño and The (Actual) Kid."

Craziest reactions (aka Most Meme-able): Kiké Hernández

Hernández had a great year in his first season as a full-time starter. He smashed 20 home runs, showed off some impressive center field defense and displayed some truly remarkable facial reactions. At times, Hernández seemed less like a Major League player and more like a cartoon character come to life.

There's the face he makes when he barely catches the ball:

The face he makes when he delivers an unbelievable catch:

And then there's, uh, this. Honestly, how is this not already a meme?

Best HR celebration: Blue Jays' home run jacket

No one throws a party like a Major League dugout after a home run. The Red Sox put their teammates into a laundry cart and shuttled them through the dugout. The Braves celebrated with panda heads and hugs when Pablo Sandoval was on the team. The Mets busted out a home run horse and the Phillies had a home run hat.

But nothing was as high class and sartorially advanced as the Blue Jays and their home run jacket. The arms of the jacket read, "The Blue Jacket,” and “It’s a Tito thing,” -- referencing the club's player interpreter, Hector "Tito" Lebron. Then, the back listed all of the countries represented by players on the Jays' roster, with the phrase “La Gente Del Barrio,” or, “the people of the neighborhood.”

It's not just a Jays thing, it's a worldwide phenomenon:

Homecoming king: Dansby Swanson

Honestly, this should be an award given out at the end of every World Series: Which local player helped bring the trophy back home? Swanson was born in Kennesaw, Ga., and went to high school in Marietta. So, when the Braves won the World Series, well, it just completed the circle of baseball life for Swanson.

If only baseball players spent the day with the Commissioner's Trophy the way hockey players do with the Stanley Cup. The image of Swanson taking it around to his high school and favorite sandwich shop just seems too charming not to happen.

Life of the party (and best fencer): Guillermo Heredia

If you watched a Braves game this year, you couldn't miss him. When asked, nearly every Atlanta player talked about Heredia's boundless enthusiasm, highlighting the fact that he would keep chattering all game, every game, all year long.

“I’ve never been around anybody who talks like that,” Braves third-base coach Ron Washington said. “It’s forever. It’s not just for an inning. If we’re out here 10 or 11 innings, he’s out here going crazy for 10 or 11 innings. Honestly, he was one of the guys who kept us afloat. He was one of the guys who kept us around. He deserves a ton of credit.”

And then there's Heredia's signature celebration. Forget pies to the face, the Braves' outfielder loved to swing a pair of pink plastic swords. Decades from now, people will look back at photos from the 2021 World Series and be gobsmacked with what they find.

Most likely to win an Olympic medal: Eddy Alvarez

The saddest category in your high school yearbook -- probably because that person never did win a medal -- is also the easiest one here. That's because not only did Alvarez already have one for speedskating in the 2014 Winter Olympics, but because he picked up another silver from USA baseball's trip to Tokyo this summer.

Alvarez is just the sixth athlete ever to win medals in both the winter and summer Olympics. Compare that to the 28 members of the 500 home run club or the 21 pitchers who have thrown a perfect game and you realize how truly remarkable that is.

Class Valedictorian: Shohei Ohtani

Ah, of course. Who else could it be? Just as your school's valedictorian had all A's, was the lead in the school play and organized the annual charity event, so too did Ohtani do absolutely everything. Baseball's been around for over 150 years and no one -- not one player out of the thousands who have graced a Major League diamond -- ever did what Ohtani pulled off.

If ever there was someone who deserved to give a speech before every Major Leaguer while wearing a goofy hat and gown, it's Ohtani.