TORONTO -- The accolades just keep piling up for the 2021 Blue Jays, who had a league-high three players voted to the All-MLB First Team, which was announced Tuesday on MLB Network.
AL MVP Award finalists Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien are joined by AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on the First Team, while Teoscar Hernández was named to the Second Team. The Blue Jays are tied with the Braves for the second-most players (four) selected to both teams, trailing only the Dodgers (five).
Voting was carried out over the past two weeks, weighted with 50% from a fan vote and 50% from an expert panel. Regular-season performance was the main consideration, with each team including one player at each position, five starting pitchers and two relievers.
For Guerrero, this adds another piece of hardware to an already crowded mantle after the 22-year-old All-Star racked up the AL Hank Aaron Award and a Silver Slugger Award to go with his runner-up finish behind Shohei Ohtani for AL MVP. Guerrero has spent the past year asserting himself as one of the game’s brightest young stars, making good on the hype of a generational offensive talent that followed him through the Minor Leagues, so this should be the first of many selections.
Guerrero arrived in camp in February looking leaner and more athletic, the result of an overhaul to his offseason program. It worked, as Guerrero hit .311 with 48 home runs, 111 RBIs and a 1.002 OPS, keeping himself in the Triple Crown race into September. Guerrero did this with remarkable consistency, too, seemingly posting the same numbers week in and week out while playing a much steadier brand of defense at first base.
Semien’s selection puts a bow on another one of the best single seasons by a Blue Jays player over the past decade. An All-Star, Silver Slugger Award winner and third-place finisher in AL MVP voting, Semien posted an .873 OPS this season and set a new AL/NL record for home runs by a second baseman with 45. He also picked up a Gold Glove Award at the position, even though he hadn’t played it with any regularity in years. Add in Semien’s impact in the clubhouse, which has received widespread praise throughout the organization, and you have one of the most complete packages in baseball.
Ray, like Semien, signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays last offseason and blew away even the loftiest of expectations. The left-hander made an adjustment to his delivery -- his “coil” action as he calls it -- and that was the solution for control problems that had given him problems in past seasons. Ray was suddenly pounding the zone confidently with his fastball-slider combo, and hitters couldn’t keep up.
While Ray didn’t earn an All-Star nod, he stomped on the gas down the stretch and emerged as the Blue Jays’ ace, posting a league-best 2.84 ERA over 193 1/3 innings with an MLB-high 248 strikeouts, enough to edge out Gerrit Cole of the Yankees and Lance Lynn of the White Sox in Cy Young Award voting. Ray is joined in the First Team rotation by Max Scherzer (Dodgers), Corbin Burnes (Brewers), Walker Buehler (Dodgers) and Cole.
Both Semien and Ray are now free agents, which will be the story of the offseason for the Blue Jays. Bringing each back remains a priority, but they have earned deep, aggressive markets at their respective positions, so the Blue Jays may need to find creative new ways to recreate their production in 2022 and beyond. This is an organization on the cusp that -- despite the landslide of awards recognition -- finished just one game shy of the postseason at 91-71 in ’21.
On the Second Team, the often-underrated Hernández gets his due after another productive season at the plate where he hit 32 home runs with 116 RBIs, both of which could have been higher if he hadn’t missed three weeks in April on the COVID-19 IL. Hernández’s bat was overshadowed by massive seasons from Guerrero and Semien, but he’d be the star of the show in many MLB lineups and is still firmly in his prime at 29.
With Aaron Judge, Juan Soto and Bryce Harper earning First Team outfield nods, Hernández is joined by Nick Castellanos (Reds) and Kyle Tucker (Astros) on the Second Team. Hernández was also an All-Star in 2021, with Bo Bichette rounding out Toronto’s group of four, and he took home his second consecutive Silver Slugger Award.