Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may have stiff competition for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, but there is no debate over whether he is the league’s top slugger. On Tuesday, Guerrero was named the winner of the 2021 AL Hank Aaron Award after a year the Blue Jays masher spent flirting with the Triple Crown and wreaking havoc on pitching.
Guerrero hit .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs, 111 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 363 total bases. He led MLB in runs and total bases, tied for the Major League lead in homers and paced the AL in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Guerrero was also a first-time All-Star in 2021.
“I’m very proud to be able to work hard and have my hard work shine through with an award like this,” Guerrero said on the MLB Network broadcast, via interpreter Alanna Rizzo. “I’m very proud and very happy.”
Bestowed annually since 1999, the Hank Aaron Award honors the best overall offensive performer in each league. Guerrero is the fifth Blue Jays hitter to win the award, and the first since Josh Donaldson in 2015. Bryce Harper received this year’s honor in the National League. This year’s other AL finalists were Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, A’s first baseman Matt Olson, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Cleveland third baseman José Ramírez.
The award is decided by a special panel of Hall of Fame players from a list of seven finalists in each league, which is determined by a panel of MLB.com writers. Each team submits a candidate.
Previously, Aaron helped select the panel of Hall of Famers who voted for the award winner. Aaron died in January at age 86. Aaron’s widow, Billye, spoke of her husband’s legacy on MLB Network’s announcement show.
“He did so much to enhance many causes,” Billye Aaron said. “We sat and talked about trying to help kids, who, like Henry was at the time, were trying to find themselves and follow their dreams.”
Said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: “While Hank Aaron’s impact on the field was so significant we named an on-field achievement award after him, he was so much more than an all-time great baseball player. He was a successful baseball executive, businessman, social activist, philanthropist, baseball ambassador, role model and a loving husband and father.”
Guerrero is the youngest recipient in the history of the award and the first member of his family to win it, notable given his father Vlad Sr.’s Hall of Fame career. He did so by blossoming into one of the game’s most feared sluggers in his age-22 season, serving as the linchpin of a Toronto lineup that paced baseball in homers, slugging and OPS.
Guerrero kept his Triple Crown hopes alive through early September, eventually finishing second among AL hitters in batting and fifth in RBIs. His 48 homers were the most by a player 22 or younger in a single season in MLB history, surpassing Eddie Mathews' previous mark of 47. He also ranked among baseball’s 98th percentile in average exit velocity, max exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, expected batting average and expected slugging percentage.
“I try to stay balanced, and my hands and my front foot stay simple,” Guerrero said. “I just try to hit the ball through the middle. I don’t try to hit ground balls or fly balls. I just try to hit line drives, hit it hard.”