With a little more than a month to go in the 2021 regular season, both MVP races have a clear frontrunner.
In our latest MVP poll, we asked a panel of MLB.com experts to rank their top three candidates in the American League and National 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).
These races are far from over, obviously, but based on the first-place votes that were doled out, our experts think that two players have separated themselves from the pack.
That said, one league does appear to be much more wide open than the other, as a whopping 12 NL players got at least one first-place vote, compared to two in the AL. Overall, 23 players were named on at least one NL “ballot,” more than double the number of AL players who garnered at least one mention.
Here are the results. (Stats are through Monday’s games.)
1) Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Angels (91 of 101 first-place votes)
Ohtani is in the midst of a campaign that could be talked about for years to come. The two-way superstar not only has a big league-leading 39 homers with 86 RBIs, 17 steals and a 1.007 OPS on offense but also a 2.93 ERA with 112 strikeouts over 92 innings on the mound. He wasn’t a unanimous selection here, but it was close.
2) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B, Blue Jays (10 first-place votes)
Guerrero’s August slump (.663 OPS) has lessened his chances of winning the Triple Crown, which he would likely need to achieve to surpass Ohtani in the AL MVP race. But let’s not sneeze at what Guerrero has accomplished at age 22. The young slugger is hitting .314 with 35 homers, 88 RBIs and an AL-best 1.020 OPS, and he leads all players in total bases (261).
3) Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
It probably won’t be enough to win, but Devers is having an excellent season. The third baseman leads the Majors in RBIs (89), he has a career-high .930 OPS and he could reach the 40-homer threshold for the first time. It feels like he’s been around forever, but he won’t turn 25 years old until October.
4) Matt Olson, 1B, A’s
Olson has had impressive stretches before, but this feels different. The 27-year-old has been much more consistent at the plate in 2021, trimming his strikeout rate to 15.7% (26.3% from 2017-20) while hitting .281/.377/.570 with 30 homers. He’s remained a steady defensive presence at first base, too.
5) Cedric Mullins, OF, Orioles
The rebuilding Orioles seem to have found a keeper in Mullins, a dynamic player who has put together a 20/20 campaign while posting a .318 average and a .920 OPS in 114 games. The 26-year-old also ranks among the outfield leaders in outs above average.
Others receiving votes: Marcus Semien, Tim Anderson, Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley
1. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS/OF, Padres (60 first-place votes)
Can Tatis stay healthy for the rest of the season? That’s the big question. If he does, the Friars’ 22-year-old superstar could easily win this race. Tatis leads the NL in homers (33) and steals (23) and the Majors in slugging (.673) and OPS (1.050). However, he’s dislocated his left shoulder multiple times this year, and the Padres moved him away from shortstop upon his most recent return in an effort to avoid another shoulder injury.
2. Bryce Harper, OF, Phillies (19 first-place votes)
If the Phillies end up winning the NL East and Tatis gets injured again, Harper could get strong consideration for the second MVP Award of his career. The 28-year-old has his highest OPS+ (167) since his first MVP season, with the Nationals in 2015, and he’s hitting .337/.500/.697 with six homers and 29 walks in 29 games since the All-Star break.
3. Max Muncy, 1B/2B, Dodgers (6 first-place votes)
During a season in which Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger have all battled injuries, Muncy has been a source of stability for the Dodgers. The 30-year-old leads the team in fWAR (4.7) and has posted a .406 on-base percentage, a .964 OPS and 26 homers in 429 plate appearances.
4. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (3 first-place votes)
Winker went on the 10-day injured list with an intercostal strain on Monday, momentarily halting what has been a career year for the left-handed slugger. Winker currently leads the NL in doubles (32) and total bases (235) and has produced a personal-best 24 homers with a .955 OPS.
5. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Phillies (4 first-place votes)
The only pitcher to make the top five in either league in our poll, Wheeler has positioned himself as the favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, and some evidently view him as MVP material as well. The veteran right-hander leads the Majors in innings (162), strikeouts (187), complete games (3) and shutouts (2) and has registered a 2.56 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP over 24 starts.
Others receiving votes: Joey Votto (1 first-place vote), Trea Turner (2 first-place votes), Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Juan Soto (1 first-place vote), Corbin Burnes (1 first-place vote), Ronald Acuña Jr. (2 first-place votes), Freddie Freeman (1 first-place vote), Willy Adames (1 first-place vote), Walker Buehler, Bryan Reynolds, Adam Frazier, Nick Castellanos, Jacob deGrom, Chris Taylor, Jake Cronenworth, Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado