25. Matt Olson
2021 Stats: 39 HR, 111 RBI, 153 H, .271/.371/.540
Replacing Freddie Freeman will be no easy feat, but the Braves did well in bringing in slugging first baseman Matt Olson to fill the void. The former Oakland Athletic is coming off his best season as a pro, mashing 39 homers with 111 RBI over 156 games. It was always clear that Olson had the potential to blossom into one of the best hitters in the game, but the steps he took in ’21 were especially encouraging.
Most notably, Olson erased the swing-and-miss from his approach. After finishing in the bottom-third in Whiff % in each of the previous three seasons, Olson’s contact numbers were way up last season. Olson struck out just 113 times (his lowest in a full season) and finished in the 64th percentile in Whiff % (8th percentile in ’20). The powerful lefty will be hitting bombs for his hometown Atlanta Braves.
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24. Tim Anderson
2021 Stats: 17 HR, 61 RBI, 163 H, .309/.338/.469
Tim Anderson is a base-hit machine, and we’ve known that for quite some time. Critics have projected a drop-off in Anderson’s sky-high batting average that simply has never occurred. The White Sox shortstop has hit .322 over the last three years, which includes a Batting Title in his breakout ’19 campaign. Additionally, Anderson’s patience and power have steadily improved in his late 20’s. Since ’19, Anderson has been mashing at a 25-homer pace while continuing to post solid on-base figures (.349 OBP over last three seasons). Opposing pitchers must respect Anderson’s ability to put the ball in play or over the fence. That’s all you can ask for from an All-Star shortstop.
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23. Manny Machado
2021 Stats: 28 HR, 106 RBI, 157 H, .278/.347/.489
Following a rough stint with the Dodgers and a rocky first-year with the Padres, some were doubting Machado’s ability to produce outside of the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards. Machado has done his part in silencing the doubters through two monstrous seasons in San Diego. The former Oriole draft pick finished third in MVP voting in 2020, and followed it up with an All-Star campaign in ’21. Machado has power to all sides of the field, but is especially adept at driving the baseball to right field. Still just 29 years old, it feels like Machado can hit an even higher gear as he enters his prime.
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22. Teoscar Hernandez
2021 Stats: 32 HR, 116 RBI, 163 H, .296/.346/.524
Boasting some of the most raw power in all of baseball, Teoscar Hernandez tattoos pitches with the utmost force. The former Houston prospect showed glimpses in his short stint with the Astros, but has finally put it all together over the last two years in Toronto. In the 60-game ’20 season, Hernandez mashed 16 homers and hit .289 en route to Silver Slugger recognition. For his encore in 2021, Hernandez set career highs across the board.
In 143 games, Hernandez hit 32 HR, drove in 116 runs, and slashed .296/.346/.524 while adding a second Silver Slugger. While his power is understandably lauded, Hernandez is no slouch on the base paths. He’s stolen 18-of-23 bags over the last two years and recorded an 85th percentile sprint speed in ’21. Blazing speed and raw power is a deadly combination.
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21. Wander Franco
2021 Stats: 7 HR, 39 RBI, 81 H, .288/.347/.463
Don’t be surprised to see the youngster already ranked so highly on this list. Remember, it didn’t take long for players like Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., or Shohei Ohtani to establish themselves as elite hitters. Franco is of the same ilk as those greats. The former No. 1 overall prospect in the sport made his long-awaited debut for the Rays in ’21, and he did not disappoint. Starting at shortstop for the defending American League champions, Franco wasted no time acclimating himself to Major League pitching.
In 70 games, Franco slashed .288/.347/.463 in the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field. The switch hitter was especially lethal from the right side of the plate, posting a 1.020 OPS versus left-handed pitching in ’21. Franco’s hit-tool and bat speed will make him a problem for opposing pitchers for years to come. The 21-year-old is here to stay.
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20. Bryan Reynolds
2021 Stats: 24 HR, 90 RBI, 169H, .302/.390/.522
Time to show some respect to the Pittsburgh Pirates — a club which hasn’t had a whole lot to cheer for over the past few seasons. Bryan Reynolds debuted in ’19 and enjoyed a solid first-year campaign which culminated in a fourth place finish in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Then, the Pittsburgh outfielder suffered the dreaded sophomore slump during the shortened 2020 season. The 26-year-old bounced back in a big way this past season, earning an All-Star nod and an 11th place finish in MVP voting for a team that lost over 100 games.
Reynolds is a switch hitter who is adept from both sides of the plate. In ’21, his OPS as a righty (.911) was nearly identical to his mark from the left side of the plate (.915). Additionally, Reynolds’ revamped approach led to him finishing fifth in on-base percentage. There may be some easy outs to be had in the dreadful Pirates lineup, but Reynolds certainly isn’t one of them.
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19. Bo Bichette
2021 Stats: 29 HR, 102 RBI, 191 H, .298/.343/.484
Bo Bichette has all the tools to become a top star. The son of Dante Bichette has enormous potential at the plate. He has phenomenal bat speed, good raw power, and an effective swing. Through his first 75 career games (2019 and 2020), Bichette hit .307 with 16 HR, 27 doubles, and 44 RBI. Last year, Bichette truly exploded onto the scene. His 191 hits led the American League. Additionally, Bichette’s 121 runs ranked second in baseball — trailing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (123).
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18. Austin Riley
2021 Stats: 33 HR, 107 RBI, 179 H, .303/.367/.531
Through 131 career games, Austin Riley flashed immense power but struggled to hit for average. Between 2019-2020, Riley launched 26 home runs, slugged .448, but posted a mediocre batting average of .232. Last year, Riley put it all together. In 160 games for the World Series champion Braves, Riley hit 33 HR and boosted his batting average to .303. Riley was fanned 168 times, but his overall improvement at the plate was jarring. As he turns 25, Riley has the look of a perennial All-Star and potential MVP candidate thanks to his talent at the dish.
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17. Max Muncy
2021 Stats: 36 HR, 94 RBI, 124 H, .249/.368/.527
Max Muncy was a revelation for the Dodgers in 2018, and remains a mainstay in the lineup four years later. He has flourished in LA, becoming a two-time All-Star and one of the most feared sluggers in the National League. The versatile infielder has hit at least 35 home runs three of the last four years — and hit 12 during the 60-game season. Muncy’s patience at the plate is a nightmare for opposing pitchers. Funky Muncy will take four pitches in a row before unleashing on a mistake in the zone. With Freddie Freeman now with the Dodgers, Muncy could have an even bigger year at the plate.
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16. Trea Turner
2021 Stats: 28 HR, 77 RBI, 195 H, 32 SB, .328/.375/.536
Trea Turner is among the league’s best power-speed threats. The speed is undeniable. Turner has swiped over 200 bags in his career, and was tied for the fastest sprint speed in ’21 according to BaseballSavant (Tim Locastro). Turner’s power is a more recent development — the 28-year-old hit a career-high 28 homers last season. He showcased that raw power while leading all of baseball with a .328 batting average. Though Turner did come up short in his first playoff appearance with the Dodgers, he might feel more at home now that he’s returning to his natural defensive position of shortstop.
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15. Xander Bogaerts
2021 Stats: 23 HR, 79 RBI, 156 H, .295/.370/.493
Playing the most glamourous position for one of the most popular teams in baseball, it still seems like Xander Bogaerts goes a bit under the radar. The Red Sox shortstop has a list of accolades that can matchup with any elite shortstop. At just 29 years old, Bogaerts has already won four Silver Sluggers and has been a member of two World Series winning clubs. Since 2018, Bogaerts leads all shortstops in weighted runs created — used to measure a player’s total offensive value.
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14. Carlos Correa
2021 Stats: 26 HR, 92 RBI, 155 H, .279/.366/.485
Once the MLB lockout was officially lifted, all eyes turned towards superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. Arguably the most well-rounded player at the most stacked position, Correa was hoping to secure a $300 million payday. Instead, Correa left Houston to sign a shocking, short-term deal with the Minnesota Twins. After injuries riddled parts of 2018-20 for the Houston shortstop, Correa put together one of his best overall campaigns in a contract year. The 27-year-old Astro notched a .850 OPS while launching 26 homers and recording 92 RBI. Correa earned his first All-Star nod since 2017 and finished fifth in MVP voting.
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13. Nick Castellanos
2021 Stats: 34 HR, 100 RBI, 164 H, .309/.362/.576
“If I have hurt anyone out there, I can’t tell you how much I say from the bottom of my heart I’m so very, very sorry. I pride myself and think of myself as a man of faith, as there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.”
Nick Castellanos’ career may be best-known for that doozy of a quote from former Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman, but his work on the field should be appreciated. Set to begin his first season with the Phillies, Castellanos is coming off his best year at the plate. As a 29-year-old, Castellanos slugged a career-high 34 HR and earned his first All-Star nod. He has always been talented, but Castellanos has really found his groove the past few years. In Philadelphia, he will hit the ball hard…and very deep to left.
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12. Rafael Devers
2021 Stats: 38 HR, 113 RBI, 165 H, .279/.352/.538
In 2019, a 22-year-old Devers hit 32 home runs, drove in 115 runs, led the league in doubles (54), and hit .311. Following a down ’20 campaign, Devers once again lit the league on fire last season. Devers led Boston in nearly every major offensive category — runs (101), hits (165), homers (38), RBI (113), and SLG (.538). For a team loaded with offensive talent, Devers’ performance was truly special. As he continues to gain experience in the league, the third baseman will only become better at the dish. Look out.
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11. Corey Seager
2021 Stats: 16 HR, 57 RBI, 108 H, .306/.394/.521
The Rangers have a superstar. After spending the first seven years of his career with the Dodgers, Corey Seager opted to sign a massive 10-year/$325 million contract with the Rangers before the lockout. One of the best pure hitters in baseball, Seager should absolutely thrive in Texas. He is a career .297 hitter, and is hitting .306 over the past two years. When healthy, perhaps only Fernando Tatis Jr. puts up better numbers than Seager at the position.
Oh, and Seager has history at his new home ballpark. During the 2020 postseason, Seager slashed .350/.444/.767 with seven homers and 19 RBI while playing in the Texas bubble. If Seager remains healthy for the entire 2022 season, he should finish with 30+ HR and push for a top-5 MVP finish.
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10. Mookie Betts
2021 Stats: 23 HR, 58 RBI, 123 H, .264/.367/.487
Los Angeles has numerous stars on its roster, but Mookie Betts is inarguably the best player. Betts battled a painful hip injury for most of the 2021 season. As a result, his numbers were down a bit from where they typically are. He hit .264 — his lowest average since ’16 — and appeared in just 122 games. However, Betts still flashed brilliance at times during the season. With his mix of power, speed on the basepaths and elite fielding, Betts is one of baseball’s most gifted talents. Said to be healthy entering the ’22 season, expect Betts to push for the National League MVP.
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9. Aaron Judge
2021 Stats: 39 HR, 98 RBI, 158 H, .287/.373/.544
When Aaron Judge is healthy, he is undoubtedly one of the best players in baseball. The numbers don’t lie. Judge is a extra-base hitting machine who exhibits great patience at the plate. Since his official rookie season in 2017, Judge has never posted an OPS below .891. We have yet to see a healthy Judge struggle at the plate. If he’s in the lineup, Judge will be getting on base and hitting the ball extremely hard. Judge’s career 150 OPS+ would rank in the top-40 batters of all-time (if he qualified).
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8. Jose Ramirez
2021 Stats: 36 HR, 103 RBI, 147 H, 27 SB, .266/.355/.538
Ramirez has solidified his place among the top position players in the sport. The 5-foot-9 infielder generates immense power in his compact frame (having already slugged 163 home runs in his short career). There have been slumps in the past, but Ramirez’s hot streaks are unlike any other player.
After starting off the shortened 2020 slow, Ramirez was the best hitter in the league over the last half of the season. He posted a .358 batting average with a 1.240 OPS over his last 29 games. Last season, JoRam saw his average dip to .266 — but he paced Cleveland with 36 dingers and 103 RBI. With Francisco Lindor now in New York, Ramirez may finally receive the admiration he deserves. Since 2017, JoRam has four top-6 finishes for the AL MVP — 3rd in ’17 and ’18, 2nd in ’20, and 6th in ’21.
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7. Bryce Harper
2021 Stats: 35 HR, 84 RBI, 151 H, .309/.429/.615
Touted as a future Hall of Famer while he was still in high school, Bryce Harper hasn’t disappointed many since arriving in the Big Leagues. While he hasn’t quite lived up to the billing as being the best player in the world that many expected him to be, Harper won an MVP at the age of 22 — and won his second MVP last season.
During his MVP season in 2021, Harper hit .309 and led the league in doubles (42), SLG (.615), and OPS (1.044). It was far and away Harper’s best season since 2017, and his best since his first MVP season in ’15. Let’s see if Philadelphia’s superstar can put together back-to-back MVP caliber seasons.
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6. Freddie Freeman
2021 Stats: 31 HR, 83 RBI, 180 H, .300/.393/.503
Freddie Freeman has been a star his entire career. As a rookie in 2011, Freeman launched 21 homers and was the runner-up for Rookie of the Year. The sensational first baseman has taken his game to another level the past two seasons. In the shortened 2020 season, Freeman slashed .341/.462/.640 with 13 HR en route to winning the National League MVP. Last year, Freeman slugged 31 HR, hit .300, and led the Braves to a World Series title. Now 32, Freeman remains one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball — furthering his immense value. Freeman will now look to continue to excel as he begins his first year with the Dodgers.
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5. Fernando Tatis Jr.
2021 Stats: 42 HR, 97 RBI, 135 H, 25 SB, .282/.364/.611
At 23 years old and just 273 games into his MLB career, Fernando Tatis Jr. has established himself as a top-5 player and arguably the face of the sport. He can do it all on the field. His bat speed, power, and hit tool are all elite. He has shown so much skill through his first 273 games that the Padres inked him to a 14-year/$340 million deal. Through his age 22 season, Tatis has two top-4 MVP finishes. There is a lot of high-end young-talent in the league, but Tatis plays at a higher level than almost everyone else. It will be interesting to see how Tatis performs when he returns to the diamond following a procedure on his wrist.
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4. Shohei Ohtani
2021 Stats: 46 HR, 100 RBI, 138 H, 26 SB, .257/.372/.592
In 2021, Shohei Ohtani blessed us with a truly historic season. In his fourth season with the Angels, Ohtani put it all together. The Japanese superstar garnered all 30 first place MVP votes to capture the American League’s top individual award. Though Ohtani has been touted for his immense pitching ability, his best skill may lie at the plate. He boasts one of the most powerful swings in all of baseball, and generates a ton of extra base-hits as a left-handed batter. Of course, Ohtani’s true value lies in his two-way ability. However, it would be downright terrifying to see how the Japanese superstar would perform if he focused entirely on offense.
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3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
2021 Stats: 48 HR, 111 RBI, 188 H, .311/.401/.601
If the marvel that is Shohei Ohtani didn’t play in the American League last season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would have an MVP to his name. After two underwhelming seasons — compared to the hype — to start his career, Vladdy Jr. exploded in 2021. Junior entered the season in much better shape compared to his first two years, and his improved physique paid off big time. Guerrero led baseball with 48 HR and 123 runs, and paced the American League in OBP (.401), SLG (.601), and OPS (1.002) — all while hitting .311. If Vladdy Jr. continues to play at that level, he may be considered the league’s most dangerous offensive player by this time next year.
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2. Juan Soto
2021 Stats: 29 HR, 95 RBI, 157 H, .313/.465/.534
At 23 years old, Juan Soto is already drawing comparisons to some of the greatest players of all-time (including Ted Williams). In 464 career games, Washington’s star has drawn 373 walks versus 352 strikeouts. Soto’s patience at the plate is matched by his ridiculous ability to hit the ball hard.
The young superstar has smashed 98 homers and 91 doubles. In 2021, Soto walked an MLB-best 145 times and was fanned only 93 times. Soto has led baseball in OBP two years in a row — checking in at .465 last season. Over the last two seasons, Soto has been baseball’s best hitter…but we must show some respect to one of the game’s all-time greats.
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1. Mike Trout
2021 Stats: 8 HR, 18 RBI, 39 H, .333/.466/.624
And that all-time great is Mike Trout, who has dealt with several injuries over the past couple of years but continues to dominate when he plays. Based on his track record, Trout is well on his way to becoming a top-5 player in MLB history. Aside from his gaudy numbers, Trout — who is just 30 years old — has won three MVPs and has finished as the runner-up four times.
When healthy, Trout’s status as the game’s top player is undebatable. Unfortunately, the star appeared in just 36 games in 2021 before a calf injury cost him the rest of the season. In those 36 games, Trout appeared to be on his way to yet another MVP.
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