By now, we know the usual suspects in an MLB MVP race, in both leagues, but the Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers, and Houston Astros have some darkhorse candidates to take home the award.
However, they do, as a larger sample size and their track record of offensive excellence will likely put them back on the map.
3 Darkhorse MVP Candidates in Major League Baseball
Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays
A battle with COVID-19 practically ruined Meadows’ 2020 season, as he hit just .205/.296/.371 with four homers and two stolen bases in 36 games with the Tampa Bay Rays.
However, if he is truly healthy, and every sign indicates that he currently is, he has MVP upside for the Rays.
Who will be the bounceback player of the year in baseball this year?
Among the names we broke down…
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) March 22, 2021
In fact, if Tampa is going to make a deep playoff run like last year, it will need two particular players to have an excellent year: Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows.
Meadows is by no means a defensive ace, which is why he will need to hit the cover off the ball if he wants to be considered a darkhorse AL MVP candidate.
He has the ability to rake, though, as he did in 2019, his last full and healthy season.
That year, Meadows hit .291/.364/.558 with a 143 weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, which means that his offensive output was 43% better than his peers.
He also hit 33 home runs, stole 12 bases, scored 83 runs and drove in 89 in 138 games.
If he plays closer to 162 games, his talent will flourish and he could carry the Rays.
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
If we look at Yelich’s final 2020 numbers, you wouldn’t think he is a darkhorse NL MVP candidate for the 2021 season.
The Milwaukee Brewers star outfielder slumped all the way to a .205/.356/.430 line, 12 home runs and just 22 RBI in 58 games.
While he did have a significantly higher strikeout percentage thank his career norms at 30.8%, Yelich’s quality of contact was optimal, and he also suffered from some batted ball bad luck.
Keep in mind that the sample size available for last season was very small, and it’s better if we judge players like Yelich, with an extensive track record of success, for what they have done recently and over a larger sample.
For example, he hit .329/.429/.671 with 44 homers and 30 steals in 130 games during the 2019 campaign, and actually won the NL MVP a year before with a .326/.402/.598 line, 36 homers, 118 runs, and 110 RBI.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) February 23, 2021
Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Unhappy with last season’s .242/.350/.451 line, Houston Astros’ slugger Alex Bregman decided to hit the gym and add several pounds of muscle with an eye on the 2021 campaign.
It should help him regain his power, and it comes at a perfect time, since MLB will use “dejuiced” balls in 2021 that won’t travel as far as the ones used in 2019 and 2020.
Bregman, when he is on, is one of the premier batters in the American League, with a career line of .283/.381/.521 and a 145 wRC+.
Alex Bregman hits a big home run to center field. pic.twitter.com/rOCPxPXCEn
— Apollo Media (@ApolloHOU) March 27, 2021
Bregman is fully capable of an MVP-like season (he has finished in the top 5 twice) but other sluggers such as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Abreu, Jose Ramirez, and of course Mike Trout, are the favorites to win the award.
That makes the Astros’ third basema a darkhorse MVP candidate in the American League.