The 2021 Major League Baseball season officially comes to a close at 6 p.m. ET when the winners of the American League and National League MVP Awards will be announced to conclude awards week. There is zero question that Los Angeles Angels dual-threat Shohei Ohtani will win the AL honors, but the National League vote should be close between Philadelphia outfielder Bryce Harper and Washington outfielder Juan Soto. SportsLine offers odds on the winner.
Regardless of whether it's Harper or Soto, this will be an unusual MVP season because the winner from each league will come from a non-playoff team. That doesn't happen often in both leagues. Both 2020 winners, Jose Abreu of the White Sox and Freddie Freeman of the Braves, led their teams to the playoffs.
Then again, the Angels never make the playoffs and Mike Trout has won AL MVP three times. Now he's not even the biggest star on his own team with Ohtani's emergence. He will easily beat out Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero and Marcus Semien, who is a free agent.
Harper, Soto and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. are the NL finalists. Tatis was the betting favorite a large chunk of the season but had trouble staying healthy and his Padres took a total nosedive that cost Manager Jayce Tingler his job. Tatis did lead the NL in homers and offensive bWAR. He likely will be the opening favorite for the 2022 NL MVP.
In 2015, Harper won the NL MVP while playing for the Nationals and at age 23 became the youngest player to unanimously win the award. Harper also became the first player in Nationals/Expos history to win an MVP. He left Washington after the 2018 season to sign a mega-deal with Philadelphia.
In 141 games this year, Harper hit .309 with 35 homers, 84 RBIs, 101 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, an OPS of 1.044 and a WAR of 5.9. Just for comparison, in 2015 his numbers were: .330, 42 HRs, 99 RBIs, 118 runs, an OPS of 1.109 and a WAR of 9.9.
In 2021, Harper led the majors with 42 doubles, a .615 slugging percentage, that 1.044 OPS and a 179 OPS+. He became the fourth outfielder in baseball history to have at least 100 runs, 100 walks, 40 doubles and 35 home runs in a season.
One reason the Nationals didn't overpay to keep Harper was because they had Soto ready to replace him. Still just 23, Soto hit .313 this season with 29 homers, 95 RBIs, 111 runs scored, nine stolen bases, an OPS of .999 and WAR of 7.0.
With little protection around him in the lineup, Soto walked a whopping 145 times, the most in a season since Barry Bonds set the record of 232. Soto led all MLB players with a .465 on-base percentage, a 1.56 walk-to-strikeout ratio and was the only player to record more walks than strikeouts (93).
On Monday, MLB Network announced that Phillies legend Mike Schmidt will be virtually presenting the NL MVP award tonight. That's a pretty glaring hint who will win.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who wins NL MVP?
- Bryce Harper -200
- Juan Soto +150
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