Sports

2 NL Players With MVP-Level Seasons Behind Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on prior to the game against the Chicago Cubs at Citizens Bank Park on September 14, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

 

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper was elected the National League MVP last week.

He won with 348 points: 17 first-place votes, nine second, two third, one fourth, and one fifth-place vote.

Harper was brilliant at the plate for the whole season, and almost got the Phillies in the postseason by himself.

He slashed .309/.429/.615 with 35 home runs, 101 runs, 84 RBI, and 13 stolen bases.

His excellent eye at the plate (16.7 percent walk rate) allowed him to be on base constantly.

Even though he played only 141 games, he was able to take home the most prestigious individual award in MLB for the second time in his career.

However, a couple of other players put phenomenal numbers, too, and also had MVP-caliber seasons.

If these two players had won the award, very few people would have complained.

 

2. Fernando Tatis Jr.

San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. showed once again he is perhaps the most dynamic and exciting player in MLB.

Not only that, but he also backed up his flair with top-notch numbers.

In 130 games, he slashed .282/.364/.611 with 42 home runs, 99 runs, 97 RBI, and 25 stolen bases.

He was 56 percent better than his peers, judging by his 156 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created Plus), a metric that has 100 as “average” offensive performance.

Tatis finished third in the voting process with 244 points, and may have ended up getting the award had he avoided the shoulder injury that forced him to the injured list in multiple occasions.

He suffered a shoulder subluxation that could have ended his season at any point.

But he received treatment and kept playing at a very high level, which is admirable.

He will play the 2022 season at 23 years old and signed a mammoth extension this year, so he will have lots of chances to win at least one MVP award.

It wasn’t meant to be for him this year, but one can’t help to wonder what could have been if he played at least 150 or 155 games.

He could have pushed for 50 home runs and 30 stolen bases.

 

1. Juan Soto

Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto had as good of an MVP case as Harper.

In fact, he was considered the favorite by lots of analysts, writers, players, coaches, and fans.

Soto had a marvelous season, with a .313/.465/.534 batting line, 29 home runs, 111 runs, and 95 RBI on a bad Nationals team.

He had a 163 wRC+, which means he was slightly better in that regard than Tatis.

However, the most impressive part of Soto’s game is his elite plate discipline.

No one in the big leagues is better at avoiding swinging at balls and limiting strikeouts than Soto.

He had an insanely good 22.2 percent walk rate and a minuscule 14.2 strikeout rate.

It’s extremely rare to see a player have more walks than strikeouts over a full season, especially a 23-year-old slugger who may have not hit his prime yet.

He is not an elite fielder, but he is capable out there.

However, what really separates him from the rest is his offensive excellence.

He would have been a deserving MVP if elected.



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