2021 MLB awards picks: Juan Soto edges Bryce Harper for NL MVP; unanimous selections for AL MVP, Cy Young


The 2021 MLB regular season is in the books and the postseason begins Tuesday, with the AL Wild Card Game in Fenway Park. The NL Wild Card Game will follow Wednesday, then the League Division Series round begins Thursday. Here’s the postseason schedule.

MLB‘s major awards are regular season awards, and, as such, ballots are due before the postseason begins. The awards winners are not announced until November, well after the World Series, but they are regular season awards only. What happens in the postseason has no bearing on the awards voting.

Because we don’t feel like waiting around for the official awards announcement, our five CBS Sports MLB scribes (Katherine Acquavella, R.J. Anderson, Mike Axisa, Dayn Perry, Matt Snyder) each cast a hypothetical ballot for the four major awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie and Manager of the Year) in each league. Our rules:

  • Our individual ballots for each award are three names deep. In reality, the MVP ballot is 10 players deep and the Cy Young ballot is five players deep. Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year each include three slots.
  • The scoring system: Three points for a first place vote, two points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote. Most points wins. Nice and easy.

Below are our 2021 end of season voting results for the MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie and Manager of the Year awards. Away we go …      

The Angels missed the postseason yet again, but Ohtani redefined “valuable” this year, with a historic and transcendent season that saw him perform like a top-10 hitter and a near-ace-caliber starter for 23 starts. Ohtani led MLB in WAR by nearly two full wins and even that doesn’t properly capture his value because he is two impact players while occupying just one roster spot.

In a non-Ohtani season, Guerrero would be a very worthy MVP after flirting with the Triple Crown, but this is not an Ohtani season, so Vlad is our runner-up. Semien leads a group of players for the No. 3-10 slots on the MVP ballot that includes Judge, Carlos Correa, Rafael Devers, Cedric Mullins, Matt Olson, Salvador Perez, José Ramírez, and others. Ohtani stands head and shoulders above everyone else though. He’s our unanimous MVP and the clear favorite to win the real award.

It’s an unusual year for the NL MVP race because the best players in the league this season all played for non-postseason teams, and a not insignificant number of voters prefer players on contenders. Willy Adames, Brandon Crawford, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Austin Riley, and Trea Turner will all get MVP votes, undoubtedly. They’re all a notch behind our top finishers, however.

Soto reached base more times than he made outs in the second half and has cemented himself as the best hitter in baseball. He is unreal and he is still only 22, not that age matters in the MVP voting. The Phillies were in the race into the final week and Harper was a key reason. The Padres were a massive disappointment, though Tatis very nearly became the first player to lead his league in home runs and stolen bases since Hall of Famer Chuck Klein in 1932. 

AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray, Blue Jays

Ray will be the most unexpected Cy Young winner since who, Pat Hentgen in 1996? Must be a Blue Jays thing. Ray was one of the worst pitchers in baseball last season, then Toronto fixed him up, and now he’s a deserving Cy Young candidate. This was a two-man race until the final two weeks or so, when Cole tweaked his hamstring and labored through his final few starts.

The Cy Young race in the American League feels like a two-horse race between Ray and Cole, with a group that includes Berríos, Lynn, Nathan Eovaldi, Lucas Giolito, Lance McCullers Jr., Carlos Rodón, and even Ohtani in the mix behind them. Ray and Cole have separated themselves from the pack. Then you more than a half-dozen pitchers who deserve consideration for the No. 3 spot on the Cy Young ballot.

Wheeler is the best combination of quantity and quality in the Senior Circuit. He led the league in innings and batters faced (by quite a bit too), and was top five in just about everything else. He was excellent and he chewed up innings, and it should be noted he played in front of one of the worst defenses in the league. That forced him to throw extra pitches and get extra outs at times.

The No. 2 spot on our ballots was a bit more wide open. Burnes led the league in ERA, strikeout rate, home run rate, and was only narrowly second in walk rate, which is truly bonkers, though he also threw 30-40 fewer innings than the other top Cy Young candidates. Scherzer and Buehler were both excellent on a rate basis and they ate up innings. It honestly would not surprise me to see any of the four pitchers above win the actual Cy Young award, though Wheeler was our overwhelming favorite.

A strong case can be made the top three rookies in the American League were Rays: Arozarena, Franco, and Shane McClanahan. Franco was a midseason call up who made a legitimate run at the award, though Arozarena was up all season, and it feels like he has been destined to win this award since last postseason. (Adolis) García slumped badly in the second half after looking like the league’s top rookie much of the year. Emmanuel Clase, Casey Mize, and Garrett Whitlock are also in the conversation here.

Rogers had a terrific season and was a deserving All-Star, though missing August for family reasons is likely going to cost him the Rookie of the Year award. India leads all rookies in on-base percentage (by a lot) and all National League rookies in total bases. He is a pretty easy call here, with all due respect to Rogers. India and Rogers are the clear 1-2 in this race. For the No. 3 spot, Sosa stands out from a pack that also includes Carlson, Ian Anderson, and Jazz Chisholm, among others.

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Rays

Kevin Cash, Rays

3

2

13

Scott Servais, Mariners

2

1

8

Dusty Baker, Astros

3

2

6

Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays

3

3

The Manager of the Year award tends to go to the manager of the team that most exceeded expectations, and that’s Servais with the Mariners, though the Rays winning 100 games and the AL East is hard to ignore. Our vote was fairly close and I suspect the actual AL Manager of the Year vote will be close as well. Not sure there’s a wrong call between Cash and Servais.

NL Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler, Giants

Gabe Kapler, Giants

4

12

Craig Counsell, Brewers

4

8

Dave Roberts, Dodgers

3

3

Mike Shildt, Cardinals

1

1

Matt Snyder had to abstain from our NL Manager of the Year voting because he has an actual NL Manager of the Year vote this season, so only four of us voted for this award. I suspect 400 of us could vote and Kapler would still be unanimous. The Giants have massively outperformed expectations and that is a recipe for an easy Manager of the Year win. This would be Counsell’s third Manager of the Year runner-up (also 2018 and 2019). He’ll win one of these years, right?





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