The MLB has seen the talent pool explode in recent years, and with more supreme prospects set to be called-up in the coming years, it’s only going to get better. Here are the top 25 position players in the league as of the end of the 2021 season.
1. Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels)
2021 Slash: .333 / .466 / .624
2021 wRC+: 190
2021 fWAR: 2.3
Even with Trout missing the majority of the 2021 season due to a calf injury, he’s still the best player in baseball, and it’s hard to see anyone dethroning him for a long time. Amassing a 2.3 fWAR in only 36 games is ridiculous, and there’s no doubt he would be up for MVP contention once again had he been on the field. There’s nothing he can’t do, and his torrid start to the season is further proof that he might be the greatest to ever lace them up.
2. Juan Soto (Washington Nationals)
2021 Slash: .313 / .465 / .534
2021 wRC+: 163
2021 fWAR: 6.5
At only 22 years old, Soto has proven to be an alien. His hitting approach is that you’d expect of a 15x all-star, he has mesmerizing power, and he got considerably better in the outfield. His maturity and confidence in the batter’s box is unbelievable, and his staggering .465 on-base percentage reflects that. He’s got a long way to go, and it’s hard to imagine that this is his peak. The Nationals have a generational talent at their disposal.
3. Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies)
2021 Slash: .309 / .429 / .615
2021: wRC+: 170
2021 fWAR: 6.6
MVP Harper is back, and he’s a legitimate superstar. After his historic 2015 MVP season, he failed to reach those heights again, which brought much doubt to whether or not he was worth the money the Phillies paid him in 2018. It’s been awhile since Harper has received this sort of recognition, but carrying an OPS over 1.000 with superb on-base abilities earns him all the credit he’s getting. He’s a certified superstar.
4. Aaron Judge (New York Yankees)
2021 Slash: .287 / .373 / .544
2021 wRC+: 148
2021 fWAR: 5.3
Don’t forget about Judge, he’s still one of the best players in baseball. At the plate, he crushes the baseball with ease, and gets on base very often. You never know when he’s about to make a diving catch and follow it up with throwing a runner out, or effortlessly crush a ball 450+ feet. He makes magical things happen on a regular basis and is arguably a top five player. Don’t let the numbers fool you because he hasn’t hit 50 home runs since his rookie season, because Judge is still a generational player.
5. Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers)
2021 Slash: .264 / .367 / .487
2021 wRC+: 131
2021 fWAR: 3.7
It’s been a down year for Betts, which speaks volumes about his game because his 2021 numbers are still pretty good. He gets on base at a high rate, he can mash, and he’s still great in right field. While he isn’t producing like he did in 2018 with the Red Sox, his track record in the last couple years combined with another all-star caliber campaign still solidifies him as a top 10 player in the league.
6. Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Toronto Blue Jays)
2021 Slash: .311 / .401 / .601
2021 wRC+: 166
2021 fWAR: 6.7
“He’s a bust!” “He’ll never be like his dad!”
Yeah, well he might actually be better. Guerrero’s third season in the big leagues has been one for the ages, as he’s shattered pre-season expectations. At 22 years old he nearly won the triple crown, something that hasn’t been done since Miguel Cabrera in 2013. His hitting ability is among the best we’ve seen, boasting improved swinging mechanics that allow him to hit balls almost 120 mph off the bat into the air, combined with elite plate discipline that allows him to regularly get on base. Pair that with much improved defense at first base, and you have a top 10 player in the league, who will only go up in the rankings if things get even better.
7. Fernando Tatis Jr (San Diego Padres)
2021 Slash: .282 / .364 / .611
2021 wRC+: 156
2021 fWAR: 6.3
It wasn’t a good season at all for the Padres, but the same can’t be said about Tatis. He mashed in 2021 and showed the world why he got signed to that mega-extension back in the winter. His dynamic playstyle makes him not only an entertaining player, but also an extremely productive one. While his health and ability to be a long-term shortstop remain questions, there’s no doubt he’s a top player in the league already, and his production since the beginning of his career proves it.
8. Ronald Acuna Jr (Atlanta Braves)
2021 Slash: .283 / .394 / .596
2021 wRC+: 157
2021 fWAR: 4.2
It’s too bad Acuna suffered a season ending ACL tear, because he was blossoming into a really special player. He was making a case to be the NL MVP at the start of the season, where he had a legendary first month and was untouchable. Amassing a 4.2 fWAR in the short amount of time he’s played this season is very impressive, and it’s going to be exciting to see how he plays after returning.
9. Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
2021 Slash: .300 / .393 / .503
2021 wRC+: 135
2021 fWAR: 4.5
Last year’s NL MVP hasn’t skipped a beat after battling through a slow start to the season. The big lefty is still hammering baseballs and getting on-base at an elite rate. Not to mention, his defense at first base remains rock solid. He’s been a very underrated player this season, and he’s going to have to come up huge in their upcoming NLDS series against the Brewers, especially with Acuna sidelined until next year.
10. Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
2021 Slash: .266 / .355 / .538
2021 wRC+: 137
2021 fWAR: 6.4
People have seemingly forgotten about Ramirez given that he plays for an uninspiring Indians team that boasts no hitting aside from him, but he’s quietly been continuing his elite career in 2021. He’s been a top player once again in the AL and is arguably the best third baseman in baseball. He flexes a ton of power for a smaller player, and is a superb all-around hitter. Cleveland fans better enjoy him while he’s still there.
11. George Springer (Toronto Blue Jays)
2021 Slash: .264 / .352 / .555
2021 wRC+: 140
2021 fWAR: 2.3
It’s a shame Springer missed roughly half the season to injury, because he’s been just as advertised for the Blue Jays in the games he has played. Despite going through a severe slump in September, his 2021 numbers remain elite. In only 78 games played, Springer hit 22 home runs and boasted an OPS of .907, along with very solid defense in centre field. Combine that with his legendary postseason play, and you have a top 15 player in baseball.
12. Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels)
2021 Slash: .257 / .372 / .592
2021 wRC+: 152
2021 fWAR: 5.1
If this ranking were based on being a pure baseball player, then Ohtani would have his own tier at the top given his two-way talents. But based on his hitting alone, he’s still elite. He’s flexed his muscles all year long by hitting balls into outer space, and is a huge speed threat on the basepaths as well. He’s still got room to further develop as a hitter, as he needs to cut down on the strikeouts a bit, but that will only elevate him even further if he makes that tweak. Ohtani is a living nightmare to any pitcher, and he’s only getting started.
13. Matt Olson (Oakland Athletics)
2021 Slash: .271 / .371 / .540
2021 wRC+: 146
2021 fWAR: 5.0
You can’t find a better two-way first baseman than Olson. At first, he has immense range and is basically a giant vacuum. At the dish, he rakes. His on-base numbers are at a career high in 2021, and his 39 home runs also mark a career best. He’s always been a great player for the Athletics, but he raised the bar this season, and showed why he’s one of the best players in baseball.
14. Marcus Semien (Toronto Blue Jays)
2021 Slash: .265 / .334 / .538
2021 wRC+: 131
2021 fWAR: 6.6
Semien has completely elevated his game with Toronto this year, and all questions as to whether or not this was a worthy pickup for the Blue Jays have been answered. Despite openly prefering to play shortstop, he’s done very well as a full-time second basemen, and has been lights out at the dish. His ability to crush fastballs is arguably unmatched, and his improved approach at the box has helped form these results. It led to him setting the all-time major league record for single season home runs by a second baseman with 45. It was hard to imagine he would reach his 2019 form this year, but he’s gone and far surpassed it.
15. Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins)
2021 Slash: .306 / .358 / .647
2021 wRC+: 169
2021 fWAR: 4.1
If Buxton wasn’t severely injury prone, his spot in this list would probably be within the five to 10 range. He’s got all the tools you want in a baseball player. His speed is among the league’s best, he has limitless range in centre field along with a strong arm, he hits for average and usually has high on-base numbers, and recently gained a ton of pop in his bat as he had 19 home runs this season in just 61 games played. If Buxton can stay on the field for at least 100 games in a season, his numbers are going to be off the charts.
16. Trea Turner (Los Angeles Dodgers)
2021 Slash: .328 / .375 / .536
2021 wRC+: 142
2021 fWAR: 6.8
A major speed threat with pop who hits for average and can get on base, combined with great defensive ability in the middle infield, and yet he isn’t talked about as much as he should be. He’s flat out one of the game’s elite players, and he’s been a major pickup for the Dodgers. If Turner finds a way to boost his power, he could make a serious case as a top 10 player in baseball. He is ridiculously good.
17. Alex Bregman (Houston Astros)
2021 Slash: .270 / .355 / .422
2021 wRC+: 115
2021 fWAR: 2.0
Bregman hasn’t been able to reach his 2019 heights ever since, but he’s still a very productive player who serves a critical role on a contending team. Missing 70 games didn’t help with his numbers, but he still had a decent year despite them not being up to his standards. While he didn’t walk as much, he still had quality on-base numbers and didn’t strike out that much. If he can find the pop he once had and be the dominant player he recently was, his name will once again rise on the list next year.
18. Max Muncy (Los Angeles Dodgers)
2021 Slash: .249 / .368 / .527
2021 wRC+: 140
2021 fWAR: 4.8
Muncy has very few weaknesses in his game, and he really took off in the 2021 season. His elite eye mixed with his raw power makes for a dangerous hitter, and he’s been the best hitter this year on a stacked Dodgers lineup. Not much needs to be said about Muncy otherwise, but his elevated game has been a game changer for the Dodgers (especially with Cody Bellinger having a career-worst season), and it earns him a spot as a top 20 hitter in baseball.
19. Justin Turner (Los Angeles Dodgers)
2021 Slash: .278 / .361 / .471
2021 wRC+: 127
2021 fWAR: 4.0
Another year, another fine season for the other Turner on the Dodgers. He’s been a very reliable player his entire career with the Dodgers, but it seems as if some people don’t understand how impactful he is. For years he’s been a consistent on-base threat with pop, who can also hit well in big moments. Despite a noticeable defensive decline, he’s still dangerous at the plate, and his track record can back it up. Not to mention, there aren’t many players that shine brighter in October than Turner.
20. Cedric Mullins (Baltimore Orioles)
2021 Slash: .291 / .360 / .518
2021: wRC+: 136
2021 fWAR: 5.3
If I told you a year ago that there was going to be an all-star starter from the Orioles in 2021, you probably wouldn’t have guessed it was going to be the 5’8” centre fielder who had a .722 OPS in 2020. Mullins has been superb for Baltimore, and has emerged as someone who the team should be building around going forward. He does it all, and his 30/30 season highlights his ability to wreak havoc in the box and on the basepaths. The Orioles have a special player in Mullins, and it looks like he’s going to give opposing teams headaches for a long time.
21. Nolan Arenado (St. Louis Cardinals)
2021 Slash: .255 / .312 / .494
2021 wRC+: 113
2021 fWAR: 3.9
While it seems like he’s taken a slight step back at the plate this year, Arenado still mashes. He was seen hitting towering bombs at Busch Stadium all year long, and his defense at third base remains among the league’s best. His efforts down the stretch helped propel the Cardinals into a playoff spot, and he’s going to be a big piece for them going forward.
22. Manny Machado (San Diego Padres)
2021 Slash: .278 / .347 / .489
2021 wRC+: 122
2021 fWAR: 4.4
The Padres’ third baseman is still an elite player, even if people aren’t talking about as much given the emergence of Tatis. Machado rakes at the plate and is one of baseball’s better defensive third baseman, and it’s been something he’s done since his days in Baltimore. His hitting did drop off a little compared to last year, but 28 home runs with a 122 wRC+ is still indicative of a very good player, especially combined with that defensive talent.
23. Nick Castellanos (Cincinnati Reds)
2021 Slash: .309 / .362 / .576
2021 wRC+: 140
2021 fWAR: 4.1
Castellanos has always been a very productive player, but he quietly became elite in 2021. He set a career high in just about every offensive category imaginable, and was a critical part of a strong Reds lineup this year. Cutting down on the strikeouts was instrumental in taking his game to the next level and being a night, as he saw his strikeout rate drop by 7.8% compared to last season. Given his power at the dish, he’s now got all the right tools to remain an elite hitter going forward.
24. Christian Yelich (Milwaukee Brewers)
2021 Slash: .248 / .362 / .373
2021 wRC+: 101
2021 fWAR: 1.4
It’s been a weird year for Yelich. After coming off two unstoppable years in 2018 and 2019, where he was a certified top three player in baseball, he has gone ice cold for his standards. His on-base abilities worsened despite still being good, but his power has gone virtually invisible. Nine home runs in 475 plate appearances is a rancid number for a man who hit 44 two years ago, and it has people wondering what happened to him. Nobody was expecting him to play like this for a second straight season, and despite still being a solid player, his ranking takes a massive drop. Yelich should be too good to just be a “solid player”, but for some reason his recent on-field production doesn’t reflect that.
25. Anthony Rendon (Los Angeles Angels)
2021 Slash: .240 / .329 / .382
2021 wRC+: 95
2021 fWAR: 0.7
Another player who was bitten by the Yelich regression bug. Rendon was a premier hitter for the Nationals and even last year for the Angels, as he sported a wRC+ of over 140 in each of his previous three seasons. But it’s been a rough year for Rendon, and it’s hard to see why. His power numbers sunk, and his elite on-base ability completely vanished. He only played 58 games this season, however, so perhaps this is nothing more than a hiccup. With this in mind, he still remains a top 25 player in baseball, but that will change next season if this continues.
Honourable mentions (in order of divisions): Rafael Devers (BOS), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Giancarlo Stanton (NYY), Brandon Lowe (TB), Teoscar Hernandez (TOR), Bo Bichette (TOR), Yasmani Grandal (CHW), Carlos Correa (HOU), Jose Altuve (HOU), Kyle Tucker (HOU), Starling Marte (OAK), Matt Chapman (OAK), J.T. Realmuto (PHI), Jesse Winker (CIN), Bryan Reynolds (PIT), Corey Seager (LAD), Buster Posey (SF).