Each year in November, Major League Baseball finally gets around to handing out their most cherished awards. But we don’t need to wait that long in the fantasy community, and I’m ready to distribute our hardware right now.
Here are our Yahoo fantasy baseball award winners for the 2021 season.
AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Guerrero is finishing up an absolutely remarkable fantasy season, leading the Majors in runs and homers while ranking fifth in batting average and seventh in RBIs. The 22-year-old headlines a Blue Jays lineup that has the highest team OPS in baseball and ranks third in total runs scored. Often drafted in Round 5 or later, Guerrero was one of this season’s best value picks, and he won’t make it out of the first round in any league next year.
NL MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr.
If not for a left shoulder injury that required two IL stints, Tatis would have likely been the No. 1 overall player this year. Despite playing in just 124 games to this point in the season, the 22-year-old is the only player in baseball to amass at least 40 homers and 25 steals, and he may reach the century mark in both RBIs and runs scored. Those who resisted the urge to trade Tatis during his initial IL stint should be commended.
AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray
Ray’s 2021 season will forever serve as an excellent reminder that we should never completely give up on a player. The left-hander was a complete mess last season, posting a 6.62 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP. His control skills had been a career-long problem, and last year they were worse than ever before. But the Blue Jays had a plan for Ray that clearly worked, and he is now the favorite for the real-life Cy Young award after logging a 2.68 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP — with one start to go.
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
Scherzer was great with the Nats (2.76 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) and has been absolutely ridiculous (1.43 ERA, 0.71 WHIP) since joining the Dodgers. He should win his fourth Cy Young award this season and has propelled many fantasy teams to victory. Those who drafted the likes of Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, or Trevor Bauer now wish they had waited one more round and instead grabbed baseball’s most consistent ace.
AL Top Reliever: Liam Hendriks
As expected, old-school manager Tony La Russa has used Hendriks as a traditional closer, which has thus far led to eight wins and 36 saves. Additionally, among players with at least four saves, Hendriks is the only one who has more than 100 whiffs. With two years remaining on a lucrative contract, Hendriks should be one of the top two relievers in 2022 drafts.
NL Top Reliever: Josh Hader
This was a year to invest in high-end relievers, as the top-two off the board in most drafts both earned spots in this article. Hader has been undoubtedly the best closer in baseball this season, blowing just one of his 35 save chances while posting an incredible 1.27 ERA. I have a hard time making a case for drafting any reliever ahead of the Brewers southpaw next year.
AL Rookie of the Year: Randy Arozarena
Arozarena entered the season as the heavy favorite for this award after enjoying a memorable postseason in 2020. And the 26-year-old hasn’t disappointed, producing plenty of homers (19) and steals (15) to go along with 90 runs scored. Despite putting Arozarena on this list, I will leave you with one reason for hesitation heading into the offseason: Statcast lists the outfielder with a lowly .217 xBA.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jonathan India
India has been a savior in Cincinnati by giving the Reds the leadoff man they have lacked in recent seasons. The rookie is the new-age version of a table-setter, possessing respectable speed (11 steals) but significant power (20 homers) and outstanding on-base skills (.377 OBP). The 24-year-old could be even better next season, as his two worst months of 2021 were April and May.
AL Top Free Agent: Cedric Mullins
Mullins is without a doubt the best free-agent acquisition at any position this season, hitting .299 while putting the finishing touches on a 30-30 campaign. And heading into 2022, most of Mullins' recent production seems sustainable. Statcast has the table-setter listed with a .273 xBA, and his power skills have come with a reasonable 16.0 percent HR/FB rate.
NL Top Free Agent: Adam Wainwright
Despite posting a 3.15 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 2020, Wainwright was an afterthought in most 2021 drafts, as most fantasy managers assumed that the 40-year-old had no chance of repeating his success during a shortened season. The right-hander was torched for six runs across 2.2 innings in his season debut before eventually settling in and being one of baseball’s most consistent starters during the summer months. At the very least, Waino deserves a mid-round 2022 pick in the hope that he can do this one more time.