MLB Superstar Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams' Biggest Stars Stack Up

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 7, 2021

MLB Superstar Power Rankings: How All 30 Teams' Biggest Stars Stack Up

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    Byron Buxton is on one in 2021.
    Byron Buxton is on one in 2021.David Dermer/Associated Press

    After one month (and change) of action, there's a clear sense of which Major League Baseball superstars are on the "must watch" list for 2021.

    So, we went ahead and ranked each team's brightest star from No. 30 down to No. 1.

    To make things interesting, this list strictly covers players who are shining right now. Some of the players who made the cut are well-established as brand-name superstars, but there are also a handful of newcomers to the mix.

    Otherwise, our ranking process was as simple as weighing what each player has done on the surface in tandem with certain under-the-hood performance metrics.

    Let's count 'em down.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates: SP JT Brubaker

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 32.1 IP, 29 H (5 HR), 37 K, 8 BB, 2.78 ERA, 148 ERA+, 1.0 rWAR

    Even with exciting rookie Ke'Bryan Hayes (wrist) on the injured list since early April, the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates have avoided being a total embarrassment in part thanks to some key pitchers.

    With respect to closer Richard Rodriguez and starter Tyler Anderson, we give the edge here ever so slightly to JT Brubaker.

    The 27-year-old flew under the radar with a respectable, if unspectacular rookie season in 2020. He's now getting the most out of his five-pitch mix, specifically to the extent that he's the only qualified hurler with a ground-ball rate north of 57 and a strikeout rate north of 26.

    So even if it's not as easy to condone his penchant for hitting batters, Brubaker is nonetheless emerging as one of the National League's underrated hurlers.

29. Detroit Tigers: SP Matthew Boyd

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    Raj Mehta/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 35.2 IP, 26 H (1 HR), 24 K, 7 BB, 2.27 ERA, 185 ERA+, 1.3 rWAR

    If there's one silver lining amid the Detroit Tigers' awful start, it's that Matthew Boyd is producing like a No. 1 starter again.

    Though knee tendinitis ended his most recent outing after just one inning, it still stands out that Boyd has allowed only one home run. Not bad for a guy who allowed an MLB-high 54 long balls across 2019 and 2020.

    It helps that Boyd is no longer a strict fastball-slider guy, as his changeup has indeed supplanted the latter in usage. The clearest benefit of this is a career-low rate of batted balls in the sweet spot, or anything with a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees.

    Yet by way of a 17th-percentile whiff rate, Boyd is also missing alarmingly few bats just two years after he struck out 11.6 batters per nine innings. In time, that could bite him.

28. Seattle Mariners: RF Mitch Haniger

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 30 G, 130 PA, 8 HR, 0 SB, .254 AVG, .300 OBP, .534 SLG, 139 OPS+, 0.7 rWAR

    If nothing else, it's worth celebrating that Mitch Haniger is even back on the field for the Seattle Mariners in 2021.

    The 30-year-old had a brutal time with groin and abdominal injuries in 2019 and 2020, ultimately missing the entirety of the latter season. He's now healthy for the first time since 2018, when he was a breakout All-Star.

    Pitchers have been content to challenge Haniger by throwing 56.8 percent of their fastballs against him in the strike zone. Since he's met that challenge with a .333 average and .719 slugging percentage against in-zone heat, they might want to rethink it.

    Haniger also bears watching on defense, where he's standing out for his quick reactions. Altogether, he's returned from his injuries to play like an All-Star once again.

27. Texas Rangers: 2B Nick Solak

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 33 G, 139 PA, 7 HR, 2 SB, .274 AVG, .353 OBP, .468 SLG, 141 OPS+, 1.2 rWAR

    The Texas Rangers have had issues with their starting rotation but not on days when Kyle Gibson has taken the ball. He's made seven starts and put up a 2.40 ERA.

    Yet our eyes are on Nick Solak, who already has as many home runs as he had in 2019 and 2020 combined.

    Could it be the pants? Maybe, but Solak should also be credited for tapping into a Jose Ramirez-esque form of power. In that, even though his exit velocity is only in the 64th percentile, he's gotten better at hitting balls in the sweet spot and to his pull side.

    Considering that the 26-year-old also has speed in the 96th percentile, he's not to be overlooked as one of the American League's more dynamic offensive threats.

26. Oakland Athletics: 1B Matt Olson

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 27 G, 112 PA, 7 HR, 0 SB, .280 AVG, .348 OBP, .560 SLG, 164 OPS+, 0.6 rWAR

    It's been feast or famine for the Oakland Athletics, who've gone just 6-14 on either side of a 13-game winning streak between April 9 and 24.

    But, hey, at least Matt Olson has been a consistent presence for them.

    The 27-year-old had a rough go of it as he hit .195 and struck out 77 times in 60 games last season. But he's since adjusted what had been an overly "horizontal" swing and also picked veteran teammate Jed Lowrie's brain about pitch recognition.

    It shows. Olson is striking out at his lowest rate since he became a full-timer in 2017, all while generating barrels at a career-best rate. Between those things and his Gold Glove-winning defense, he's back among the league's very best first basemen.

25. Chicago White Sox: DH Yermin Mercedes

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 25 G, 94 PA, 5 HR, 0 SB, .386 AVG, .426 OBP, .614 SLG, 197 OPS+, 1.1 rWAR

    The Chicago White Sox didn't come into 2021 lacking for stars, but they now have one more for good measure in Yermin Mercedes.

    It's tempting to say that the 28-year-old rookie has come out of nowhere, but it was only two years ago that he showed his hitting bona fides with a .317/.388/.581 slash line in the minors.

    Mercedes put his raw power on display with a 485-foot blast on April 8. Yet his overall hard-hit rate is only in the 18th percentile, which gets at how his exceptional results largely derive from his capacity to find holes in the defense.

    To this end, the 5'11", 245-pounder probably won't maintain a .344 average on ground balls. But for the time being, the White Sox will take it.

24. Houston Astros: DH Yordan Alvarez

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 24 G, 101 PA, 5 HR, 0 SB, .337 AVG, .376 OBP, .609 SLG, 175 OPS+, 0.9 rWAR

    It's hard to escape the sense that the Houston Astros offense hasn't really gotten going yet, but at least Yordan Alvarez is back in full swing.

    Alvarez broke in with one of the great rookie seasons of all-time as he hit .313/.412/.655 back in 2019. But the 23-year-old's health betrayed him in 2020, wherein he played only two games before having surgery on both knees.

    Though Alvarez isn't drawing walks like he did as a rookie, his zone discipline has actually improved in 2021. He's likewise doing just fine hitting balls in the sweet spot, and often with good exit velocity.

    Weirdly, Alvarez isn't using his pull side like he did in 2019. But since that isn't really impacting his power and it's actually helping him beat the shift, it could actually be a good thing.

23. Cincinnati Reds: RF Nick Castellanos

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    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 26 G, 114 PA, 9 HR, 1 SB, .324 AVG, .360 OBP, .648 SLG, 158 OPS+, 1.4 rWAR

    A hot start by Nick Castellanos? Haven't we seen this movie before?

    We have indeed. He began his first year with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020 with a 1.251 OPS and seven homers in 14 games, but he didn't even crack the Mendoza line in hitting .190/.263/.381 after that.

    Yet this version of Castellanos is different in a key way. He's making more consistent contact in two-strike counts, which is keeping his strikeout rate in check as he otherwise traffics in career-best exit velocity.

    The 29-year-old has also made strides on defense, where he's one of the quickest outfielders with regard to his reaction at the crack of the bat. So by all accounts, this is very much a peak version of Castellanos.

22. St. Louis Cardinals: 3B Nolan Arenado

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 32 G, 134 PA, 5 HR, 0 SB, .276 AVG, .336 OBP, .488 SLG, 131 OPS+1.1 rWAR

    The St. Louis Cardinals are getting what they wanted out of Nolan Arenado at third base, where he already has two defensive runs saved.

    Offensively, however, Arenado started hot but has since faded with a .250/.313/.434 line over his last 20 games.

    Arenado is unsurprisingly seeing a lot of breaking stuff in his first year away from Coors Field, and it's mostly working as he's hitting just .250 and slugging .375 against it. On the plus side, he's dominating against offspeed stuff while excelling at pulling the ball in the sweet spot.

    Arenado is standing on solid ground even though he's yet to go on a hot streak. Once such a streak finally comes, the 30-year-old will return to the stratosphere of baseball's greatest superstars.

21. Colorado Rockies: SS Trevor Story

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 31 G, 127 PA, 4 HR, 4 SB, .304 AVG, .370 OBP, .527 SLG, 134 OPS+, 0.9 rWAR

    Trevor Story is a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger who leads all shortstops with 16.6 rWAR since 2018, so it should surprise nobody that he's the Colorado Rockies' best player in 2021.

    The weird thing, though, is that he should be having an even better season.

    He only has four home runs, yet Statcast estimates that he should actually have 10. He's indeed had some drives die (e.g., here, here and here) at the warning track, so that idea does hold some water.

    Story should start collecting on some of his outstanding bad luck as the weather warms up. If his speed (84th percentile) and defense (86th percentile) continue to shine as he does so, he'll be quite the trade-deadline acquisition for some lucky team.

20. Kansas City Royals: SP Danny Duffy

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 35.2 IP, 28 H (2 HR), 40 K, 10 BB, 1.26 ERA, 345 ERA+, 1.7 rWAR

    Despite their recent fade, the Kansas City Royals have opened eyes this season in part thanks to help from ol' standbys like Salvador Perez and especially Danny Duffy.

    The 32-year-old was one of Kansas City's top starters between 2014 and 2017 before slipping into mediocrity as his once-great fastball got less electric between 2018 and 2020.

    With his average heater at a sturdy 93.7 mph, Duffy has turned back the clock in that department in 2021. Plus, the superb rise on his fastball is that much more effective in tandem with his increasingly high location patterns.

    Because Duffy also boasts not one, not two, not three, but four secondary offerings, he may yet be able to stave off his looming bad luck dragons for a while longer.

19. Miami Marlins: SP Trevor Rogers

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 6 G, 6 GS, 33 IP, 22 H (2 HR), 44 K, 13 BB, 1.91 ERA, 218 ERA+, 1.2 rWAR

    The Miami Marlins aren't conjuring the same magic that led them to the playoffs in 2021, but they can at least feel comfortable when one of their three aces is on the mound.

    Those would be Sandy Alcantara, who's good, Pablo Lopez, who's better, and Trevor Rogers, who's best.

    What stands out about Rogers is his fastball, which is responsible for an MLB-best 32 of his 44 strikeouts. Because of its movement and the extension allowed by his 6'5", 217-pound frame, it plays better than even the average mid-90s fastball.

    The 23-year-old also has a pretty good changeup and slider at his disposal, and nine of his walks came in his first three outings. Which is to say he's already dangerous and getting even better.

18. San Diego Padres: SP Yu Darvish

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 7 G, 7 GS, 43.2 IP, 29 H (5 HR), 57 K, 12 BB, 2.27 ERA, 163 ERA+, 1.3 rWAR

    The San Diego Padres are thriving thanks to their stars, including underrated center fielder Trent Grisham and, particularly since he returned from his shoulder injury, electric shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

    Yet it's their pitching that's carried them, and nobody more so than Yu Darvish.

    The 34-year-old still resembles the guy who made a run at the NL Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs in 2020, in that he's still overwhelming hitters with a deep arsenal of high-spin pitches. His slider, especially, has baffled hitters to the tune of an .049 average.

    One possible red flag is that Darvish isn't getting hitters to chase outside the zone like he did in 2020. But since he's otherwise thriving with above-average metrics pretty much across the board, that's little more than a nitpick for now.

17. Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 30 G, 128 PA, 7 HR, 0 SB, .333 AVG, .422 OBP, .593 SLG, 181 OPS+, 0.9 rWAR

    The Los Angeles Dodgers are hardly lacking for recognizable names. But with Mookie Betts struggling to find a rhythm and Clayton Kershaw coming off one of his worst starts, their best player right now is Justin Turner.

    Not that this is the biggest surprise, of course. Turner was a .302/.382/.503 hitter for the Dodgers between 2014 and 2020, and his power outage in the latter season never really added up.

    Now in 2021, Turner's already excellent zone discipline has become even better as he's racked up above-average marks for exit velocity (79th percentile) and barrels (73rd percentile).

    As of now, Turner has cemented his eighth straight season with at least a 120 OPS+. The only other players to do that since 2014: Mike Trout and Nelson Cruz.

16. Washington Nationals: SS Trea Turner

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 27 G, 115 PA, 7 HR, 7 SB, .299 AVG, .348 OBP, .533 SLG, 142 OPS+1.5 rWAR

    Because Juan Soto is only recently back from the injured list, this is a good excuse to fawn over his partner in crime in the Washington Nationals lineup: Trea Turner.

    He had an underrated year in 2020, hitting .335/.394/.588 with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases. The speed that contributed to the latter is very much alive in 2021, as his average sprint of 30.8 feet per second tops the charts.

    It's otherwise less than ideal that Turner has 19 more strikeouts than walks, but he's maintaining just fine by crushing fastballs and pulling balls in the sweet spot.

    In theory, there are better shortstops than Turner right now. But knowing that he leads all his peers with 4.3 rWAR since last year, apparently not so much in practice.

15. Milwaukee Brewers: SP Corbin Burnes

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 5 G, 5 GS, 29.1 IP, 16 H (1 HR), 49 K, 0 BB, 1.53 ERA, 271 ERA+, 1.3 rWAR

    Alas, the Milwaukee Brewers can't hit. Yet they have a spectacular starting rotation, headed by co-aces Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes.

    Even if the latter is on the injured list with an unspecified issue, he still gets our vote as the better pitcher of the two on account of his results and uniformly stellar peripherals.

    Burnes, 26, has one of baseball's very best pitches in his high-octane cutter, against which hitters are 9-for-55 with 26 strikeouts. Lest anyone overlook them, his slider and changeup are also eminently GIF-able and plenty effective in their own right.

    It's also not every season that a guy goes as many as five starts without walking anyone, much less while striking out that many batters. So health permitting, Burnes has a clear path to the NL Cy Young Award.

14. Tampa Bay Rays: SP Tyler Glasnow

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 7 G, 7 GS, 43.2 IP, 23 H (4 HR), 64 K, 15 BB, 2.06 ERA, 183 ERA+, 1.4 rWAR

    There are better pitchers than Tyler Glasnow right now, but the Tampa Bay Rays ace might just be the scariest of them all.

    He's dialed his fastball as high as 101 mph this season, which must have looked more like 102 or 103 mph on account of the unrivaled extension allowed by his 6'8", 225-pound frame.

    Glasnow also has a brand-new slider that he's throwing more aggressively than his curveball. Yet the latter remains one of the game's great out pitches, as hitters are just 3-for-44 with 30 strikeouts against it.

    To be sure, the 27-year-old does walk his share of batters and can be hit hard. But unless he's planning on dialing down the dominance of his stuff, there's a place for him in the AL Cy Young Award race.

13. San Francisco Giants: C Buster Posey

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 20 G, 78 PA, 7 HR, 0 SB, .394 AVG, .449 OBP, .732 SLG, 231 OPS+, 1.3 rWAR

    With two newborn baby girls to take care of, Buster Posey opted not to join the San Francisco Giants for the 2020 season.

    It seems as if the time away is just what the 34-year-old needed, though a new-and-improved swing is also helping.

    Said swing has enabled Posey to have a renaissance against fastballs to the tune of a .383 average and .745 slugging percentage. He's also enjoying his best-ever contact quality, marked by career highs for exit velocity (91.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (50 percent).

    It all adds up to Posey's best performance since his MVP-winning season in 2012, with the only real difference being that he can't catch every day at this stage of his career.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks: C Carson Kelly

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 22 G, 86 PA, 6 HR, 0 SB, .323 AVG, .477 OBP, .645 SLG, 205 OPS+1.8 rWAR

    Were it not for Carson Kelly, the Arizona Diamondbacks arguably wouldn't have even a single standout player in 2021.

    After coming over from St. Louis in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, Kelly broke out in his first season with Arizona in 2019. He then hit just .221 in 2020, prompting him to spend the ensuing winter trying to rediscover the swing he had in '19.

    Judging from considerable improvements with his barrel and sweet spot rates, the 26-year-old might have found an even better swing. He's also recaptured his zone discipline after it got away from him in 2020, resulting in more walks (17) than strikeouts (14).

    All told, what we have here is a catcher whose metrics back up his elite results.

11. Cleveland: 3B Jose Ramirez

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 30 G, 127 PA, 9 HR, 4 SB, .259 AVG, .354 OBP, .556 SLG, 151 OPS+, 1.5 rWAR

    In reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, Cleveland is still trotting out a dandy of an ace every five days. He's made seven starts and put up a 2.98 ERA with an MLB-high 77 strikeouts.

    But since he has a chance to be a top-five MVP finisher for the fourth time in five years, we dare not further contribute to the underrating of Jose Ramirez.

    As he did in 2018, the 28-year-old is racking up walks (15) as fast as strikeouts (15) while maintaining an elevated rate of pulled balls in the sweet spot. Oh, and his exit velocity (91.3 mph) and hard-hit rate (45.3 percent) have never been better.

    Factoring in that an MLB-high-tying four of his home runs have come in high-leverage, there's also an early clutch element in Ramirez's latest run at the AL MVP.

10. Philadelphia Phillies: RF Bryce Harper

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 24 G, 101 PA, 6 HR, 3 SB, .317 AVG, .446 OBP, .598 SLG, 189 OPS+, 1.1 rWAR

    Though no team in the NL East is truly living a charmed life, the Philadelphia Phillies are coming the closest. They're not only in first place, but they're getting their money's worth out of their most expensive star.

    In fact, there's actually a case to be made for Bryce Harper as baseball's best hitter.

    The 2015 NL MVP has hit a robust .283/.427/.559 since the start of last season. But courtesy of his splendid discipline and loud contact, his expected slash line comes out to .327/.447/.704. Not even Mike Trout can be found in those same territories.

    As for why the 28-year-old Harper's results are lagging behind in 2021, the wind (here and here) bears some of the blame. He might otherwise just need more time...and also fewer fastballs in the neighborhood of his face.

9. Toronto Blue Jays: 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 30 G, 129 PA, 7 HR, 1 SB, .330 AVG, .465 OBP, .592 SLG, 200 OPS+, 1.4 rWAR

    The Toronto Blue Jays didn't get what they were hoping for out of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. after he arrived as baseball's No. 1 prospect in 2019. He wasn't the otherworldly hitter he had been billed as.

    Well, now he is.

    Even before 2021, the 22-year-old had already demonstrated a penchant for putting the ball in play and making loud contact. Now, he's doing those things and showing off improved zone discipline while also hitting more balls in the air.

    Ultimately, Guerrero boasts more walks (23) than strikeouts (22) with frankly intimidating metrics, such as his 97th-percentile exit velocity. With more of this, he'll further cement himself as one of the game's most dangerous hitters.

8. Chicago Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 29 G, 124 PA, 9 HR, 1 SB, .308 AVG, .395 OBP, .673 SLG, 194 OPS+, 1.7 rWAR

    Though the Chicago Cubs haven't completely resolved their bothersome offensive issues, at least the Kris Bryant conundrum is no more.

    The 2016 NL MVP wasn't the same player between 2018 and 2020. Injuries didn't help, but it was also clear as he was hitting .206/.293/.351 in 2020 that his launch-angle-centric swing wasn't cutting it anymore.

    So with help from his father, Mike, Bryant crafted a new swing that's more direct to the ball. It's specifically helped against fastballs, which he's hitting more like he did in '16 after he hit just .241 and slugged .418 against them in 2020.

    Granted, there's also some good luck involved in Bryant's hot start. But no matter how cool he gets, he should never be anywhere near as cold as he was last season.

7. Boston Red Sox: DH J.D. Martinez

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 30 G, 132 PA, 10 HR, 0 SB, .348 AVG, .432 OBP, .696 SLG, 211 OPS+, 2.0 rWAR

    The Boston Red Sox came into 2021 hoping to wash away the bad taste left by a last-place finish in 2020, but it was never going to work without a return to form on the part of J.D. Martinez.

    So far, so very good.

    After hitting just .213/.291/.389 last year, Martinez looks a lot more like the guy who was baseball's best non-Mike Trout hitter between 2014 and 2019. He's specifically back to raking against fastballs, which he hit at just a .179 clip in 2020.

    The catch is that the 33-year-old is swinging and missing a lot via a whiff rate in the 18th percentile. But with both his actual and expected metrics in elite territory in spite of that, it's no harm, no foul for now.

6. New York Mets: SP Jacob deGrom

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 5 G, 5 GS, 35 IP, 16 H (2 HR), 59 K, 4 BB, 0.51 ERA, 751 ERA+, 1.6 rWAR

    The New York Mets are still waiting for something, heck, anything to click in 2021. But since his lat injury is nothing serious, at least they'll have Jacob deGrom back on the mound soon.

    Already with two NL Cy Young Awards in his collection, deGrom has dialed up his dominance to a frankly baffling degree thus far in 2021. It largely relates to his fastball, which he's throwing:

    Because they have to contend with that and a slider and changeup that come out of the same tunnel, it's little wonder that hitters have had nary a chance against deGrom this season. So as long as the 32-year-old stays healthy, this year could see him add another Cy Young to a resume increasingly worthy of Cooperstown.

5. New York Yankees: SP Gerrit Cole

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 7 G, 7 GS, 44.2 IP, 29 H (3 HR), 66 K, 3 BB, 1.61 ERA, 244 ERA+, 1.8 rWAR

    Ah, so this is what the New York Yankees had in mind when they signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million contract two years ago.

    Contrary to 2020, the 30-year-old has been going right at hitters with a fastball that's sitting at 97.2 mph with exceptional vertical and horizontal action. And while his slider and curveball are still his primary secondaries, his changeup has also joined the party in 2021.

    In other words, Cole isn't messing around as he pursues an elusive Cy Young Award. It's clearly working, as he's on track to break the single-season record for strikeout-to-walk ratio that's been held by Candy Cummings since 1875.

    Per his 24th-percentile exit velocity, the only catch is that Cole can be hit hard. But when we say "only," we mean only.

4. Baltimore Orioles: SP John Means

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 7 G, 7 GS, 46 IP, 21 H (5 HR), 50 K, 10 BB, 1.37 ERA, 305 ERA+, 2.2 rWAR

    Breakout center fielder Cedric Mullins deserves a shoutout, yet there's little question that The John Means Show has been the most exciting part of the Baltimore Orioles season.

    Because Means was an All-Star just two years ago, this isn't the 28-year-old's first rodeo as a star-caliber pitcher. But he throws harder now than he did then, and his secondaries have been absolutely unhittable.

    Though his changeup is easily his best pitch, Means has surrendered a mere .084 average between that, his curveball and slider. That speaks to how well he tunnels all three pitches off his fastball, not to mention his impeccable command.

    With a dominant no-hitter/quasi-perfect game fresh in his wake, Means might just be the guy to beat for the AL Cy Young Award right now.

3. Atlanta: RF Ronald Acuna Jr.

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    Mike Carlson/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 29 G, 129 PA, 10 HR, 5 SB, .324 AVG, .419 OBP, .685 SLG, 186 OPS+, 1.4 rWAR

    Even though Atlanta came into 2021 with reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman in its lineup, Ronald Acuna Jr. was still arguably the team's best player at the outset.

    Now, there is no longer any argument to the contrary.

    It's nothing new to see the 23-year-old lighting up the exit velocity (98th percentile) and sprint speed (96th percentile). What is new is his discipline, which is marked by fewer swings and fewer whiffs outside the strike zone.

    That's a case of Acuna conquering his final frontier on offense. Between that and his early positive readings on defense (see here and here), he has the inside track on Freeman and everyone else to the NL MVP.

2. Los Angeles Angels: CF Mike Trout

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 27 G, 113 PA, 8 HR, 0 SB, .380 AVG, .496 OBP, .7628 SLG, 241 OPS+, 1.9 rWAR

    The Los Angeles Angels' wildest dreams about Shohei Ohtani are coming true. He has 10 homers on one side of the ball, and he's piling up strikeouts on the other.

    He's not the team's best player, though, because Mike Trout still exists and is still...well, still Mike Trout.

    He's almost certainly not going to flirt with .400 all season, but this is undoubtedly the most intimidating he's ever been on offense. His zone discipline is in fine form, while his exit velocity (93.8 mph) and hard-hit rate (58.3 percent) are personal bests.

    Nits to pick include the 29-year-old's disinterest in stealing bases and frustratingly slow reactions on defense, but that's really it. When the season ends, the odds are good that Trout will have a fourth AL MVP in is immediate future.

1. Minnesota Twins: CF Byron Buxton

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2021 Stats: 24 G, 98 PA, 9 HR, 5 SB, .370 AVG, .408 OBP, .772 SLG, 235 OPS+2.7 rWAR

    Even if his efforts have largely gone to waste amid the Minnesota Twins' disappointing start, it's really not hard to make a case for Byron Buxton as the game's best player right now.

    Though his frequent swings and misses are a red flag, Buxton has been about as dynamic offensively as his results suggest. To wit, he boasts a 98th-percentile hard-hit rate and 99th-percentile sprint speed.

    Yet it's arguably Buxton's defense that really sets him apart. The 2017 Gold Glover has made great play after great play this season, and it shows in his MLB-leading six defensive runs saved.

    Because Buxton, 27, has had issues with both injuries and inconsistency in the past, how much longer he can keep this up is a fair question. But if he can, the immense hype that accompanied him when he began his career in 2015 will have finally been realized.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.


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