MLB Player Rankings for the Top 25 Outfielders of 2021 Season
Welcome to Bleacher Report's final positional rankings of the 2021 MLB season!
Throughout the year, we released monthly updates to our position-by-position power rankings, selecting the top 10 players at each spot. Now it's time to finalize those rankings while expanding the list out to the 25 best at each position on the diamond, which means each position is going to get its own article.
Just like the regular-season rankings, players are ranked solely on the 2021 season. Past production and future expectations played no part in deciding the order.
To qualify for inclusion, a player had to have at least 200 plate appearances. Each player was included in the rankings at the position where he played the most innings. That notably excluded Mike Trout (146 PA).
Let's keep our 2021 MLB Player Rankings series rolling with a look at the top 25 outfielders.
Since there are three times as many outfielders as there are other positions on the diamond, it made sense to tack an honorable mention list of 25 guys onto our top 25 list. Here are the players who just missed the cut, listed alphabetically:
- Akil Baddoo, DET
- Andrew Benintendi, KC
- Michael Brantley, HOU
- Mark Canha, OAK
- Dylan Carlson, STL
- Adam Duvall, MIA/ATL
- Avisail Garcia, MIL
- Trent Grisham, SD
- Robbie Grossman, DET
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr., TOR
- Austin Hays, BAL
- Max Kepler, MIN
- Ketel Marte, ARI
- Chas McCormick, HOU
- Andrew McCutchen, PHI
- Austin Meadows, TB
- Brandon Nimmo, NYM
- Rafael Ortega, CHC
- Hunter Renfroe, BOS
- Luis Robert, CWS
- George Springer, TOR
- Michael A. Taylor, KC
- Alex Verdugo, BOS
- LaMonte Wade Jr., SF
- Mike Yastrzemski, SF
25. Myles Straw, Houston Astros/Cleveland Guardians
The speedy Straw was an everyday player for the first time in 2021, first replacing George Springer in center field in Houston before the Astros traded him to Cleveland at the deadline. He hit .271 with a .349 on-base percentage, tallying 34 extra-base hits, 30 steals and 3.2 WAR, and he was also a Gold Glove finalist in center field.
24. Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
As a 28-year-old rookie, Garcia posted a 101 OPS+ with 31 home runs, 90 RBI and 16 steals, and he was a surprise All-Star for the rebuilding Rangers. While his .286 on-base percentage and 31.2 percent strikeout rate leave something to be desired, he was a stellar defender (16 DRS, 11.8 UZR/150) to go along with his power production in a 3.8 WAR season.
23. AJ Pollock, Los Angeles Dodgers
In the third season of a five-year, $60 million contract, Pollock enjoyed his best season in a Dodgers uniform, hitting .297/.355/.536 for a 137 OPS+ with 27 doubles, 21 home runs and 69 RBI. The 33-year-old hit .307 with runners in scoring position, and he had a .937 OPS in 205 plate appearances after the All-Star break.
22. Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
After missing much of the 2019 season and all of last year with a gruesome injury, Haniger finally returned to action, posting a 122 OPS+ with 39 home runs and 100 RBI for the upstart Mariners. The 30-year-old showed a less patient approach at the plate, which resulted in a middling .318 on-base percentage, but his power production is enough to earn him a spot here.
21. Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals
A standout defender throughout his time in the big leagues, Bader stepped his offensive game up this year, hitting .267/.324/.460 for a 116 OPS+ with 21 doubles and 16 home runs. He hit .281 with an .800 OPS after the All-Star break, and he capped off the season by winning his first Gold Glove.
20. Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers/New York Yankees
Yes, Gallo hit .160 with a 38.6 percent strikeout rate after the Rangers traded him to the Yankees. However, he was also a 4.2 WAR player at the time of the trade. Along with a .199 average and 213 strikeouts, he led the AL with 111 walks and had a solid .351 on-base percentage. He also slugged 38 home runs while winning his second straight Gold Glove.
19. Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves
Acuna was squarely among the NL MVP front-runners when he suffered a season-ending torn ACL on July 10. He was hitting .283/.394/.596 with 19 doubles, 24 home runs and 17 steals through 82 games at the time of the injury, good for a 3.6 WAR season. The 23-year-old is expected to return sometime during the first half of next season.
18. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
One of the tougher players to slot on this list, Buxton played in only 61 games while missing time with a hip strain and fractured hand. However, he was worth a staggering 4.5 WAR when he was on the field. The 27-year-old posted a 171 OPS+ with 42 extra-base hits in 254 plate appearances, and he had 10 DRS in 509.2 innings in center field.
17. Kyle Schwarber, Washington Nationals/Boston Red Sox
Non-tendered by the Chicago Cubs at the start of last offseason, Schwarber signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Nationals. He homered 12 times in a 10-game stretch at the end of June, but he missed most of July with a hamstring strain. The Red Sox acquired him at the deadline, and he finished with a 148 OPS+ and 32 home runs in 113 games, posting a .266/.374/.554 line that represented career highs across the board.
16. Chris Taylor, Los Angeles Dodgers
The ultra-versatile Taylor was an All-Star for the first time in 2021, posting a 110 OPS+ with 25 doubles, 20 home runs, 73 RBI, 92 runs scored and 13 steals in 148 games. Along with the 89 games he played in the outfield, he also spent time at second base (46), shortstop (23) and third base (11). He hit the walk-off home run in the NL Wild Card Game and had a three-homer game in Game 5 of the NLCS.
15. Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds
An intercostal strain limited Winker to only one game after Aug. 15. The 28-year-old hit .305/.394/.556 for a 140 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 24 home runs and 71 RBI in 485 plate appearances, earning his first All-Star selection. His middling defense (-6 DRS, -4.8 UZR/150) and the time he missed kept him from ranking any higher.
14. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs/San Francisco Giants
Slowed by a variety of injuries in 2020, Bryant returned healthy and productive this year. He played more games in the outfield (93) than he did at his natural position of third base (55), and he posted a 124 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 25 home runs and 73 RBI in a 3.3 WAR season. The Giants acquired him at the trade deadline, and he is poised to cash in as a free agent this offseason.
13. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
In a down year by his standards, Betts was still a 4.2 WAR player. He hit .264/.367/.487 with 29 doubles, 23 home runs and 10 steals, which, coupled with his usual standout defense in right field, was enough for him to finish fourth in WAR on a stacked Dodgers roster. His contract and track record mean more is expected of him, but he was still a top-15 outfielder.
12. Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays
Despite his 2020 postseason heroics, Arozarena entered the 2021 season with rookie eligibility, and he wound up leading all rookies with 4.1 WAR. The 26-year-old had 32 doubles, 20 home runs, 20 steals and 94 runs scored, and he was a Gold Glove finalist in left field. Still two years away from arbitration, he will be a cornerstone player for the cost-conscious Rays.
11. Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox
The two-year, $14 million contract Hernandez signed with Boston ended up being one of the best bargains of the 2020-21 free-agent market. The longtime utility man split his time between center field (93 games) and second base (47 games), and he posted a 107 OPS+ with 58 extra-base hits in a career-high 585 plate appearances. His defensive metrics in center field (14 DRS, 12.1 UZR) helped him post a career-best 4.9 WAR season.
10. Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto Blue Jays
After back-to-back 20-plus-homer seasons in 2018 and 2019, Teoscar Hernandez showcased a more well-rounded offensive game last year, hitting .289/.340/.579 for a 146 OPS+ in 50 games to finish 11th in AL MVP voting and win a Silver Slugger Award.
The 29-year-old proved that performance was sustainable over a full season this year, logging a 133 OPS+ while hitting .296/.346/.524 with 29 doubles, 32 home runs and 116 RBI. He earned a starting nod in the All-Star Game, and he deserves a ton of credit for the job he did protecting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. out of the cleanup spot in the Toronto lineup.
The late-bloomer is controllable for two more seasons, and the Blue Jays could explore a long-term extension to make sure he sticks around as part of the offensive core that also includes Guerrero, Bo Bichette and George Springer.
9. Nick Castellanos, Cincinnati Reds
After a terrific finish to the 2019 season with the Chicago Cubs, Nick Castellanos signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Cincinnati Reds in free agency.
He failed to maintain a red-hot start in his first season with the team, but he put together the best year of his career in 2021, hitting .309/.362/.576 for a 136 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 34 home runs and 100 RBI for a career-high 3.2 WAR.
The 29-year-old opted out of the final two years of his contract shortly after the World Series concluded. Despite his defensive limitations, he should be able to find a more lucrative deal this winter.
8. Starling Marte, Miami Marlins/Oakland Athletics
Starling Marte made a unique bit of history in 2021, becoming the first player in MLB history with at least 20 stolen bases in both leagues in the same season.
He hit .310/.383/.458 with 42 extra-base hits and 47 steals in 52 attempts to lead the majors. He racked up 4.7 WAR despite missing 35 games early in the season with a fractured rib.
A former Gold Glove winner in left field, he is a roughly average defender in center field. But given his offensive production and impact at the top of the lineup, that's more than enough to make him an extremely valuable all-around player.
The 33-year-old figures to be a hot commodity on the free-agent market this winter.
7. Kyle Tucker, Houston Astros
In a Houston Astros lineup loaded with star power, Kyle Tucker was arguably the team's most productive hitter in 2021.
The 24-year-old led the team in OPS+ (147) while hitting .294/.359/.557 with 37 doubles, 30 home runs, 92 RBI and 14 steals in what was essentially his first full season in the majors, aside from last year's shortened slate. His 5.7 WAR was second on the AL West champions roster, behind only Carlos Correa.
A hyped prospect since he was selected fifth overall in the 2015 draft, his breakout season went a long way toward replacing George Springer's lost production. He was also a terrific defender in right field (11 DRS), and he proved capable of handling center field in a pinch.
6. Tyler O'Neill, St. Louis Cardinals
After years of teasing his immense raw power potential in the minors and sporadically in the big leagues, Tyler O'Neill finally put together his long-awaited breakout season.
O'Neill won a Gold Glove last season, but he hit only .173 with a 70 OPS+ and 0.9 WAR in 50 games, tallying just 12 extra-base hits in 157 plate appearances. The 26-year-old got off to a slow start this year, but he caught fire in May and never looked back.
O'Neill finished with a 150 OPS+ and 34 home runs while hitting alongside Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in the middle of the lineup. He also once again took home Gold Glove honors in a 6.3 WAR season.
5. Cedric Mullins, Baltimore Orioles
Cedric Mullins hit .225/.290/.342 with seven home runs and 10 steals in 115 games scattered across his first three big league seasons. He entered spring training far from assured of a spot on the Baltimore Orioles' Opening Day roster, but he won the starting center field job and went on to have the biggest breakout season of 2021.
The 27-year-old became the first 30/30 player in Orioles history, hitting .291/.360/.518 with 37 doubles, 30 home runs and 30 steals while finishing fourth in the league in hits (175), sixth in total bases (312) and 10th in OPS+ (135).
He also played a solid defensive center field in a 5.7 WAR season. With club control through the 2025 season, he is a long-term building block for the O's.
4. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
After playing in just over 63 percent of the New York Yankees' games during the three-year stretch prior to this season, Aaron Judge finally stayed healthy and turned in an MVP-caliber campaign.
The towering right fielder posted a 149 OPS+ with 39 home runs and a career-low 25.0 percent strikeout rate. He made more consistent contact while maintaining his usual elite average exit velocity and hard-hit rate metrics.
He was snubbed as a Gold Glove finalist despite tallying 11 DRS with a 5.4 UZR/150 in right field while also holding his own when he shifted to center field down the stretch.
With free agency looming after the 2022 season, another performance like that would set him up for a huge payday next winter.
3. Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates
Anyone paying attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 knew Bryan Reynolds was capable of the type of season he put together in 2021.
As a rookie, he hit .314/.377/.503 with 37 doubles, 16 home runs and 68 RBI to finish fourth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting and rack up 4.2 WAR.
His production bottomed out during the abridged 2020 campaign, but he bounced back in a big way this year. Reynolds hit.302/.390/.522 with 35 doubles, 24 home runs, 90 RBI and 93 runs scored for a 146 OPS+ despite having little in the way of protection in a bad Pittsburgh lineup.
The 26-year-old finished the season as a 6.0 WAR player, earning a spot among the Gold Glove finalists in center field on top of his excellent offensive numbers.
2. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
In the third season of his massive 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, there was no question that Bryce Harper lived up to his salary.
The 29-year-old hit .309/.429/.615 to lead the majors in OPS+ (179). He tallied a career-high 42 doubles along with 35 home runs, 84 RBI and 101 runs scored in a 5.9 WAR season.
Harper hit .338/.476/.713 with 20 home runs after the All-Star break, doing his part to help a Phillies team that tried in vain to chase down a postseason berth. His career will always be under a microscope, but it's hard to call his 2021 performance anything but superstar-caliber.
1. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
Juan Soto hit .348/.525/.639 after the All-Star break.
Those are absurd numbers to maintain for a full week, let alone half of a season. He did it across 72 games and 322 plate appearances on a Washington Nationals team that was floundering at the bottom of the NL East standings.
The 23-year-old had more walks (145) than strikeouts (93) on his way to an MLB-best .465 on-base percentage. Even with all of those free passes and teams pitching around him, he still managed 20 doubles, 29 home runs and 95 RBI.
He also quietly held his own in right field (3 DRS, 2.0 UZR/150) after posting negative defensive metrics in left field previously, and his 7.1 WAR led all outfielders and ranked fifth among all players in 2021.