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MLB Best Tools 2021: Managers, Scouts & Executives Vote On Baseball's Best Talent

2021 Besttools

Youth was the top theme of the 2021 All-Star Game. A record 40 players were recognized as first-time all-stars this season.

The same makeover is taking place in major league Best Tools voting. The old guard is giving way to the new.

Each year since 1988, Baseball America has asked major league managers to rank the top three players in their league in a variety of offensive, defensive and pitching categories. We skipped the exercise in 2020 because of the atypical schedule. Not only was it shortened to 60 games, but teams played only opponents in their East, Central or West regions.

For the past several years, we have also welcomed input from coaches and analysts in big league front offices. The more data, the merrier.

The Best Tools balloting data gathered this year yielded more than a dozen first-time winners. Four of those first-time winners figure to be at the starting line of long runs of Best Tools dominance.

Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball entering 2019. He has delivered on that immense potential as a 22-year-old this season. American League managers recognized Guerrero as the best hitter in the league, just as they recognized his father Vladimir Sr. in 2005.

It’s easy to see why AL managers are so smitten. Guerrero was hitting well over .300 in August, when Best Tools ballots were cast, while also delivering elite power and on-base ability for a Toronto offense that ranked near the top of the AL in runs scored.

Prior to Guerrero’s best hitter win, the Angels’ Mike Trout had won the category four straight seasons.

The Nationals won the 2019 World Series with a 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the charge. The right fielder, now a “grizzled” veteran of 22, was recognized by National League managers this year as the best hitter and owner of the best strike-zone judgment in the league.

The same probably would have been true for Soto in 2020, when he led the NL with a .351 average and .490 on-base percentage. Alas, no Best Tools balloting was conducted in the pandemic-shortened season.

Soto succeeded the Brewers’ Christian Yelich as the NL’s best hitter, but more notable was his best strike-zone judgment win. The Reds’ Joey Votto had won that category the five previous seasons.

The Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. returned from the injured list in mid August as the NL leader in both home runs and stolen bases—despite the 22-year-old missing nearly a quarter of his team’s games to that point with a left shoulder injury.

Tatis’ injury forced his move from shortstop to right field upon his return­—for this season at least—but neither that nor the missed time dimmed excitement for his tools. NL managers voted Tatis as having the best power and being the most exciting player in the league, the latter nearly unanimously.

The fact that Guerrero, Soto and Tatis are all just 22­—and already at the top of their games—indicates that the future of baseball is in good hands.

Going Streaking

Here we celebrate active streaks of Best Tools category wins, not counting 2020, when the exercise was shelved in the 60-game season.

Seven straight

Nolan Arenado -- Best Defensive Third Baseman (NL)

Three straight

Trea Turner -- Best Baserunner (NL)
Josh Hader -- Best Reliever (NL)
Matt Chapman -- Best Defensive Third Baseman (AL)
Matt Chapman -- Best Infield Arm (AL)

Two straight

Trea Turner -- Fastest Baserunner (NL)
Luis Castillo -- Best Changeup (NL)
Hyun-Jin Ryu -- Best Control (AL/NL)
Christian Vazquez -- Best Defensive Catcher (AL)
J.T. Realmuto -- Best Defensive Catcher (NL)
Matt Olson -- Best Defensive First Baseman (AL)
Kolten Wong -- Best Defensive Second Baseman (NL)
Francisco Lindor -- Best Defensive Shortstop (AL/NL)
Bob Melvin -- Best Manager (AL)

Below are the 2021 winners, followed by voting results for each category.

CategoryAmerican LeagueNational League
Best HitterVladimir Guerrero Jr. JaysJuan Soto, Nationals
Best PowerShohei Ohtani, AngelsFernando Tatis Jr., Padres
Best BunterCedric Mullins, OriolesGarrett Hampson, Rockies
Best Strike-Zone JudgmentMichael Brantley, AstrosJuan Soto, Nationals
Best Hit-And-Run ArtistDavid Fletcher, AngelsAdam Frazier, Padres
Best BaserunnerWhit Merrifield, RoyalsTrea Turner, Dodgers
Fastest BaserunnerShohei Ohtani, AngelsTrea Turner, Dodgers
Most Exciting PlayerShohei Ohtani, AngelsFernando Tatis Jr., Padres
Best PitcherLance Lynn, White SoxJacob deGrom, Mets
Best FastballAroldis Chapman, YankeesJacob deGrom, Mets
Best CurveballJose Berrios, Blue JaysJulio Urias, Dodgers
Best SliderAdam Ottavino, Red SoxJacob deGrom, Mets
Best ChangeupLucas Giolito, White SoxLuis Castillo, Reds
Best ControlHyun-Jin Ryu, Blue JaysKyle Hendricks, Cubs
Best Pickoff MoveJose Berrios, Blue JaysMax Fried, Braves
Best RelieverLiam Hendriks, White SoxJosh Hader, Brewers
Best Defensive CatcherChristian Vazquez, Red SoxJ.T. Realmuto, Phillies
Best Defensive 1BMatt Olson, AthleticsPaul Goldschmidt, Cardinals
Best Defensive 2BMarcus Semien, Blue JaysKolten Wong, Brewers
Best Defensive 3BMatt Chapman, AthleticsNolan Arenado, Cardinals
Best Defensive SSJ.P. Crawford, MarinersFrancisco Lindor, Mets
Best Infield ArmMatt Chapman, AthleticsManny Machado, Padres
Best Defensive OFKevin Kiermaier, RaysVictor Robles, Nationals
Best Outfield ArmHunter Renfroe, Red SoxMookie Betts, Dodgers
Best ManagerBob Melvin, AthleticsCraig Counsell, Brewers

AMERICAN LEAGUE 


Best
Hitter

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

2. Michael Brantley, Astros

3. Rafael Devers, Red Sox

Best Power

1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

3. Matt Olson, Athletics

Best Bunter

1. Cedric Mullins, Orioles

2. Cesar Hernandez, White Sox

3. Hanser Alberto, Royals

Best Strike-Zone Judgment

1. Michael Brantley, Astros

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

3. Robbie Grossman, Tigers

Best Hit-And-Run Artist

1. David Fletcher, Angels

2. Whit Merrifield, Royals

3. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers

Best Baserunner

1. Whit Merrifield, Royals

2. Jose Ramirez, Indians

3. Cedric Mullins, Orioles

Fastest Baserunner

1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

2. Myles Straw, Indians

3. Byron Buxton, Twins

Most Exciting Player

1. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

3. Tim Anderson, White Sox

Best Pitcher

1. Lance Lynn, White Sox

2. Gerrit Cole, Yankees

3. Robbie Ray, Blue Jays

Best Fastball

1. Aroldis Chapman, Yankees

2. Raisel Iglesias, Angels

3. Gerrit Cole, Yankees

Best Curveball

1. Jose Berrios, Blue Jays

2. Nick Pivetta, Red Sox

3. Chris Bassitt, Athletics

Best Slider

1. Adam Ottavino, Red Sox

2. Gerrit Cole, Yankees

3. Carlos Rodon, White Sox

Best Changeup

1. Lucas Giolito, White Sox

2. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

3. Ryan Yarbrough, Rays

Best Control

1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Blue Jays

2. Zack Greinke, Astros

3. Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox

Best Pickoff Move

1. Jose Berrios, Blue Jays

2. Chris Flexen, Mariners

3. Matthew Boyd, Tigers

Best Reliever

1. Liam Hendriks, White Sox

2. Matt Barnes, Red Sox

3. Andrew Kittredge, Rays

Best Defensive C

1. Christian Vazquez, Red Sox

2. Roberto Perez, Indians

3. Salvador Perez, Royals

Best Defensive 1B

1. Matt Olson, Athletics

2. Yuli Gurriel, Astros

3. Nate Lowe, Rangers

Best Defensive 2B

1. Marcus Semien, Blue Jays

2. Jose Altuve, Astros

3. DJ LeMahieu, Yankees

Best Defensive 3B

1. Matt Chapman, Athletics

2. Jose Ramirez, Indians

3. Yoan Moncada, White Sox

Best Defensive SS

1. J.P. Crawford, Mariners

2. Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Rangers

3. Andrelton Simmons, Twins

Best Infield Arm

1. Matt Chapman, Athletics

2. Carlos Correa, Astros

3. Miguel Sano, Twins

Best Defensive OF

1. Kevin Kiermaier, Rays

2. Cedric Mullins, Orioles

3. Byron Buxton, Twins

Best Outfield Arm

1. Hunter Renfroe, Red Sox

2. Joey Gallo, Yankees

3. Ramon Laureano, Athletics

Best Manager

1. Bob Melvin, Athletics

2. Dusty Baker, Astros

3. Kevin Cash, Rays

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NATIONAL LEAGUE 

Best Hitter

1. Juan Soto, Nationals

2. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

3. Nick Castellanos, Reds

Best Power

1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

2. Ronald Acuña Jr.., Braves

3. Pete Alonso, Mets

Best Bunter

1. Garrett Hampson, Rockies

2. Kolten Wong, Brewers

3. Victor Robles, Nationals

Best Strike-Zone Judgment

1. Juan Soto, Nationals

2. Joey Votto, Reds

3. Freddie Freeman, Braves

Best Hit-And-Run Artist

1. Adam Frazier, Padres

2. Yadier Molina, Cardinals

3. Luis Guillorme, Mets

Best Baserunner

1. Trea Turner, Dodgers

2. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

3. Mookie Betts, Dodgers

Fastest Baserunner

1. Trea Turner, Dodgers

2. Jorge Mateo, Padres

3. Garrett Hampson, Rockies

Most Exciting Player

1. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

2. Juan Soto, Nationals

3. Ronald Acuña Jr.., Braves

Best Pitcher

1. Jacob deGrom, Mets

2. Zack Wheeler, Phillies

3. Brandon Woodruff, Brewers

Best Fastball

1. Jacob deGrom, Mets

2. Walker Buehler, Dodgers

3. Brandon Woodruff, Brewers

Best Curveball

1. Julio Urias, Dodgers

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

3. Charlie Morton, Braves

Best Slider

1. Jacob deGrom, Mets

2. Max Scherzer, Dodgers

3. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Best Changeup

1. Luis Castillo, Reds

2. Devin Williams, Brewers

3. Pablo Lopez, Marlins

Best Control

1. Kyle Hendricks, Cubs

2. Corbin Burnes, Brewers

3. Jacob deGrom, Mets

Best Pickoff Move

1. Max Fried, Braves

2. Julio Urias, Dodgers

3. Ryan Weathers, Padres

Best Reliever

1. Josh Hader, Brewers

2. Craig Kimbrel, Cubs

3. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Best Defensive C

1. J.T. Realmuto, Phillies

2. Yadier Molina, Cardinals

3. Will Smith, Dodgers

Best Defensive 1B

1. Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

2. Max Muncy, Dodgers

3. Freddie Freeman, Braves

Best Defensive 2B

1. Kolten Wong, Brewers

2. Jake Cronenworth, Padres

3. Ozzie Albies, Braves

Best Defensive 3B

1. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals

2. Manny Machado, Padres

3. Justin Turner, Dodgers

Best Defensive SS

1. Francisco Lindor, Mets

2. Brandon Crawford, Giants

3. Trevor Story, Rockies

Best Infield Arm

1. Manny Machado, Padres

2. Nolan Arenado, Cardinals

3. Javier Baez, Mets

Best Defensive OF

1. Victor Robles, Nationals

2. Jackie Bradley Jr., Brewers

3. Harrison Bader, Cardinals

Best Outfield Arm

1. Mookie Betts, Dodgers

2. Bryce Harper, Phillies

3. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers

Best Manager

1. Craig Counsell, Brewers

2. Dave Roberts, Dodgers

3. Jayce Tingler, Padres

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