SF Giants: How Mike Yastrzemski Fares in the MVP Discussion

Could the SF Giants look to sign 2020 Willie Mac Award winner Mike Yastrzemski to an extension? (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Could the SF Giants look to sign 2020 Willie Mac Award winner Mike Yastrzemski to an extension? (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
SF Giants, Mike Yastrzemski, MVP
SF Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was right in the thick of the MVP discussions early in 2020. But, where did he end up? (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports) /

At 29-31, the SF Giants nearly snuck into the playoff picture, but team leaders like Mike Yastrzemski couldn’t quite carry them over the hump. Still, given all he did, is Yaz a legitimate MVP candidate?

No SF Giants player has finished in the top-five of the National League Most Valuable Player award voting since Buster Posey won the award in 2012. However, as the Giants unexpectedly made a postseason push, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski emerged as a star. Did he do enough to earn MVP consideration?

The short answer is yes. The Giants outfielder produced at an MVP-like level in 2020 and deserves to have his name in consideration. While his performance dipped slightly in the second-half following a calf strain, he still ranked among the league’s best in a number of categories.

Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Fernando Tatis Jr. remain the likeliest names to take home the NL MVP award. With that being said, Yaz should still take home a number of MVP votes.

Originally acquired by the Giants from the Baltimore Orioles in an unheralded move. A lot has changed since then. Yastrzemski has quickly emerged as one of the top outfielders in the NL. Since he debuted in 2019, he has slashed a .281/.357/.535 line (137 OPS+) with 31 home runs and 90 RBI in 636 plate appearances.

In an interesting development, he batted out of the leadoff spot in 38 of the 54 games he appeared in this season. Yastrzemski definitely has the power to be a middle-of-the-order threat, but manager Gabe Kapler clearly wanted to get more at-bats for one of the best hitters on the team.

Since he wasn’t hitting lower in the lineup, Yaz was not able to collect as many RBI as some of the other MVP candidates. However, he still excelled in many of the high-level stats.

Below are Yasztremski’s key stats and where it compares to the rest of the NL:

  • WAR – 2.5 (6th among position players)
  • Batting average – .297 (15th)
  • OBP – .400 (9th)
  • Slugging – .568  (11th)
  • OPS – .968 (7th)
  • wRC+ – 160 (5th)
  • Runs – 39 (12th)
  • Triples – 4 (1st)
  • 35 (17th)

When you start to put these numbers together, you get a player that is going to get some MVP votes. His 160 wRC+ is higher than Ronald Acuña Jr. (159), Corey Seager (151), and Tatis Jr. (149). Similarly, his 2.5 WAR was the same as Tatis Jr., and higher than Marcell Ozuna (2.3). What all this means is that he is at least peripheral to the debate.

In the field, Yastzresmki began the year in center field but shifted to right field as Mauricio Dubon got more comfortable as a centerfielder. Based on the defensive metrics, Yastrzesmki’s glove was worth two DRS and 2.1 UZR. He was not a Gold Glove finalist in 2020, but he proved he could add value in the outfield as well.

On top of all of this, the 30-year-old won the Willie Mac award, which is voted on by the Giants organization and given to a player whose production and leadership on the field best resemble the great Willie McCovey. That may not factor into Yastrzemski’s MVP case, but it does show that his teammates have a very favorable view of him.

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We will not know who takes home the NL MVP award until November 12, but Yastrzemski’s name deserves to be in consideration. It has been a meteoric rise to stardom for the Vanderbilt University product after being acquired in a minor trade just 18 months ago. When it is all said and done, Yastrzemski should land in the top-10 of the MVP vote, and has a decent shot to be the first SF Giants player to finish in the top-five for the award since Posey won in 2012.