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Updated 2021 MLB Projections

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By Mark Simon

Surprise, surprise. Mike Trout and Juan Soto are projected to have the best offensive numbers in baseball in 2021. But as for which hitter is better, it’s too close to call.

This year’s updated projections from The 2021 Bill James Handbook have Trout and Soto with nearly identical numbers at the plate. Soto is projected for 9.4 Runs Created per 27 Outs. Trout is at 9.3.

For those unfamiliar, Runs Created per 27 Outs is a statistical tool created by Bill James to estimate how many runs a player would be worth over approximately one game’s worth of outs. This was devised and modified in the late 1970s/early 1980s and served as a predecessor to other stats of a similar nature. It’s still a useful tool to assess the best offensive players in MLB today.

Trout has a 14-point edge in projected OPS, due entirely to his slight advantage in slugging percentage. Trout and Soto are the only players projected for at least a 1.000 OPS.

Mike Trout vs Juan Soto – 2021 Projections

Mike Trout .291 .428 .604 1.032
Juan Soto .300 .428 .590 1.018

Trout is projected for 44 home runs, just shy of slugging Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (projected for 46) for the MLB lead. Three other players are projected to hit at least 40 home runs: Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (43), Astros DH Yordan Álvarez (42), and Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger (42).

Álvarez’s projection presumes that he’s healthy enough to play in 149 games. He played in only two games last season but had 27 home runs in 313 at-bats in 2019. Álvarez and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman are tied for third in Runs Created per 27 Outs with 8.0.

Most Runs Created Per 27 Outs – 2021 Projections

Player RC per 27
Juan Soto 9.4
Mike Trout 9.3
Yordan Álvarez 8.0
Freddie Freeman 8.0
Fernando Tatis Jr. 7.5
Bryce Harper 7.5
Cody Bellinger 7.5
Mookie Betts 7.4

Alonso and Soto (who is projected to hit 37 home runs) are the projected MLB RBI leaders with 114. The 2020 MVPs, Freeman and José Abreu, are projected to tie for third in RBI with 110.

Freeman is also projected to lead MLB with 44 doubles, one more than Indians third baseman José Ramirez and Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos, two more than Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts and Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon. Jeff McNeil is the projected MLB leader in batting average at .311.

Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi is projected to lead MLB in both stolen bases (53) and triples (10). Mondesi’s stolen base projection would surpass his career high for a season by 10. The projection is influenced by his 24 stolen bases last season, which would prorate to 64 in a 162-game season.

Among starting pitchers, the projections tend to be conservative when it comes to ERA and wins. Mets ace Jacob deGrom is projected for an MLB-leading 2.99 ERA, ahead of Shane Bieber of the Indians (3.05), Gerrit Cole of the Yankees (3.18) and Max Scherzer of the Nationals (3.22). DeGrom is also the projected leader in baserunners per 9 innings (9.3). Cole is the projected leader in wins (16), strikeouts (285), and innings pitched (216).

One starting pitcher whose projection stands out is Cristian Javier of the Astros. He’s tabbed to go 11-5 with a 3.29 ERA with 176 strikeouts and 9.6 baserunners allowed per 9 innings in 148 innings. His ERA and baserunners per 9 innings rank fifth-lowest among starters with at least 140 projected innings.

The projected MLB saves leader for 2021 is White Sox closer Liam Hendriks with 36. Kenley Jansen and Brad Hand rank tied for second with 35. The relievers projected for a sub-3 ERA are Hendriks (2.81), Aroldis Chapman of the Yankees (2.91), and Edwin Díaz of the Mets (2.92).

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