The San Diego Padres had six All-Stars on their team at one point this season, so the fact that they missed the postseason and finished under .500 seemed impossible in July. However, it happened. Fernando Tatis Jr. did his job, though, as he led the league in homers (42) and earned a WAR well over six.
So we know that Tatis is this year’s team MVP. But who would be the team MVP if we take Fernando out of the discussion? Let’s discuss.
The two options we truly have are Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth. But first, I wanted to give some props to a few other guys. Joe Musgrove provided us with so much joy and he deserves all the praise in the world for being the only starter who stayed healthy the entire year and for the work he’s done in the community. Mark Melancon is another guy who deserves a ton of credit for how great he was as San Diego’s closer.
But getting back to Machado and Cronenworth, both have arguments for being the team’s second MVP behind Tatis. However, if I had to pick one over the other, I’d go with Cronenworth for a couple of reasons.
Yes, I realize that Machado had better numbers in multiple offensive categories, such as home runs, RBI, on base percentage, and OPS, but they weren’t that much better than Cronenworth’s. For example, Machado’s on base percentage was only .007 points higher than Cronenworth’s. Machado’s WAR (4.4) was the exact same as Cronenworth’s (4.4) in 2021, according to FanGraphs.
Because Cronenworth’s numbers weren’t that much worse than Machado’s, I’m taking Cronenworth’s versatility into account more than I would if his numbers weren’t as close as they are to Machado. While Machado did spend a lot of time in the shift in right field, he was technically still a third baseman the whole season. Cronenworth, on the other hand, filled defensive holes on the team all season.
When Tatis was hurt, he filled in at shortstop. When Hosmer struggled and Tatis was healthy, he played a great first base. And when Jayce Tingler had Tatis, Hosmer, and Frazier in the lineup, Cronenworth went and played second base. Cronenworth played 22 games at first, 94 games at second, and 40 games at shortstop in 2021.
If Cronenworth wasn’t able to play multiple defensive positions while Tatis was hurt and while Hosmer was on the bench, the lineup would’ve suffered more because Ha-seong Kim (34 RBI) and Jurickson Profar (33 RBI) would’ve had to play more often. Nothing against those two guys but we all know they are bench players. According to FanGraphs, Kim and Profar ranked 16th and 54th on the roster in WAR this season, respectively.
My selection of Cronenworth for the second team MVP isn’t a knock on Machado. He was able to play the entire season despite being hurt since April and actually played in one more game than Cronenworth did so I’d give them a co-MVP award if I didn’t have to just pick one (and if Tatis wasn’t in the conversation).
However, Cronenworth’s ability to play first base, second base, and shortstop at any moment while being arguably the team’s most consistent hitter gives him the edge over Machado.
Let me know who you would give the team’s second MVP to!