KC Royals: Is Salvador Perez a legit MVP candidate?

(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Salvador Perez means a lot to the KC Royals and their fans. He’s the heart and soul of the team who consistently accomplishes great things on and off the field.

On the diamond, he recently broke Hall of Famer’s Johnny Bench’s single-season home run record for primary catchers with 46. That homer also pushed him past Mike Sweeney for second on the all-time club list with 198. And there was his Home Run Derby performance—his 28 homers were the most hit by a catcher and Royal batter in Derby history.

Off the field, Perez’s philanthropy made him a Roberto Clemente Award nominee, a truly high honor for any major league player.

But do those commendable efforts make him a worthy candidate for American League MVP? Although mlb.com didn’t rank him among its top three candidates for the award recently, the short answer is “Yes.”

Numbers prove the KC Royals’ Salvador Perez is a legitimate MVP candidate.

When members of the Baseball Writers Association of America vote for the best player in both the American and National Leagues after the season, individual statistics will be in their sights. And Perez‘s numbers could make him one of the top vote-getters.

Perez is slashing .276/.317/.546 with an .863 OPS. His 46 home runs tie him for the major league lead with Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and his 115 RBIs lead all of the majors. He’s third in the majors in total bases with 319, and he has 66 extra base hits and a superb 5.2 WAR.

Defensively, Perez is even better. He ranks first among AL catchers (second in the majors) with a .998 fielding percentage, and leads the big leagues with 60 assists, 12 double plays, and a 45% caught-stealing rate. He has a DWAR of 1.2, 953 putouts, and has caught 968 innings, which trails only Boston’s Christian Vazquez.

What those numbers show is that Perez is a top player at his position, but will they be enough for him to win the American League MVP?

Could Salvador Perez of the KC Royals finish No.1 overall in the MVP race?

Anything can happen with the BBWAA vote. Although some may argue Perez’s .276 average is low, mlb.com rated Toronto’s Marcus Semien third in its ranking, and he’s hitting .267. And many players have finished atop MVP voting despite posting sub-.300 averages.

Yogi Berra’s .272 average in 1955, when he hit 27 home runs with 108 RBIs, is a prime example; more recently, Giancarlo Stanton won the National League MVP in 2017 when he hit .282 with 59 homers and 132 RBIs.

With Perez currently tied for the AL home run lead and leading the majors in RBIs, he could garner a lot of votes, not to mention that breaking Bench’s 51-year-old record will help his case.

However, Perez will probably not finish first in AL MVP voting. Shohei Ohtani and Guerrero are having stellar seasons and are certainly deserving of the MVP.

Ohtani will catch many votes for what he’s done as a pitcher, designated hitter and outfielder.  Although he’s hitting only .257, his 45 home runs, .591 slugging percentage, and .952 OPS all rank second in the American League, and he’s fifth with 300 total bases. Ohtani’s pitching is just as great—he’s 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 123.1 innings.

While Ohtani is having a pitching and batting season unseen since Babe Ruth, Guerrero is atop several statistical categories. His .323/.413/.617 slash and 1.030 OPS lead the AL, and his 120 runs, 182 hits, and 348 total bases lead the majors. His 6.8 WAR places him third in the American League and the majors.

What’s likely to happen is that while Guerrero and Ohtani are interchangeable at No.1 and No.2 for American League MVP, Perez could end up placing third in the race if the BBWAA recognizes his accomplishments.

And if Perez does wind up finishing third, it would be the highest ranking for a KC Royals player since Lorenzo Cain received the third highest number of votes in 2015.

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Although Salvador Perez may not finish No.1 in the American League MVP voting, he is the definitive KC Royals MVP for 2021.