KC Royals: The 2021 accolades just keep on coming

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

First came a September nomination for the coveted Roberto Clemente Award for KC Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

A nomination as a finalist for the prestigious Hank Aaron Award followed a month later.

And now, courtesy of his fellow major league players, comes a nomination for a Major League Baseball Players Association Players Choice Award. The MLBPA, the players’ union, announced Thursday that the Royals’ best player is among the candidates for the American League Outstanding Player Award.

Perez is up against stiff competition—Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr., with whom Perez tied for the major league home run lead with 48, and stellar two-way player Shohei Ohtani of the Angels are his competition.

Should the KC Royals’ All-Star backstop capture this major MLBPA award?

Salvador Perez established his big league bona fides long before the 2021 season began. He’d been named to the AL All-Star team six times, won five Gold Gloves, and snared three Silver Sluggers. He’d become better than most of his peers at gunning down would-be base stealers. His power and clutch hitting spoke for themselves.

But Perez, who bounced back in 2020 after missing all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery, outdid himself this season.

Besides tying Guerrero for the big league home run title, Perez drove in a big league best 121 runs. He posted a .273/.316/.544 slash, better than his career .270/.302/.463 line, and his 126 OPS+ exceeded his career 104 mark.

Perez’s 5.3 WAR was the best of his 10 seasons, and his 44% caught stealing rate led the majors.

He broke Hall of Famer Johnny Bench’s half-century-old record for homers in a season by a primary catcher, and tied former teammate Jorge Soler’s home run record for one KC Royals campaign.

Whether those numbers will be good enough to beat out Guerrero and Ohtani remains to be seen. Guerrero’s .401/.601/1.002 slash and 169 OPS+ paced the American League, his 123 runs scored and 363 total bases were the best in the big leagues, and his 6.8 WAR was better than Perez’s.

Ohtani hit just .257, but had an outstanding .372 OBP. He tied for a major league-best eight triples, had a 158 OPS+, and drew more intentional walks than any other American Leaguer. Like Guerrero, his WAR (4.9) was higher than Perez’s.

And he also went 9-3 with a 3.18 ERA and, in 23 starts, averaged almost 11 strikeouts every nine innings. His pitching WAR was 4.1.

So it is that on statistics alone, Perez may not win the AL Outstanding Player Award. But if he doesn’t, it won’t diminish what he accomplished in 2021.

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Salvador Perez and Kansas City fans will find out if he wins the AL award, which MLB The Show presents, Thursday evening during ESPN’s SportsCenter at 6 p.m. ET.