What do you do with Jose Altuve when you are ranking the top 100 MLB players for 2021? MVP in 2017, All-Star in 2018, a career-high 31 home runs in 2019 ... and then came the sign-stealing scandal, the pandemic and a terrible 2020 season in which he hit .219 (only to recover in the postseason and hit .375 with five home runs in 13 games). He turns 31 in May. Altuve comes in at No. 57 on ESPN's annual MLB Rank list.
What do you do with Christian Yelich? The MVP and batting champ in 2018, the MVP runner-up and batting champ in 2019 ... and then came the pandemic and a terrible 2020 regular season in which he hit .202 with 76 strikeouts in 58 games. Maybe the broken kneecap he suffered at the end of the 2019 season was a reason. Maybe it was just a two-month slump. Our panel of voters is expecting a return to form in 2021.
What about Marcus Semien? Third in the MVP voting in 2019, he struggled at the plate in 2020, left the A's to sign with the Blue Jays and will move from shortstop to second base. Semien ranks No. 68.
Due to the unusual and shortened 2020 season, ranking the top 100 players was more impossible than ever. As one of the voters, I can attest to the difficulty of determining how much to weigh or ignore what happened in 2020 and then factoring in a player's age to project what will happen in 2021. Using those final rankings as a guiding barometer, I've come up with an all-underrated team -- those players I think will end up proving they should have been ranked higher or included in the top 100.