Only one Red Sox player made a 2021 All-MLB Team
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers made an All-MLB team
The third annual All-MLB Teams were announced Tuesday on MLB Network and one Boston Red Sox star made the cut.
The All-MLB Team is split into a First and Second Team with each including a player at every infield position, three outfielders, a designated hitter, five starting pitchers plus two relievers.
The Red Sox weren’t represented on the First Team but third baseman Rafael Devers was named to the All-MLB Second Team.
Devers had a career year, earning his first All-Star appearance while winning a Silver Slugger award and finishing 11th on the AL MVP ballot.
He led major league third basemen in home runs (38), RBI (113), extra-base hits (76), and slugging percentage (.538), while also ranking second in runs scored (101), hits (165), and doubles (37). Devers was third in the majors at his position with a .890 OPS and 134 wRC+ this season. His 4.7 fWAR tailed only Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez among major league third basemen, per FanGraphs.
Being named to the Second Team is a well-deserved honor and the only question was whether or not he should have made the First Team. Austin Riley of the Atlanta Braves was named as the third baseman for the First Team.
Riley had an outstanding season in his own right but his 33 home runs, 107 RBI, 91 runs scored, 33 doubles, 67 extra-base hits, and .531 SLG trailed Devers. Riley’s biggest advantages were his .303 batting average and .367 OBP. Despite a sizable lead in those categories, his .898 OPS, .379 wOBA and 135 wRC+ only narrowly topped Devers.
Determining which third baseman is the greater offensive force boils down to which categories you value more. Riley’s defense might have given him the edge. Not that Riley was a Gold Glove contender, considering he ranked poorly in several defensive metrics, but he was fifth in the majors at his position with 13 defensive runs saved while Devers was dead-last with -13 DRS.
Other Red Sox candidates didn’t make the cut
Devers was the only Red Sox player who made either of the All-MLB teams. While this roster is loaded with talented players, a lack of representation on this list doesn’t necessarily mean Red Sox players were snubbed. It’s a tough list to crack!
Xander Bogaerts earned a Silver Slugger with another excellent season at the plate but his subpar defense continues to hold back his overall value. Bogaerts ranked fifth among major league shortstops with 5.2 fWAR.
If this were an All-AL Team then Bogaerts would be a lock for a Second Team spot. He might even challenge Carlos Correa for the First Team, although that might be a long shot based on how they fared on the MVP ballot. The shortstop position is loaded with too much talent, particularly in the NL, for Bogaerts to have a realistic shot. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trea Turner were clearly the top choices at the shortstop position.
The DH spot essentially was an AL-only race since the senior circuit hasn’t adopted the position (yet?). J.D. Martinez had a strong bounce back season but he obviously wasn’t beating out AL MVP Shohei Ohtani for the First Team. The debate between Martinez and Yordan Alvarez is much closer but the Astros slugger tops Boston’s DH in home runs, RBI, slugging, wOBA, wRC+ and fWAR.
Kyle Schwarber and Enrique Hernandez both played multiple positions but primarily spent time in the outfield. Both were strong additions to the Red Sox but their contributions weren’t quite enough to earn an outfield spot on the Second Team. If they want to complain that they were robbed of a spot, they need to get in line behind Starling Marte and Cedric Mullins.
If any Red Sox player has a quarrel with these results, it’s Nathan Eovaldi. His 3.75 ERA might not appear to be elite but his 2.79 FIP and 5.6 fWAR ranked third among qualified major league starters. Eovaldi’s 1.73 BB/9 was the best in the majors and his 0.74 HR/9 was fourth. Being stingy with walks and home runs fueled his elite FIP, which weighs heavily in the FanGraphs version of WAR.
Eovaldi was fourth in AL Cy Young voting and tied Robbie Ray for the most MVP votes in the league by a pitcher (not counting Ohtani). The voters for the All-MLB Teams still didn’t consider him one of the top-10 pitchers in baseball.
As great as Eovaldi was, he wasn’t knocking anyone out from the First Team. A case can be made for squeezing Eovaldi onto the Second Team but the problem with claiming a player got snubbed is determining which player they should replace.
NL Cy Young award runner-up Zack Wheeler and 20-game winner Julio Urias were locks to make the team. Kevin Gausman was comfortably in the top-10 in ERA, FIP, K/9 and fWAR. Max Fried was 10th among qualified starters with a 3.04 ERA and seventh with a 145 Adjusted ERA+ this season. Personally, I would have had Eovaldi ahead of Fried but the inclusion of all four of these pitchers on the Second Team is fair.
Ohtani made history by making an All-MLB Team as both a hitter and pitcher. His two-way dominance carried him to an MVP award but his spot on the Second Team is a bit more questionable. Ohtani only pitched 130 1/3 innings, well short of the total required to be considered a qualified pitcher (162 innings). He was highly productive when he was on the mound but if we’re looking at Ohtani only as a pitcher, he didn’t have a better season than Eovaldi. Still, it’s hard to blame the voters for including Ohtani. The narrative of his unprecedented season was impossible to ignore.
Eovaldi may have been overlooked by those who overvalue wins, ERA and strikeouts but he had a much better season that those traditional numbers reflect. He isn’t one of the top handful of pitchers in baseball but he at least warrants consideration for cracking the top 10.
The Red Sox had a great season that exceeded everyone’s expectations and they feature several star players who should be considered among the best in the game. The competition is stiff for the limited spots on these All-MLB teams though. Devers was a clear choice to earn one of the third base spots. While a few other Red Sox players were worth considering, none of the selections made are egregious enough for us to complain about Boston players getting snubbed.