The 2021 Major League Baseball season is here and this year, each team will play a full, 162-game schedule. In addition, there will be fans back in the stands in varying numbers at most Major League Stadiums to open the new campaign.
So, the question becomes who are the players most likely to lead the Majors in the traditional categories of hitting, pitching and baserunning in 2021?
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Base stealing is a long and great tradition in baseball. Greats like Ty Cobb, Lou Brock and Ricky Henderson are among the best of all-time but who are the greatest base stealers of today?
Here is a look at the top five contenders for the stolen base crown this season:
Fernando Tatis, Jr. San Diego Padres
This second generation Major Leaguer should be playing a full season for the first time in his career. Last year, he swiped 11 bases in just 59 games which would put him on a pace for nearly 35 bases over a full season.
Tatis is just starting to get comfortable playing in the majors and at 22, he hasn’t even reached his prime.
The Padres lineup is strong so Tatis will have plenty of opportunities to steal bases and help San Diego produce runs in 2021.
Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals
Merrifield has already led the American League in stolen bases twice, finishing with 34 in 2017 and a career-high 45 in 2918. Last season, he played in all 60 games and swiped 12 bases which put him on pace for 33 over a full season.
Merrifield has led the American League in at bats each of the last two seasons. That means he should have plenty of opportunities to swipe more bases this season.
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves
Acuna is another player who has already led the league in stolen bases. His native of Venezuela had 37 steals in 2019 to lead the National League.
The Braves have a solid offense and that should benefit Acuna this season. The 23-year-old has already won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and should continue to get better as he enters his prime.
Acuna isn’t caught stealing too often and does a good job of getting a jump on opposing pitchers when he’s on first base.
Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
At 27, Turner is one of the older players on this list. The Nationals infielder led the National League in steals in 2018 with 43 and had a career-high 46 the previous season.
Turner is very efficient on the bases and had a stolen base percentage of more than 80 percent for four consecutive seasons from 2016-2019.
He hit .335 last season and his high batting average gives him more chances to swipe bases for the Nats.
Turner is fast, smart and in the prime of his career and that makes him a strong candidate to lead baseball in stolen bases.
Adalberto Mondesi, Kansas City Royals
Mondesi led the American League in steals a year ago with 24 in 59 games. He had 43 stolen bases in 2019 which was a career best for him.
The Los Angeles native has great speed on the bases and even led the American League with 10 triples in 2019.
If Mondesi stays healthy, he should be a threat to lead the majors in stolen bases this season.