5. Kyle Farmer, Reds shortstop
Where would the Cincinnati Reds have been without Kyle Farmer? The Georgia native went from non-tendered in the offseason, to starting shortstop in spring training, bench role, to fringe roster selection prior to the season, to an irreplaceable part of the 2021 Reds team.
The Reds were criticized all winter for not actively pursuing an established shortstop. After all, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, and Didi Gregorius were all free agents, and Cincinnati had already allowed Freddy Galvis to walk. The Redlegs instead opted to roll with Farmer and, ahem, Dee Strange-Gordon as the team’s top options at shortstop.
David Bell pulled an about-face during spring training and instead went with an infield of Mike Moustakas (third base), Eugenio Suárez (shortstop), Jonathan India (second base), and Joey Votto (first base). This relegated Farmer, once again, to a utility infielder.
However, injuries and subpar performances quickly took hold of the Reds. Suárez looked like a shell of himself, Votto landed on the IL with a broken thumb, and Moustakas would eventually miss the majority of the season with a foot injury. This necessitated that Farmer would be the Reds’ starting shortstop. The 31-year-old did not disappoint.
Farmer, despite suffering through an abdominal injury of his own, played in a career-high 147 games and hit .263/.316/.416. The former Georgia Bulldog had a career-high 16 home runs and 63 RBIs while posting 5 outs above average which ranked Farmer among the Top 11% in the league.
While India, Votto, Tyler Naquin, and Wade Miley all exceeded expectations this season, no one on this Cincinnati Reds squad went above and beyond what was expected more than Kyle Farmer. I’ll stop short of calling Farmer the team’s MVP, but given everything he overcame in 2021, Farmer was the most irreplaceable player on last year’s team.