Ronald Acuña Jr. has been named the 2023 Baseball Digest MLB Player of the Year, the publication announced Tuesday. In addition, Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole was voted MLB Pitcher of the Year and Orioles right-hander Félix Bautista was voted MLB Relief Pitcher of the Year by a 23-member blue-ribbon panel consisting of writers, broadcasters, former players, managers and executives.
This is the first end-of-season accolade for Acuña in what will likely be an offseason full of them, as the 25-year-old recorded the first season in MLB history with at least 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases. He also led the Majors in hits (217), runs (149), on-base percentage (.416) and total bases (383).
Acuña was a key catalyst on a Braves team that tied the MLB record for home runs (307) and set a record for team slugging percentage (.501). He joined Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein and Joe DiMaggio as the only players who have hit at least .335 with 40 home runs, 215 hits, 80 extra-base hits, 100 RBIs, 145 runs and a 1.000 OPS with fewer than 90 strikeouts.
Acuña is the second Braves player to win the MLB Player of the Year Award since Baseball Digest first awarded it in 1969, joining Freddie Freeman (2020). Acuña received 13 first-place votes from the 23-member panel, with Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani garnering nine first-place votes and Dodgers star Mookie Betts receiving one.
Cole put together the best season of his storied 11-year MLB career, recording an AL-best 2.63 ERA while also leading the junior circuit in innings (209) and ERA+ (165) and ranking third in strikeouts (222). His 2.63 ERA marked the lowest by a qualified Yankee since Rudy May recorded a 2.46 ERA in 41 games (17 starts) in 1980.
Cole had six starts of at least seven innings, and became the 12th active pitcher to make 300 career starts when he tossed a shutout against the Blue Jays in his final outing of the season. He’s the first Yankee to be named MLB Pitcher of the Year by Baseball Digest.
While Bautista missed the final 34 games of the season with an ulnar collateral ligament tear that will require Tommy John surgery, he still authored a season for the ages out of the Orioles bullpen, posting a 1.48 ERA in 61 innings with 110 strikeouts and a 0.918 WHIP. Along with netting his first All-Star appearance, Bautista was named MLB's Reliever of the Month in April, June and July.
Bautista struck out multiple batters in 38 of his 56 outings, and recorded three strikeouts in 18 of his appearances. He’s the second Orioles reliever to win the Baseball Digest Relief Pitcher of the Year Award, joining Zack Britton (2016).