ATLANTA -- Even with the regular season shortened to 60 games, Ronald Acuña Jr. could still easily join Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout and Andruw Jones as the only players in Major League history to total at least 80 homers and 70 stolen bases at 22 or younger.
Acuña already stands with Rodriguez, Trout and Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to total at least 60 homers and 50 stolen bases at 21 or younger. Now he hopes to spend the next couple of months making the most of a season that was significantly shortened by the coronavirus.
“I felt great going into these summer workouts,” Acuña said. “Once Spring Training ended, I did everything I could to stay in shape and take care of my body.”
Braves manager Brian Snitker recently said Acuña looks bigger and stronger than he had when Spring Training was shut down in March. The 22-year-old outfielder spent a portion of the past few months working out in Atlanta with second baseman Ozzie Albies, who had revealed Acuña’s 50-50 goal back in February.
Maybe becoming the first player to tally 50 homers and 50 stolen bases in a season is an unlikely goal. But at this stage of his career, the sky is the limit for Acuña, who last year finished three stolen bases shy of what would have been the fifth 40-40 season in MLB history.
So should the goal now be a 20-20 season? If that seems unlikely, it should be remembered that just last summer Acuña joined Rodriguez (1998), Carlos Beltran (2004) and Alfonso Soriano ('06) as the only players over the past 25 seasons to tally at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases within any 60-game span.
Probable? Maybe not. But it seems unwise to deem this unattainable for Acuña, who has collected 67 homers and 53 stolen bases through the first 267 games of his career.
Where could those numbers rise over the course of a 60-game season?
Well, given that Acuña is once again slated to sit at the top of Atlanta's order, we’ll account for the fact he averaged 4.72 plate appearances per game after moving back to the leadoff spot six weeks into last season. He also homered once every 17.4 plate appearances.
If Acuña were to match that same pace this year, he would hit 16 homers, which would increase his career total to 83. There are 16 players who have hit 80 or more homers through their age-22 season. That list is headed by Mel Ott (115) and former Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews (112).
Acuña’s stolen-base total significantly rose as he swiped 24 bags over his final 64 games last year. If he were to produce that same pace this year, he’d tally 22 stolen bases and increase that career total to 75.
Players who have totaled 80 homers and 70 stolen bases through their age-22 season
While Acuña has the potential to generate tremendous excitement with his talents this year, he will need to temper his emotions like every other player in an effort to adhere to social distancing protocols. But the young outfielder seems to understand it’s worth sacrificing some comical exchanges with Albies and others in an effort to protect himself and many others.
“It’s just uncomfortable because you’re used to greeting a teammate whenever you see them or you’re used to celebrating with someone after they hit a home run or make a great play,” Acuña said. “It’s been uncomfortable adjusting to these new norms. But obviously, we have to take care of ourselves and take care of our families.”