Here are the top candidates for a 40-40 season

January 30th, 2023

Baseball is the best for a litany of reasons, one of which is the extreme athleticism on display on the field every day. One of its most captivating forms is the dynamic combination of power and speed.

There have been four individual seasons in MLB history where a player had at least 40 home runs and at least 40 stolen bases. Jose Canseco did it in 1988, then Barry Bonds in ‘96, Alex Rodriguez in ‘98, and most recently Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

It’s been a while, and the stat combo has an almost mythical feel when it gets mentioned. But with 2023 rule changes that may increase stolen-base attempts, not to mention an ever-growing cadre of uniquely talented players, perhaps the 40-40 drought will end this year.

Here’s a look at who could do it.

Ronald Acuña Jr.

Even before digging into numbers or projections, Acuña is likely the first player who comes to mind. He was just three stolen bases shy of the feat in 2019, when he hit 41 homers and swiped 37 bases. Excluding the 2022 season, when he worked his way back from a torn ACL, slowing him down slightly, Acuña has been in the 90th percentile or higher in both barrel rate and sprint speed in every other season of his career. That’s the kind of power-speed combination needed to accomplish this feat. Acuña is projected for 31 homers and 35 stolen bases per Steamer, the only 30-30 season it projects, which would make him the first player with two 30-30s through his age-25 season.

Julio Rodríguez

Expect to see Rodríguez’s name on any and all power-speed lists for years to come. In 2022, Rodríguez became the first player with at least 25 homers and at least 25 stolen bases in his first season in the Majors. He reached 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases in his first 81 career games, the fewest of any player in MLB history to reach those marks. With a full, healthy season, the sky’s the limit for Rodríguez, who was one of three players in ‘22 to be in the 90th percentile or higher in both hard-hit rate and sprint speed, along with Mike Trout and Byron Buxton.

Michael Harris II

The reigning NL Rookie of the Year came one homer shy of a 20-20 season in his 2022 debut. In 114 games, he hit 19 homers and stole 20 bases. He was in the 95th percentile in sprint speed. Of Harris’ 19 home runs, 14 of them had at least a 105 mph exit velocity, so the power is very much there. Only Rodríguez (18) and Bobby Witt Jr. (15) had more among rookies. Harris is one of 15 players projected for at least 20 stolen bases in ‘23 -- and that’s before we know the impact of the rule changes.

Bobby Witt Jr.

Witt was yet another rookie displaying power and speed in 2022. He hit 20 home runs and stole 30 bases, becoming the second player with at least those respective marks in his first MLB season. He joined 1977 Mitchell Page, who had 21 homers and 42 stolen bases. Witt had an average sprint speed of 30.4 ft/sec. For context, 27 ft/sec is the MLB average, and anything 30-plus is considered elite. Witt is projected for 27 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-highest mark.

Jazz Chisholm Jr.

Yet another player who comes to mind with the concept of dynamic. Chisholm has been 94th percentile in sprint speed in each of the last two seasons. In just 60 games played last year due to injury, he racked up 25 barrels, just four shy of tying his career high of 29 from 2021 – accomplished in 124 games. Chisholm is one of nine players projected to have at least 25 stolen bases.

Others to keep in mind

Shohei Ohtani: He had 26 stolen bases in 2021, and has hit 30-plus homers in each of the last two years.

Cedric Mullins: With exactly 30 of each, Mullins had the Majors’ last 30-30 season, in ‘21.

Fernando Tatis Jr.: This will be tougher to do in a reduced slate of games, but Tatis had 42 homers and 25 stolen bases in ‘21.

Kyle Tucker: His 25 stolen bases in 2022 were by far the most among the 23 players with at least 30 home runs.