NL notebook: Acuna chasing rare 40-40 season

August 3rd, 2019

In his second big league season, Braves outfielder has put up numbers that largely resemble his rookie campaign. Batting average, on-base, homers, RBIs -- all right in line, in a similar number of games. His slugging is down a bit, his runs are up … but overall, similar.

One thing is quite a bit different, though: Acuna is running wild. After stealing 16 bases last year, he’s already at 25 in 31 chances, leading the National League in thefts. That has put a rare milestone in his sights: 40-40.

It has been 13 years since the last 40-homer, 40-steal season, by Alfonso Soriano with the Nats in 2006. There have been four in the history of the game: by Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Soriano. Acuna is not quite on pace for it yet, but he’s closing in.

Acuna's 26th homer on Friday put him on pace for 38. That’s down a bit -- he had 23 homers on July 13, a 40-homer pace. And there’s little doubt he has 40-homer potential. Meanwhile, Acuna's steals are surging. He’s on pace for 37, but in 19 games since July 14, he has swiped 12 bags in 15 tries. That has brought him from, "Maybe he could do 30-30,” to, “Oh my, 40-40 is in play.”

It’s worth acknowledging that you have to squint a little to make the numbers work. You have to believe that Acuna's recent running outburst is real, while his power lag is not. But here’s the thing: That’s not that hard to believe.

Acuna has said he loves the running game; it’s one of his favorite parts of the game. And, again, his power is not in any doubt. His projected 463-foot homer against Cincinnati on Friday made that clear.

So the odds are certainly against Acuna -- both the historic odds and the numbers this year. But he has turned something that seemed impossible into something that’s at least conceivable. And with his talent and skill, it’s unwise to put much of anything past him.

Take another look
Remember all the heat the Marlins took for the return on their trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna? Their past few trades are probably going to be regarded more fondly in Miami.

Since the start of calendar 2019, the Marlins have added four players to their system who are currently rated in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 -- pitcher Sixto Sanchez (acquired from the Phillies in the J.T. Realmuto deal), infielder Jazz Chisholm (acquired from the D-backs for Zac Gallen), outfielder Jesus Sanchez (acquired in a four-player deal with the Rays) and outfielder JJ Bleday (drafted in June). In fact, all of those players are ranked among baseball's top 60 prospects.

Perhaps more notably, all but one are hitters. After amassing a throng of pitching talent, Miami has begun to diversify. The future may still be a ways off, but you can start seeing the plan, and envisioning how it might work out.

Player of the week: Joey Votto
It looks like maybe some people buried a bit prematurely.

A big night on Friday continued a couple of hot streaks for the longtime Reds slugger. His two hits made it seven multi-hit games in his past 12. But on a longer line, Votto has basically hit like, well, himself since late May.

On May 24, Votto woke up with an extremely uncharacteristic .208/.318/.333 line. There’s nothing about that that’s Votto-like. Since then? .305/.371/.460 over 55 games coming into Friday. He’s still walking a bit less than he used to, and the power is not where it was at his peak. But that’s a plenty good hitter, and a good indication that Votto is a long way from being done.

Looking ahead: Series of the week
If you need more than the uniforms and the ballpark to watch Cardinals-Dodgers at Chavez Ravine, you may have come to the wrong place. Still, there’s plenty more. There’s history, with plenty of playoff meetings in the past. There’s impact on the standings, with both teams in postseason position now. And there’s the likelihood of and the torrid being among the starters. This one will be fun, with Monday night, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon games.