When MLB records are set, usually an MVP Award follows. That’s likely what Atlanta Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will hear Thursday night.
No other player in league history has hit 40 home runs while stealing 50 bases. Acuña took it to another level during the 2023 season, mashing 41 homers and stealing not 50, not 60, but 73 bases on his way to leading Atlanta to yet another NL East title.
Acuña’s impact on the league’s best team record-wise in 2023 (104-58) has him as the clear front-runner to win the NL MVP Award over Los Angeles Dodgers teammates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.
Along with his homers and stolen bases, Acuña set the tone in MLB in runs (149) and hits (217), while leading the NL in OPS (1.012).
Acuña already has a Rookie of the Year trophy on his mantle, and the 2023 NL MVP Award would be a great complement to that as the four-time All-Star, at just 25 years old, cements his spot as one of the league’s best players now and for years to come.
But there is certainly hope from Dodgers fans that one of their veteran stars can come away with the award, starting with Betts, who led all of MLB in WAR (8.4) this season. Acuña was just behind him at 8.1 wins above replacement.
Betts already has an MVP under his belt after winning the award with the Boston Red Sox during the 2018 season. If he were to win the NL MVP this time, he would join Frank Robinson as the only players who won the prestigious award in both leagues.
Betts finished the 2023 campaign with a .307/.408/.579 slash line, 40 doubles, 107 RBI, 39 homers and 126 runs scored.
And Freeman was the perfect counterpart on a team that went 100-62 this past regular season.
Freeman finished just behind Acuña with 211 hits this season on his way to hitting .331/.410/.567 with a league-high 59 doubles in Year 14 in MLB. Freeman’s sweet lefty swing continues to produce at an elite level, making him one of the most feared hitters in the game at 34 years old.
Freeman is no stranger to winning MVP either. He was awarded the honor during the shortened 2020 season. He finished fourth in voting last season – his first with the Dodgers after a blockbuster trade from Atlanta brought him out west – after leading the NL in multiple categories, including on-base percentage, hits, doubles and runs scored.
Acuña and Freeman were teammates for four seasons, winning a World Series together in 2021, though injury wouldn’t allow the former to help his squad during their postseason run.
Unless the vote changes from what’s expected to be counted, Acuña should be the next Braves player to take home the coveted award.