Ronald Acuña Jr. nearly followed his Rookie of the Year campaign by making baseball history.
On Wednesday, the Atlanta Braves announced that Acuña will be shut down for the remainder of the regular season with a left groin strain. The team does expect Acuna to return for the NLDS.
A source close to Acuna indicated to Yahoo Sports that the injury wasn’t serious.
The 21-year-old was three stolen bases shy of becoming the fifth player to ever record at least 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in a season. Acuna homered for the 40th time in last week’s 5-4 win against the Philadelphia Phillies and went deep again a day later.
But he was removed from the third inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Kansas City Royals and will remain stuck on 37 steals to finish the year.
Acuña went from top prospect to MVP candidate rather quickly. He signed an eight year, $100 million extension with the Braves after his Rookie of the Year season in 2018 and has been worth every penny so far.
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon are likely the frontrunners for the National League MVP honor. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich should still be in the mix, but his season was cut short in early September by a fractured kneecap.
Acuña should still be in MVP contention, though his case takes a hit without the 40/40 season. He’s well behind Bellinger, Rendon and Yelich in WAR (5.6), average (.280) and OPS (.883). But he’s ahead of Yelich with 101 RBIs.
Acuña would have been the youngest to reach the 40/40 plateau. Alex Rodriguez was a year older when he hit 42 homers and stole 46 bases for the Seattle Mariners in 1998. At 31 years old in 1996, Barry Bonds was the oldest to hit both marks, clubbing 42 homers and stealing 40 bases.
Alfonso Soriano (2006) and Jose Canseco (1988) are the other members of the 40/40 club. Soriano’s 46 homers and Rodriguez’s 46 steals were the most in a 40/40 season. Soriano had the lowest average (.277) average and the fewest number of RBIs (95) in a 40/40 season.
Acuña’s 37 steals currently lead the National League. Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner is second with 34. Canseco is the only player to lead their respective league in either category in a 40/40 season. His 42 homers were the most in the majors in 1988.
If he would he have reached 40/40, the history behind the feat alone should have brought him some votes.
But for Acuña to come so close at such a young age, there’s no reason to suspect that he we won’t be nearing this achievement over and over for many years to come.
Yahoo Sports’ Matt Ehalt also contributed to this story.
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