For the first time in his career, Ronald Acuña Jr. is an MVP. The Baseball Writers Association of America announced this evening that Acuña was unanimously selected as the National League’s top player. Dodger teammates Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman finished second and third, respectively.
Acuña has been a star for years. The sport’s #1 prospect before he reached the majors in 2018, he won Rookie of the Year and finished 12th in MVP voting during his debut campaign. He got onto MVP ballots in each of the next two seasons and has been named to the All-Star Game in every season since his rookie year (excluding the 2020 campaign in which there was no Midsummer Classic).
In 2023, he firmly cemented himself as one of the top three to five players in the game. Acuña turned in an unbelievable .337/.416/.596 batting line over an NL-high 735 trips to the dish. He led the majors in hits and runs scored from the top of a loaded Atlanta lineup and paced the Senior Circuit in OPS. The Venezuela native tied his career high with 41 home runs and stole a major league leading 73 bases.
That power-speed impact was unparalleled in baseball history. Acuña became the first player ever to go 40-70. One could quibble with his NL-leading 14 times caught stealing or middling defensive grades in right field, but the sheer offensive dominance and unprecedented nature of Acuña’s stat line made him the clear choice in the eyes of voters.
While this was his career season to date, Acuña could be a perennial MVP candidate He won’t turn 26 until December and is squarely in the midst of his prime. Only adding to the appeal for the Braves is that they have their superstar outfielder on perhaps the game’s most team-friendly contract. Acuña is signed for a total of $61MM over the next three years, while the team has options that could (and very likely will) keep him in Atlanta through 2028.
Acuña winning the award was expected. That he received all 30 first-place votes is a bit more surprising. Betts ranked second on every ballot, hammering home how clearly that duo had separated themselves from the pack. The Dodger star hit .307/.408/.579 over 693 plate appearances. He played solid defense in right field and handled the middle infield with aplomb, logging action at second base and shortstop.