In his second act after winning the Rookie of the Year Award in 2018, Ronald Acuna, Jr. became the second youngest member of the 30-30 Club this week. He is likely the most well-rounded, young player in the game.
However, is it possible for Acuna to be considered the best player in the game at some point in his career? Becoming the fifth member of the 40-40 Club this season is certainly possible as well, and that has to vault him pretty far up the list already.
The term five-tool player gets thrown around at will sometimes. However, Acuna might be as close as they come in today’s game. In breaking down those tools, the first is hitting for average. After hitting .293 last season, Acuna has come back and hit .294 in 530 at bats in 2019. He has been as consistent as can be as well, as his lowest batting average month throughout his career is .255 in 208 career May at bats.
Secondly, Acuna is still able to hit for average and power, which is a requirement for the 30-30 Club. Last season, Acuna hit a home run and a double every 16.7 at bats, featuring 26 of each. This season, he has just 17 doubles, but also 36 home runs. The long ball rate has jumped to a homer in every 14.7 at bat.
The final offensive tool is base running. Another requirement for the 30-30 Club is stolen bases, but that does not tell the whole story. Acuna has shown speed and good instincts running the bases. A lot of this is displayed in his league-leading 106 runs scored through Saturday night. Acuna also has his 30 stolen bases, and has been caught just eight times.
Acuna also uses that speed as a rangy outfielder who improved from a negative dWAR player last season to a 0.5 in the category this season. He is also versatile, with at least 15 starts and 21 games played at all three outfield positions. Acuna has a range factor per nine innings of 2.25 in 2019, which has him not far out of the top 10 for outfielders, and above league average.
With a strong arm from the outfield, Acuna is not afraid to showcase it and has added seven outfield assists this season. This again has him just outside of the top five, as Cody Bellinger ranks fifth with 10 assists.
First off, there is little doubt that Mike Trout is the game’s top player right now. Acuna will turn just 22 years old this December, as he is not even that close to approaching peak age. On the opposite side, Trout is just freshly 28 and already had over three full seasons under his belt when he turned 22.
However, the numbers compare well. Trout slashed .287/.377/.561 that season. He also hit 36 home runs that campaign. Trout stole over 30 bases the season before as well, but not that season. Trout’s only 30-30 season came in his first full big league season as well, the same as Acuna, but he was just 20 years old.
While it is not fair generally to compare anyone to Trout, Acuna actually lines up pretty well. That has to put him in the category to be the face of the game at some point in his career. The biggest issue is that Trout is still so young. To say that Trout still has, at very least, four to five more peak season is not exaggerating at all. If that falls at five, Acuna would still only be 27 and likely entering his prime years.
Health and keeping toward the same pace is impossible to predict, but if Acuna is able to do this, expect to be talking about him as the best player in the game around the 2024 or 2025 season.