NL MVP race heats up with these four players making their case

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 19: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers stand at first base in the fifth inning at Miller Park on April 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 19: Cody Bellinger #35 of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers stand at first base in the fifth inning at Miller Park on April 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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MLB Players Power Rankings: Ronald Acuna Jr.
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

2019 NL MVP Race

Ronald Acuna Jr., Atlanta Braves

Building off the success of his 2018 rookie season, Ronald Acuna Jr. has taken another leap towards superstardom this season. He was quite good as a rookie, slashing .293/.366/.552, good for 3.7 WAR. However, the wheels have come off this season, figuratively and literally.

The majority of Acuna’s offensive numbers aren’t much different this year when compared to 2018, as he’s currently hitting .283/.365/.519. That being said, he’s amassed 5.1 WAR, which is the fifth-best in the NL. There are few significant improvements Acuna has made this season that has helped him reach new heights.

Considering 2019 is the year of the home run, it should come as no surprise that Acuna has seen a spike in power production. He’s smacked 37 HR thus far, thanks to a slight increase in Barrel%, which has gone from 13.4% to 14.6%.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Acuna’s game this season refers to his literal wheels. The outfielder has stolen 34 bases, the top total in the NL. Statcast rates him within the 96th percentile in sprint speed, so it was only a matter of time before he became a true terror on the basepaths. This combination of power and speed is rare. Acuna’s HR and SB totals give him a decent chance at amassing the fifth-ever 40-40  season, the first such season since 2006.

Acuna signed an eight-year, $100MM extension with the Braves at the beginning of the season, as the franchise believed he could be a core piece of their future. His excellence this season has that faith looking well-placed, as the young outfielder has a chance at becoming the youngest MVP in National League history.