Acuna Bursts Onto Scene

November 19th, 2019 by Kevin

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Ronald Acuna had one of the best rookie seasons in DTBL history. Actually, let’s revise that. He had one of the best seasons in DTBL history, regardless of age or experience. The fact that he was in his first year in the league only highlights what a special talent he is. The first pick in this year’s draft lived up to the hype and then some. He nearly became the third player in league history to compile a 40/40 HR/SB season. He did manage to rack up the highest single season PAR of any offensive player that has been calculated to date (since 2005). The Jackalope outfielder stood well above a very strong rookie class. Unsurprisingly, Ronald Acuna was the unanimous choice for the 2019 DTBL Rookie of the Year award.

A late season injury may have cost Acuna an opportunity to become the league’s third 40/40 player. He hit 41 home runs and stole 37 bases, finishing sixth and second in the league in those categories. He wasn’t too shabby in the other three categories either. He had a .280 average with 127 runs scored (3rd in league) and 101 RBI. The last player to have a line of at least .280/35/35/100/100 was Matt Kemp in 2011. So it has been quite a while since we’ve seen a five category performance like the one Acuna put up in 2019. As mentioned, his 12.15 Batting PAR is the highest we’ve seen since 2005. He just barely edged out Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger in that stat. So those three players figure to be the top contenders for the MVP award. The last player to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards was Ryan Howard in 2006. We will soon see if Acuna can change that.

The Jackalope had a pretty easy choice when they selected Acuna with the first pick back in March. But they could not have possibly expected the pick to pay off so handsomely in the first season. Acuna was largely responsible for the Jackalope nearly doubling their 2018 batting point total this season (13 to 25). He and Anthony Rendon were easily the squad’s two best hitters. Acuna led the team in homers, steals and runs. The Jackalope have been fielding an impressive infield for quite some time. Should Giancarlo Stanton return to health next year, he and Acuna will make for a fearsome duo in the outfield as well. Interestingly, four of the past five Rookie of the Year winners have been members of either the Jackalope or Cougars. Jake Arrieta won the award for the Jackalope in 2015.

The ease by which Acuna won this award should not diminish the strength of the rookie class as a whole. But he did receive all ten first place votes and is the third straight unanimous winner, the fourth in the past five years. Finishing second was another young phenom outfielder, who also finished second to Acuna in the NL Rookie of the Year vote last year, the Mavericks’ Juan Soto. Soto’s age 20 season was absolutely brilliant and culminated in a World Series title. Soto wasn’t quite the stolen base threat that Acuna was, but was similar in all of the other categories, hitting 34 homers with 110 runs scored and batted in. He received seven second place votes, appeared on all ten ballots and compiled 58 points. That total narrowly edged out Choppers pitcher Shane Bieber. Bieber led all rookie pitchers in wins (15) and strikeouts (259). Of the top four finishers for this award, he was the only one who wasn’t a top draft choice. A third round selection, he may have been the steal of this year’s draft. Bieber was also on all ten ballots, including three second place and six third place votes. He finished four points behind Soto. Picked between Acuna and Soto in the draft, Komodos pitcher Walker Buehler had an impressive debut season as well. Buehler had very similar numbers to Bieber, but fell a little short in strikeouts. He received a pair of third place votes and finished with 25 points. Those four guys have very bright futures ahead of them. But maybe the most interesting rookie on this list is the guy who finished fifth. 30 year old Eduardo Escobar has had a nice career. But until the past couple years, he was a bit of a fantasy baseball afterthought. He finally got his chance in the DTBL this year and proceeded to slug 35 homers. Not bad for an eighth round pick. Escobar appeared on six ballots and accumulated 10 points. Although they didn’t appear on many ballots, I think it is also worth mentioning that Cougars second baseman Gleyber Torres and Mavericks pitcher Jack Flaherty also had great rookie seasons. That pair, along with Acuna, Soto and Buehler meant that there weren’t many bad picks in the first round this year.

Click here to view the full voting results.

I’m hoping to announce the Cy Young award winner later this week (probably Thursday), with the Most Valuable Player announcement to come early next week. Both of those awards figure to be more competitive than this one was.

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