I’ve always admired outlier baseball seasons. Those years that just defy logic, where it’s just best to sit back and admire them like a painting in the Louvre. Earlier this year, I tweeted that Ronald Acuna is having the type of all-around baseball season that rivals LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 season when he set the NFL record with 31 touchdowns and won so many people their fantasy football championships. Well, when it comes to Acuna, he’s very much on pace to do incredibly special things this year.
Baseball fans point out 40-40 seasons, of which there have been just four in Major League history. Jose Canseco was the first in 1988, followed by Barry Bonds, Alfonso Soriano, and Alex Rodriguez. Yet there are power-speed seasons that are even rarer and could be getting some company by Acuna.
Eric Davis’ epic 1987 season with 37 homers and 50 stolen bases at the time put him in exclusive company as the charter member of the 30-50 club. With 84 walks, he had a .399 OBP to go with a .593 slugging percentage for one incredible season. Bonds joined him in those outer limits in 1990, slugging 33 home runs and swiping 52 bases. His triple-slash line of .301/.401/.565, Gold Glove Award and the Pirates easily winning the NL East gave Bonds the first of his seven MVP awards.
Oh, and a quick shoutout to Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who, along with Davis, is the only Major Leaguer to hit at least 20 home runs while stealing 80 bases. Henderson did it twice, including the 1986 season when he slugged 28 round-trippers, stole 87 bags, and led the American League with 130 runs scored. Nearly a mind-boggling 30-90 season! Almost as amazing is that Henderson did not receive a single MVP vote that year. Not even down the ballot. Pete O’Brien, Marty Barrett, Scott Fletcher, Jim Presley, and Dick Schofield all received at least one vote that year.
With 11 home runs and 23 stolen bases just past the one-third mark of 2023, Acuna may just create his own 30-60 club and could be scraping at 70 steals when all is said and done. That just shows how much of an outlier season Acuna is having, even with baseball’s newfound admiration of the stolen base. There’s plenty of baseball left to play, so let’s sit back and just enjoy the special season that Acuna is having.
Time for some deep sleepers.
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Fantasy Baseball Deep Sleepers & Waiver Wire Pickups
Ezequiel Tovar (SS – COL) ECR: 220
Tovar was my sleeper for NL Rookie of the Year, though, for much of the first chunk of the season, he was more reminiscent of Ozzie Smith in the Padres years. Tovar has heated up at the plate of late, hitting in 10 of his last 12 games. That’s good for a .342 average, and he’s rostered in just 25 percent of Yahoo leagues. Yes, 12 games is a small sample size, but the Rockies are committed to seeing if this former top prospect has the goods. He’s moved up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup. If he stays there, expect more runs and stolen bases.
Bryce Elder (SP – ATL) ECR: 228
Elder does not have the great strikeout numbers that might befit a 6-2, 220-pound burly right-hander. But over the past month, he’s been quite the fill-in for the first-place Braves. He has four quality starts in his last six outings, posting a stingy 1.72 ERA in that span with 30 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. Elder’s next turn is expected to be a June 6 home start against the Mets. He could be a streamer to see if he could stick on your team.
Jake McCarthy (OF – ARI) ECR: 233
Fans of The Office who also like their baseball will be emboldened to see that McCarthy went to Scranton High School in Dunder Mifflin’s backyard. McCarthy was optioned to the Reno branch of the Arizona farm system in late April, and he responded with a .333 batting average and .419 OBP. Since getting called up on May 26, McCarthy has multiple hits in three of seven games and blazed the basepaths to the tune of five stolen bases in his last three games. The Diamondbacks have shown a proclivity to run, so here’s another outlet for steals.
Andrew Chafin (RP – ARI) ECR: 282
Chafin is similar to Evan Phillips of the Dodgers in that he’s sometimes the closer but almost exclusively a late-inning weapon. With three saves and five holds over his last nine appearances, Chafin is definitely working in the high-leverage situations for an Arizona team surprisingly in first place alongside the Dodgers. If you’re in a saves+holds league, Chafin is an easy pickup.
Bailey Ober (SP – MIN) ECR: 284
The Twins are in first place largely because of a pitching staff that is first in MLB in strikeouts (552) and second in both ERA (3.45) and WHIP (1.175). Ober has contributed with a 2.68 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 40.1 innings since his 2023 debut on April 23. The righty gets a home start tonight against the slumping Guardians, so he could be a streaming option.
Francisco Alvarez (C – NYM) ECR: 302
With five homers and 13 RBI in his last 10 games, the 21-year-old backstop is establishing a foothold in the big leagues on a Mets team that could use the offense. Alvarez has batted in the two hole the past couple of games, but it is hard to expect a 5-10, 233-pound catcher to stick in that part of the lineup when the Mets heat up as a group.
How is an outfielder on pace for more than 30 homers and on the best offense in the big leagues rostered in just 18% of Yahoo leagues? Siri did miss a chunk of April but has made up for it with eight homers in the final 18 games of May. He’s hitting in the bottom third of the Rays’ lineup but still has 14 runs and 12 RBI over that closing kick.
Jordan Walker (3B, OF – STL) ECR: 317
OK, let’s try this again. Walker hit well enough in his first taste of the big leagues (.274 average with two homers and two stolen bases), but was sent down to the minors to work on his defense. Well, that helped with his offense as the 21-year-old outfielder who looks like a tight end had multi-hit games in six of his last 10 contests before getting called back up to the big leagues today. Only Lars Nootbaar has distinguished himself in the Cardinals outfield, so if Walker can give a lift to the St. Louis lineup, he’ll be a lineup fixture for the Redbirds.