Ronald Acuna MVP talk has been prevalent in Atlanta in recent weeks. The national landscape is beginning to catch up as the 21-year-old amps up his pursuit of a potential 40-40 season.
Acuna, the reigning National League rookie of the year, has belted 34 homers and stolen an NL-most 28 bases. He's two steals from becoming the second player in MLB history to reach the 30-30 club before turning 22, joining Mike Trout.
He also leads the NL in runs (100) and hits (147) through 121 games. Acuna is on a 46-homer pace, which could make him the third sub-22-year-old to reach that plateau, joining Eddie Mathews (47, 1953) and Mel Ott (42, 1929).
"What he's meant for this club, the big hits, the consistency, the improvement in his game," manager Brian Snitker said. "I was thinking about that today. I went and looked at his stats and he's right there with everybody on everything. I was thinking, 'Shoot. This kid's got to be right there in this MVP voting.'"
Yet it's taken an absurd August for Acuna to be mentioned in the same light as Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich, the consensus MVP favorites. Acuna has reached safely in 11 of 12 games this month, hitting .370/.414/.907 while leading the majors with nine homers.
Accounting for WAR, Acuna is still comfortably behind the leaders. He's produced 5.1 WAR, trailing Bellinger (7.4) and Yelich (6.0). The aforementioned two also lead him in average, homers, RBIs and OPS, though Acuna could rapidly close the gap if his current pace continues.
In Acuna's defense, most of his production has come from the leadoff spot, which isn't conducive to the RBI stat. The Braves opted to remove him from cleanup May 20, realizing his best spot was indeed leadoff, the position in which his 2018 second-half surge occurred.
"I think what he's doing in the leadoff spot with his offensive production has been really good," Snitker said. "What a dumbass I was (laughs). It was a different animal when we put him at leadoff. That's where he belongs."
Acuna's chase of anything near a 40-40 campaign -- that's homers and steals, for those unaware -- has thrust him into the conversation. It hasn't hurt that his team owns the second-best record in the NL.
With 40 games remaining after Wednesday, Acuna is a name worthy of MVP conversation. A scorching finish would put him on a tier with Bellinger and Yelich -- maybe even beyond them, should Acuna erupt with one of his celebrated runs.
"You look up, and he's in the tops in everything," Snitker said. "He should be considered in MVP talk because he's having that kind of year. He's having that for a first-place team. He's a big part of why we're where we're at. He deserves that with the year he's having."