Using data from the minor leagues last season, we project how many steals Ronald Acuna Jr. will get under the new pickoff rules in 2023.
Ronald Acuna Jr. has reported to Braves’ camp early feeling highly motivated and extremely healthy.
Why are the Braves allowing Acuna to play in the World Baseball Classic?
Initially, the Braves declined to allow their star right fielder to participate in the WBC. Last season he returned from the torn ACL he suffered in 2021. He wasn’t quite healthy and missed a fair amount of time. While his numbers were certainly above average, they were uncharacteristic of Ronald Acuna Jr.
The Braves were right to be cautious with the 25-year-old. However, after further assessment, the organization changed its mind and decided to let the kid play. They must be very confident in the status of his knee and his overall health. This is a great sign for Braves fans.
Here’s what Acuna told the media about how he feels right now.
“I think my face says it all. I think it’s beyond two years at this point since I’ve felt completely healthy, so I’m beyond excited.”Ronald Acuna Jr. via ESPN.com
How many steals can we expect from Acuna with new rules?
Pitchers will now be limited to two pickoff moves. The only way they will be allowed to attempt a third is if they get the runner out. If they do not get the runner out on the third attempt, it is a balk.
These rules led to a 26% increase in stolen base attempts in the minor leagues last season. We can start with some basic math and take a look at what a 26% increase would do to Acuna’s SB numbers. Keep in mind, that isn’t factoring in the variables like how elite base stealers will have more attempts than the rest of the league.
As it stands, Acuna averages 44 SB attempts per 162 games and converts 77% of his attempts. A 26% increase in Acuna’s SB attempts would put him at 55 attempts. A 77% success rate gets a 1-2% bump (as it did in the minor leagues) so that puts Acuna at 79%. Since he’s feeling so healthy, I’m going to bump him up to 80% because it’s my article.
That projects Acuna at 44 stolen bases for the 2023 season.
There is one more variable to consider. If the league increases its stolen base attempts by 26%, then what does that mean for the elite base stealers? Acuna will undoubtedly be one of the leaders in SB attempts, meaning he might far exceed the average increase. It’s not unreasonable to project Acuna with a 50 steal season. Conservatively, we have projected Acuna at 44 steals in 2023 thanks to the rule changes.
How many steals do you think Acuna will end up with? Let us know in the comments below!