Seven players who want to make history in 2024

The 2024 MLB season is just around the corner, which means we’re already immersed in projection season. Until we see everything happen on the field, we can only wonder how the next campaign might unfold.

Sometimes some statistical projections really stand out and make us think about what could be an exceptional year for that player. When looking at FanGraphs’ Steamers System projections, there are hitters whose numbers could set or tie records.

Let’s take a look at those seven players who are expected to do something historic this year.

Juan Soto: 171 wRC+, 19.4% walk rate
Dominican Soto is projected to lead the Major Leagues with a wRC+ of 171, which means he is the best pure hitter in baseball. He already has five qualifying seasons with at least a 140 wRC+, and he turns 25 in October. Such a sixth season would tie him with Mike Trout, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott and Ty Cobb as players with the most such seasons by the age of 25. In other words, he’ll be in the company of Hall of Fame names. And, of course, Soto will do so while wearing a Yankees uniform. He will join a select group of Yankees who have led all qualified hitters in wRC+ in a season, along with Babe Ruth (nine times), Mantle (five), Alex Rodriguez (two), Lou Gehrig, Aaron Judge and Don Mattingly. had led. Soto is also projected to lead the major leagues with a 19.4% walk rate. This will be his fifth qualified year with at least an 18% walk rate, three more than any other player over 25 seasons.

Soto and Judge: Second and Third at War
We already know that the pairing of Soto and Judge will be fun, but it’s also expected to be historic. Soto is projected to finish second among players in WAR with 6.7 WAR, with Judge right behind him at third with 6.2. We’ve recently seen teammates crack the top three in FanGraphs WAR in 2023 like Mookie Betts and Freddy Freeman, but it’s still rare. Bates and Freeman were the sixth duo to do so in the last 50 seasons, so Soto and Judge will continue to join a select group. But it will be Yankees history that has its own reputation. The last time two Yankee position players finished in the top two spots in WAR in the same year was 1942, when Charlie Keller and Joe Gordon did so. The only Yankees duo to accomplish this feat, of course, was Gehrig and Ruth in 1926–1928, 1930–1932, and 1937. We are talking about a very good company.

Ronald Acuna Jr.: 38 home runs, 56 stolen bases
Last season, Venezuelan Acuña clubbed 40-70 with 41 homers and 73 stolen bases. Projection systems tend to be conservative, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t include 70 or more scams. There have only been three individual years in Major League history with at least 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases, and on that list are Eric Davis in 1987 and Barry Bonds in 1990, with Acuña. If he lives up to projections, Acuña will be the first player with multiple 30-50 seasons. He will also be the first of three 30-30 players by the age of 26. And, if he hits 40 homers, Acuña will also be the first player with more than 40 homers in years.

Bobby Witt Jr.: 30 home runs, 42 base steals
After adding 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases as a rookie in 2022, Witt drove in 30 and 49 runs, respectively, last season. This year his age is estimated to be 30 and 42 years, which will be quite historic. Witt is the only player in Major League history to have at least 20 homers and 30 steals in the first two seasons of his career, so logically he would be the first player to do so in his first three seasons as well. But it won’t just be the 20 and 30, but the other 30-30. Last year, Witt became one of six shortstops to have such seasons, along with Francisco Lindor in 2023, Hanley Ramirez in 2008, Jimmy Rollins in 2007, Alex Rodriguez in 1998 and Barry Larkin in 1996. The interesting thing about that list is that no one is on it twice, meaning Witt would be the first shortstop in baseball history with that many 30-30s.

Julio Rodriguez: 33 home runs, 31 stolen bases
Dominican Rodriguez hit 32 homers and stole 37 sacks last year, looking to add 28 and 25, respectively, in 2022. He is the only player in Major League history to each have at least 25 home runs and 25 base steals. With 33 HR and 31 BR over the first two seasons of his career, and projected through 2024, he will extend that streak to his first three years. A second 30–30 season would make Rodríguez the first player to have two such performances until a 23-year-old campaign. He would also be the first Mariners player at any age to play that many years.

Adeli Ratshman: 5.8 War
Rutschman is projected to rank fifth among position players in WAR, with a career-high 5.8, behind only Acuña, Soto, Judge and Bates. He averaged 5.1 WAR last season after posting 5.4 in his rookie year in 2022. And keep in mind, he’s not just a young player putting up impressive numbers in his first few seasons, he’s doing it all as a catcher, carrying his team. The pitching staff and defense behind the plate. In this sense, Rutschman is the only catcher in the Major Leagues since 1900 with at least 5.0 WAR in his first two seasons. The third such year will take that trend forward.

Kyle Schwarber: 42 home runs
Schwarber is projected to lead the National League with 42 home runs and be second in the majors to only Judge’s 46. Schwarber is no stranger to 40-home run seasons. In fact, he finished his first year in Philadelphia at 46 in 2022, and then turned 47 last year. Schwarber’s third consecutive season with at least 40 homers to begin his career with the Phillies would put Schwarber in select company. Only two players have hit at least 40 home runs in each of their first three seasons with a team: Khris Davis with the A’s from 2016 to 2018 and Alex Rodriguez with the Rangers from 2001 to 2003. For Phillies history, only Ryan Howard has had at least three consecutive 40-home run seasons with the club, posting four consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2009. The only other Phillies player with a total of three 40-home run seasons is Mike Schmidt.

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