His season totals are still way below his usual standards, but Albert Pujols is back to being one of the best hitters in baseball and has been for more than a month now.
Pujols had a .194 batting average and zero homers through 27 games. Then he homered against the Blue Jays on May 6 and since then he’s hit .308 with nine homers, eight doubles, 31 RBIs, nearly as many walks (14) as strikeouts (15), and a .942 OPS in 33 games.
Pujols hit .328 with a 1.037 OPS in 11 seasons for the Cardinals, so even his post-May 6 production hasn’t quite been at that level, but switching from the NL to the AL and offense being down across baseball makes the gap seem wider than it probably is.
Last year, for instance, Pujols hit .299 with a .906 OPS and those were both career-worst marks. Because of his terrible first six weeks he’ll have an extremely hard time reaching even those season totals, but with the Angels winning 14 of their last 18 games and Pujols being his usual self again we’ve probably seen the last of those “is Albert Pujols washed up?” stories.
The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.
At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.
Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.
From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.
Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.