Oakland A's rookie Esteury Ruiz leads the MLB in stolen bases through May

May 26, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Esteury Ruiz (1) slides
May 26, 2023; Oakland, California, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Esteury Ruiz (1) slides / D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland Athletics rookie outfielder Esteury Ruiz is putting together a potentially historic season on a horrendous team. One of very few highlights on what could be one of the worst teams in MLB history, Ruiz leads the MLB in stolen bases by a wide margin with 27. Atlanta Braves MVP candidate Rolan Acuna Jr. trails behind with 22. 

Ruiz’s speed is a force to be reckoned with and he shows no signs of slowing down. Through 57 games, the rookie is on-pace to steal about 77 bags, which would be the most in the American League since fellow A’s superstar Rickey Henderson’s 77 in 1989. 77 would also be the most stolen bases by a rookie in either league since the Cardinals Vince Coleman’s unbelievable 1985 season when he stole 110 bases. 

Can Esteury Ruiz steal 70 bases for the Oakland A's?

No MLB player has stolen 70 bases in a season since Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury stole exactly 70 bases in 2009. 

Stolen bases have become much more rare in recent years, but new rules are already changing that dramatically. Bigger bases, step-off limits, and the pitch clock are giving runners more incentive to steal and many have been quick to take advantage of it. The 2023 MLB season is on pace to be a record year-over-year increase in stolen bases, jumping from .51 stolen bases per game in 2022 to over .70 this year. 

Ruiz leads the pack in this base stealing revival, even while playing for the worst team in the league. Along with his sensational baserunning performance, Ruiz has done well at the plate so far this season. In 219 at-bats, the 24-year-old has a .274 batting average and has rung in 24 RBIs. 

The rookie’s speed is giving A’s fans something to be happy about in an otherwise horrific season. Ruiz is an early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year and an 80-stolen base season, the first since 1988, could be within reach.