Ronald Acuña Jr. needs no introduction. He has been a top player in the league since he made his debut as a 20 year old. Since day one, he has been on the fast track to super stardom, winning Rookie of the Year, two Silver Sluggers, finishing in the top 12 of MVP voting twice and top 5 once.
In what about amounts to a total of about two full seasons, Acuña has managed a .281 average with 81 homeruns, 194 RBIs, 61 stolen bases, and a .909 OPS. So what does that translate to for a 162 game season?
.281 average, 42 HR, 100 RBI and 32 SB on 177 hits.
There is an extremely exclusive club in Major League Baseball that peak Ronald Acuna Jr. could enter with ease. The 40 HR, 200 Hits, 100 RBI and 35 SB Club. The club includes:
- Jacoby Ellsbury (2011)
- Vladimir Guerrero (2002)
- Alfonso Soriano (2002)
- Alex Rodriguez (1998)
A healthy 2021 campaign, with continued development, and he could easily be the fifth member of a club that not even Mike Trout has joined.
In a pandemic-shortened season, it felt like Acuña never really got it going, compared to his All-Star campaign in 2019. It was as if he just needed a little more time to get in the groove of things, but it was not in the cards.
He finished the 2020 season with a .250 average, 14 HR, 29 RBI and 8 SB. Looking at that line in the shadows of 2019 and the expectations surrounding him, lackluster best describes it. What was even more concerning was the 3.4 percent increase in his strikeout rate that coincided with a 1.2 percent increase in home run rate. Bottom line — your leadoff man cannot bat .250 and be swinging for the fences, striking out.
The good news beyond all that is that his walk rate increased 8.2 percent. 18.8 percent of Acuña’s plate appearances last season ended in a walk. So while striking out more, he was making up for it by walking at a significantly higher margin. In the field, Acuña did not make a single error as he continues to put up strong defensive marks.
Among the rest of the league, even when the raw numbers weren’t great, Acuña held his own. He was 10th in OBP, 9th in OPS, 5th in runs scored, 9th in walks, and second in at-bats per home run.
In a “down year” he still found himself in elite company in several offensive categories.
MVP TIME 2021
Acuña shared the diamond with the 2020 NL MVP winner and sixth-place vote getter while finishing 12th himself. The word for him in 2021 should be catalyst. While Freddie Freeman is the leader of this team, the energy that Acuña brings to the field each day drives this team. As Acuña goes, so do the Braves. Whether that is setting the tone from the leadoff spot or saving a run in the outfield, Atlanta relies upon their catalyst: Ronald Acuña Jr.