It feels like it has been FanGraphs week this week at Talking Chop with the release of their Positional Power Rankings along with the Braves’ Top 30 prospect list. The ranking of the best right fielders for 2021 was released Friday with the Braves and Ronald Acuña Jr. coming in third. Mookie Betts tops the list with Juan Soto coming in second.
With 21-year-olds Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. and teammates Freddie Freemanand Marcell Ozuna commanding so much attention, Acuña almost slipped through the cracks last year, particularly given that he missed time due to inflammation of his left wrist, possibly the result of an awkward dive into a base. His batting average was an atypically low .250, but he cut his swing rate, and so his walk rate spiked to 18.8% (third in the NL), while his .401 OBP ranked seventh and his .582 SLG eighth. He hit the ball harder than ever; his 16% barrel rate placed in the 95th percentile, while his 57% hard-hit rate placed in the 98th percentile. Meanwhile, he played above-average defense in both center and right. He’s 23 and projects as a 6-to-7 WAR player for the remainder of his 20s. Do not sleep on him.
With all of the attention that Soto and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has garnered this offseason, it does feel like Acuña has been overshadowed a bit. Acuña is already locked up to a very team friendly longterm deal with the Braves and won’t be generating headlines like Tatis did with his mega deal and contract hype is also starting to swirl around Soto in Washington.
FanGraphs projections have Acuña pegged for 5.3 fWAR which is a big number. With a healthy season, it wouldn’t be terribly shocking to see him surpass it though. The presence of Cristian Pache will allow Atlanta to keep Acuña in right field much more often where it looks like he can be an elite defender.