As if Atlanta Braves fans needed another reason to be excited for the start of Spring Training. Eno Sarris released annual list of bounce back candidates for the upcoming season and Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. topped the list.
As Sarris points out, tabbing Acuña for a bounce back is easy pickings now that he is even further removed from his ACL injury. Acuña’s 2022 season was clearly a down year, but it wasn’t bad. He was still worth 2.2 fWAR was 14 percent above league average at the plate with a 114 wRC+. A great season for a lot of players, but not for Acuña if you go back to 2019 and then again at where he was at the time of the injury.
Basically, in his first year back from surgery, he hit too many ground balls and chased a few too many pitches. Seems understandable for a guy trying to get back online. Another 30/30 season could be in the cards — maybe even 40/40 with the new base running rules — and if his defensive numbers also improve, he could easily be in the conversation for MVP in 2023.
Sarris points out Acuña’s defensive performance also as an area of probable improvement. That was actually most noticeable drop off in Acuña's game. Whether it was a lack of focus, a lost step because of the injury, or just frustration, that is an easy area to improve on. to further illustrate his struggles, Baseball Savant had Acuña at -7 Outs Above Average in 2022.
There is no clear way to illustrate it, but a return to form by Acuña would be a huge boost to the Braves’ hopes in 2023.