Braves: Can Ronald Acuna post the best April in franchise history?

9531904010174 braves v cubs

For some, the first month of the regular season is a time to get things going, make adjustments, or even in some unfortunate cases… suffer through a miserable slump. But for others, like this year’s version of the Braves Ronald Acuna Jr., the first month of the season is an opportunity to show everyone you’re the best talent in the sport.

Atlanta has played just 13 games in 2021, but Acuna is on a hot streak that, unless you’re Mike Trout, only comes around once in a blue moon. Entering Friday, the 23-year-old superstar is slashing a ridiculous .442/.492/1.000 with seven home runs, six doubles, a triple, and 14 RBI in his first 59 PA. Acuna’s 14 XBH leads the majors, and his five consecutive games scoring at least two runs is a Braves feat that hasn’t been achieved since the mid-1920s. I could go on… and on… and probably give you 1,000 more words detailing all of the things Acuna is the BEST at right now. 

But I’m more interested in looking forward. Can this kind of performance continue for another week?… the rest of April?… until Memorial Day? Who knows, right? But given Acuna’s craziness at the plate lasting this long and the fact that Thursday just so happened to be the halfway point for the current month, I wanted to know, during the first month of the season, what some of the best all-time offensive performances in franchise history have been.

Because MLB has oftentimes opened the season in March in previous years, I’ve stretched this exercise into March as well, so call it the best March/April offensive performances in Braves history. I’ve also limited the leaderboard to span only the Live-ball Era (1920-2020), and given that in 2019 Acuna logged 128 PA in April, I’ve set the threshold to any player with at least 100 PA. I’ve ordered the players below by OPS.


Freddie Freeman, 2017

  • April: 23 G, .381 AVG, 1.283 OPS, 9 HR, 16 XBH, 14 RBI 
  • Season: 117 G, .307 AVG, .989 OPS, 28 HR, 35 2B, 71 RBI 

There have only been four seasons in which Freeman didn’t receive MVP votes: his debut year in 2010, when he finished runner-up for Rookie of the Year in 2011, the 2012 campaign when he hit .259, when he got hurt in 2015, and then when he got hurt… again… during the 2017 season. Given how hot he was out of the gate, could you imagine if he was able to play a full season?

That 1.283 OPS in April is the highest April OPS in Braves history. And even though Atlanta went just 10-23 during that 23-game stretch, Freeman couldn’t be stopped at the plate. The month featured eight multi-hit games for the Braves first baseman, including two three-hit performances and a pair of four-hit games. Surprisingly though, Freeman’s longest hitting streak within that month was just seven games, although it was an incredible stretch in which he hit .423 with five XBH (3 HR). 

To compare to Acuna, in the ten games that spanned from Opening Day to April 15 in 2017, Freeman slashed .359/.432/.692 (1.124 OPS) with three homers, six XBH, and three RBI. It was certainly an impressive start, but even the best April all-time (OPS-wise) doesn’t best Acuna’s current pace.


Chipper Jones, 1998

  • April: 27 G, .368 AVG, 1.150 OPS, 9 HR, 17 XBH, 29 RBI
  • Season: 160 G, .313 AVG, .951 OPS, 34 HR, 29 2B, 107 RBI 

This was actually the season before Chipper won the NL MVP as he finished ninth in 1998. The Hall of Fame third baseman helped power the Braves to an 18-9 record to start the year, and in the process, went 14 for his first 28 plate appearances during that opening week. Chipper’s April in 1998 consisted of nine multi-hit games that included three three-hit games and two four-hit performances. His best game during that span came on April 7 in an 11-3 win over the Pirates, in which Chipper finished 3 for 5 with two homers and five RBI. Perhaps the most impressive achievement was when he belted five homers in a six-game stretch from April 13-19, which featured three straight games with a long ball. 

His performance up to April 15 in that 1998 season was very Acuna-like. Chipper played in 14 games, slashed .434/.508/.887 (1.395 OPS) and slugged seven homers, three doubles, and 18 RBI in that span. 


Justin Upton, 2013

  • April: 26 G, .298 AVG, 1.136 OPS, 12 HR, 17 XBH, 19 RBI
  • Season: 149 G, .263 AVG, .818 OPS, 27 HR, 27 2B, 70 RBI

I skipped Chipper’s 2008 season, which is third all-time in April OPS (1.145), so we can get a mix of players in this exercise. And I’m glad I did because Upton shows how much Acuna could potentially regress throughout the 2021 season. As you can see, J-Up’s 2013 campaign doesn’t necessarily stand out, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the game’s best players during that first month.

During the Braves first seven games of 2013, a stretch the team went 6-1, Upton belted six home runs and posted a .423 AVG before going four straight games without a homer. Because of his tendency to strikeout multiple times a game, Upton didn’t put together as many multi-hit games as Chipper or Freeman. However, the outfielder still managed five such performances, including two three-hit games and one 4 for 4 finish. 

Upton’s through-April 15 numbers in 2013 were also very similar to Acuna’s in 2021. The former Braves slugger slashed .348/.415/.891 (1.306 OPS) in those first 12 games, including seven homers and four doubles, to go with 11 RBI. Too bad he couldn’t keep it up all year. Upton slugged a dozen homers in 26 games in April, but during the final two months of the 2013 season — 49 games — he only managed 11. 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see where Acuna ends up after April. 


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