I reported yesterday that Ronald Acuña Jr could be back in the lineup on Friday for the home opener against the Diamondbacks, and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to keep up his MVP campaign.
Madison Bumgarner v RHH in 2021:
If Ronald Acuña Jr is back in the lineup this weekend, he has a golden opportunity to feast on MadBum.
— SportsTalkATL Jake (@cantguardjake) April 22, 2021
Acuña’s matchup with Bumgarner isn’t the only promising sign, as the Braves will face off against Luke Weaver on Friday and Zac Gallen on Sunday. I’m actually a pretty big fan of both of these guys; I think they are exceptionally talented young arms — currently playing well. However, I will not be a fan of them this weekend; I’m hoping a healthy Acuña gets right back to his MVP pace. He won’t have it as easy against Weaver or Gallen, but I believe in his ability to hit off of anyone.
Before I talk about those guys, I have to point out that Ronald has tortured the Diamondbacks — like most teams in the MLB.
Acuña Jr vs the Diamondbacks: .296/.397/.574/.971, 9 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 3 SB
Luke Weaver was part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade, and he has been a solid addition to this Diamondbacks rotation. Weaver had a bad 2020, posting a 6.58 ERA and leading the league in losses with nine. However, he has bounced back in 2021 — giving up only seven earned runs in 16.2 innings pitched with a 0.84 WHIP. He has only allowed a .593 OPS to righties in 2021 but allowed a .786 OPS to right-handed batters in 2020. Over his career against the Braves with 71 plate appearances, Weaver has allowed a .755 OPS, 17 hits, five walks, five doubles, and two home runs — not awful, but not great. Ronald will have to get him out of this groove against right-handed batters, but lefties have a much better time with Weaver — opening the door for Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies.
Zac Gallen has been fantastic in 2021, and I’m happy the former Marlin is no longer in the division after being traded for Jazz Chisholm. He’s given up a few walks, but he has only given up four earned runs over 9.2 innings pitched, with a nice 3.39 FIP. Gallen has handled righties pretty well, only allowing a .614 OPS — so Acuña may have his work cut out for him. However, he has done a fantastic job of not chasing in 2021, so he could force a few walks out of Gallen. Zac Gallen has never faced the Braves in his career.
Finally, the bullpen. Once considered a weakness for Arizona, they have been pretty solid so far in terms of ERA in 2021. They were ranked in the bottom six by Fangraphs to start the season, but they currently rank eighth in total ERA. Yoan Lopez, Riley Smith, Caleb Smith, Kevin Ginkel, and others have been very solid thus far. However, there are some cracks in the armor:
2021 Yoan Lopez v RHH: .961 OPS, 5 H, 4 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 BB
2021 Riley Smith: 12.2 IP, 13 H, 4 ER, 6 BB
2021 Caleb Smith v RHH: .732 OPS, 8 H, 4 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 BB
Kevin Ginkel has been the most impressive, but lefties touch him up to the tune of a 1.030 OPS. It’s also worth noting that Ronald has absolutely owned Caleb Smith from his days with the Marlins:
Ronald Acuña Jr vs Caleb Smith: .308/.400/1.000/1.400, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB
Arizona has exceeded expectations, but regardless of whoever the Diamondbacks throw out there, I expect Ronald to come out and prove that he’s on a mission to win the 2021 NL MVP and a championship for the Braves.