Braves GM talks Ronald Acuna Jr.’s 2022 season and 2023 outlook

Braves FanGraphs Acuna

Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the most electrifying players the game of baseball has ever seen. The Venezuelan superstar is oozing with talent, but that’s not what we saw throughout the 2022 campaign from the Braves right fielder.

Acuna slashed .266/.351/.413 with 15 bombs and 24 doubles in his first season back after tearing his ACL, which undoubtedly affected his season. His .764 OPS was the lowest of his career by a large margin. He averaged a .925 OPS per season before the injury, with his lowest mark coming in 2019, more than 100 points higher than his 2022 OPS.

Acuna struggled in all facets of the game, not just offensively. His defense took a step back in 2022, and he was thrown out on would-be steals more than ever before, leading the league in that metric. But members of the Braves organization expect Acuna to be closer to his pre-injury self in 2023.

In an interview with The AthleticAlex Anthopoulos talked about Acuna’s 2022 campaign and the 2023 outlook. He acknowledged how timid the 25-year-old was in the field, which is where the ACL injury occurred. However, Anthopoulos brought up an interesting point: Acuna’s sprint speed pre- and post-injury was the same on the base paths but different in the field. It’s possible some of his shortcomings were mentally induced and not physical.

AA went on to project a much better 2023 campaign for Acuna, pointing out the club’s June 7th matchup against the Athletics, in which he went 4-for-4 with two home runs as a sign he was turning the corner. Unfortunately, Acuna didn’t return to form, but his underlying metrics — 92nd percentile in hard-hit percentage and expected slugging percentage — suggest he’s still that dude.

That two home run game did remind everyone of how electric and dominant Ronald Acuna can be when he’s right. The Braves GM brought up his 2021 season and how he carried the offense for the first month of the season. Acuna was well on his way to an MVP before the injury — .990 OPS, 52 RBIs, and 24 home runs in about half a season.

If the Braves get anywhere close to the 2018-2021 version of RAJ, the one that slashed .281/.376/.550 and flirted with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bags in 2019, it’ll be a tremendous boost for the team. During that magical 2021 campaign, he was actually on pace for an 8+ WAR season — about four times what he contributed last year.

FanGraphs projects a .270/.367/.487 slash line with 31 home runs and 34 steals, accruing 5.4 WAR, which would be more than double what he contributed in 2022. Those are a bit down on his career marks, but they’re nothing to scoff at and would be a significant improvement from what the club received from him last season.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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