Braves: Ronald Acuña and the Braves favored by ESPN

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A panel of 32 MLB experts at ESPN published their predictions for baseball’s major awards on Tuesday, and as expected, a couple of Braves were involved. 

NL MVP — Ronald Acuna Jr.

Receiving 9 of the 32 votes for the National League MVP award, Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. led the way in ESPN’s predictions, thanks to an almost-historic 2019 campaign in which the young star came just three stolen bases away from posting a 40 HR / 40 SB season (a feat accomplished by only four other players in history). 

 

ESPN’s 2020 NL MVP Projection

  • Ronald Acuna Jr., OF (ATL) — 9 votes
  • Mookie Betts, OF (LAD) — 6 votes
  • Christian Yelich, OF (MIL) — 5 votes
  • Bryce Harper, OF (PHI) — 4 votes
  • Juan Soto, OF (WSN) — 4 votes 
  • Pete Alonso, 1B (NYM) — 1 vote
  • Javier Baez, 2B (CHC) — 1 vote
  • Kris Bryant, 3B (CHC) — 1 vote
  • Fernando Tatis Jr., SS (SDP) — 1 vote

 

I have to say, I’m surprised at the absence of Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman, but regardless this is quite a talented group of players. And though Acuña came just short of a 40/40 season last year, perhaps a 20/20 performance in the year 2020 is in store. According to his ZiPS projections (via FanGraphs)… it wouldn’t be completely outlandish.

Acuna’s 2020 ZiPS: 57 G, .286 AVG, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 13 SB, 1.7 WAR

 

NL Cy Young — Mike Soroka

Where’s the love for Mike Soroka and the fact that he’s coming off a 2019 season that featured a sub-3.00 ERA and the NL’s lowest home run rate allowed? I know he has instantly raised the bar quite high, finishing 6th in the Cy Young vote last season, but I expected a little more confidence in the soon-to-be 23-year-old Canadian.

 

ESPN’s 2020 NL Cy Young Projection 

  • Walker Buehler, RHP (LAD) — 8 votes
  • Max Scherzer, RHP (WSN) — 6 votes
  • Jacob deGrom, RHP (NYM) — 4 votes
  • Jack Flaherty, RHP (STL) — 3 votes
  • Josh Hader, RHP (MIL) — 3 votes
  • Stephen Strasburg, RHP (WSN) — 3 votes 
  • Luis Castillo, RHP (CIN) — 2 votes
  • Clayton Kershaw, LHP (LAD) 1 vote
  • Aaron Nola, RHP (PHI) — 1 vote 
  • Mike Soroka, RHP (ATL) — 1 vote 

 

Whether Soroka should’ve received more votes or not, repeating his 2019 will be quite challenging, especially given his innings total is expected to drop by roughly 60% in 2020 (60 games doesn’t leave a guy many starts). Regardless, ZiPS projects some regression from Soroka in 2020, but I think I speak for us all when I say I’d be more than happy with the numbers below:

Soroka’s 2020 ZiPS: 11 starts, 65 IP, 3.32 ERA, 7.89 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 1.4 WAR

 

If it’s any consolation … the folks at ESPN do predict the Braves to win the NL East, giving them 16 votes, compared to 10 for the Nationals, 4 for the Mets and 2 for the Phillies. However, the NL Pennant is all Dodgers, as LA paces the field with 24 votes, compared to the second-place Braves… with just 2. 

But given ESPN has the Dodgers pegged as 2020 World Series champs… by a long shot (18 votes compared to just 6 for the Yankees), I’m not too disappointed about the Braves’ overall projections. Predictions don’t matter anyway, right? 

 

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