The Braves were going to be a better team in 2023 than the one that won over 100 games, despite losing Dansby Swanson, for several reasons, but none more prominent than a fully healthy Ronald Acuna Jr., who is arguably one of the top talents in baseball.
The 25-year-old phenom is finally back healthy and is back to contributing in every facet of the game — defense, base running, and offense. He’s scoring from first, throwing guys out at home, and looks as strong as ever.
The Venezuelan superstar is currently slashing .355/.429/.613 with two home runs, good for a 1.041 OPS, while also swiping two bags. Moreover, Acuna has scored an MLB-leading eight runs. There might not be a more exciting player in baseball when he’s healthy; 2021 pre-injury Ronald Acuna seems to be back. And the advanced data backs it up.
Acuña’s speed was down from its usual lofty perch at or near the 100th percentile of all baserunners, which is as good as it gets.
- 2018: 97th percentile
- 2019: 96th percentile
- 2020: 96th percentile
- 2021: 97th percentile
- 2022: 82nd percentile
It was worth wondering whether he was hesitant to tax the knee, or was just no longer capable of reaching those top-end speeds. Consider that worry alleviated, because so far, he’s back into the 96th percentile, or exactly where he’d been pre-injury. Plus, on Wednesday, when he beat out an infield single hit to slick-fielding Cardinals shortstop Tommy Edman, he made it from home to first base in 4.16 seconds. That would have ranked as his sixth-fastest home-to-first time of the entire 2022 season. It’s nice to just look at his .313/.421/.500 line and say Acuña is back, but we look at this data as well – and Acuña is back.
The Braves are looking like the top team in baseball right now, and Ronald Acuna Jr. being healthy is a driving factor in the club’s dominance. There’s never been a doubt about his talent; he’s a top-three player in baseball. The concern has always been health. If he can remain on the field, there’s no reason he can’t win NL MVP and lead the Braves to another 100+ win season.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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