One of the hottest topics of the offseason has been where the Braves will bat last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Ronald Acuña.
Acuña broke out once the Braves opted to move him to the leadoff spot last year, slashing .328/.409/.634 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs in 67 games. During that time, he also proved to be the Braves most proficient power option available to them. Which led to the question: Do you give your best player the most at-bats in a position where he is comfortable or do you move him to the cleanup spot where he will have more RBI opportunities?
Snitker has answered that several times in the form of his lineup cards this spring training, consistently hitting Acuña 4th, but today, he made it official: Acuña will be hitting cleanup to begin the season, Snitker told 680 The Fan.
#Braves manager, Brian Snitker announced to The Front Row this morning that Acuña will bat clean up to start the season. Everyone has been wondering where Acuña would hit in the line-up and now we know! pic.twitter.com/VV9xelymd0
— 680 The Fan (@680TheFan) March 19, 2019
This is contrary to what many fans wanted, and Acuña himself has said that he would like to remain in the leadoff role. However, in my opinion, it is the correct choice.
One thing Atlanta’s lineup lacks is power. The Braves are not the Red Sox; they do not have the luxury of hitting their best player first because they don’t have six guys in their lineup that can hit 20+ home runs. The Braves should be able to find the right guy to get on in front of what will be one of the hardest stretches in the MLB for opposing pitchers to face (Donaldson, Freeman, and Acuña).
With Donaldson and Freeman batting in front of Acuña, the 21-year old phenom will have plenty of more opportunities to drive in runs. That was not going to be the case in the leadoff spot.
Not only would Acuña’s first at-bat take place with nobody on, but his following at-bats would occur after Dansby Swanson and the pitcher’s spot. It’s foolish to think he will have nearly as many opportunities batting behind those two as he would hitting behind Donaldson and Freeman. Plus, for the first time in years, Freeman will have the protection he needs.
For the entirety of this rebuild, pitchers have been throwing around Freddie Freeman, knowing that the next batter in the lineup could not cause nearly as much damage. That will no longer be the case, which should allow Freeman to have a career year and possibly make an MVP-run himself.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, it is not a permanent one. The Braves will experiment with this lineup for the first month or so, and if Snitker feels like it is not working, Acuña can always be moved back up to the leadoff role. Until then, it is going to be thrilling to see Acuña hit with more opportunities to drive runs in.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)