Braves: Ronald Acuna wins NL Player of the Week 

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Make that three times now; the Braves 23-year-old superstar outfielder has won Player of the Week honors banged-up. Ronald Acuna Jr. was deemed the best from the National League on Monday for games last week — April 12th-18th.

Along with Acuna from the NL, White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon — who tossed a no-hitter against Cleveland last Wednesday — represented the American League, which, along with teammate Yermín Mercedes from last Monday, gives the White Sox back-to-back Players of the Week.

I’ve recently written about Acuna’s hot start, last week comparing what he’s done so far with three of the best starts in Braves franchise history, but barring a lengthy absence due to his abdominal strain, I believe wholeheartedly that we’re about to witness the most impressive month of April by a Braves hitter… all time. 

Ironically, Acuna’s stat line for the last seven days was actually a bit of a decline relative to what he was producing coming into last week. The outfielder won the award Monday because of his three home runs and .385/.515/.846 slash-line through the seven-game period of April 12th-18th, a helluva week by any measure. But Acuna finished April 11th, hitting an even better .444/.462/.917. Even with a 71-point drop in OPS, usually a rough week for most players, Acuna was still the best hitter in the sport. 

With his status deemed day-to-day on Monday, it’s still unknown whether Acuna will play in the upcoming series versus the Yankees — starting Tuesday. Or, since there’s another off day coming Thursday, manager Brian Snitker could choose to play it safe and opt to keep the outfielder out until the weekend. Regardless, whenever Acuna does return to the plate, he’ll most likely still lead the majors in just about every offensive category.

Here’s where Acuna ranks in MLB as of Monday…

  • 1.6 fWAR (1st)
  • 7 HR (1st)
  • 21 runs (1st)
  • 16 RBI (t-2nd)
  • 253 wRC+ (1st)
  • .887 SLG (1st)
  • .486 OBP (4th)
  • .419 AVG (2nd)
  • .468 ISO (1st)

What’s so absurd about this incredible start to the season is that Acuna’s underlying numbers don’t suggest anything wildly unsustainable. Other than a BABIP currently running 70 points higher than his career norm, the peripherals are quite solid. 

Acuna’s approach at the plate is incredible right now, as this season he’s struck out just one more time than he’s walked (10 K / 9 BB). And his Statcast-based numbers are consistent as well; according to Baseball Savant, thanks to an average exit-velocity of 95.6 MPH (a career-high), Acuna’s wOBA and expected-wOBA are only 51 points apart — meaning he has earned essentially everything he’s accomplished thus far. In fact, his .395 expected AVG is only 24 points below his actual .419 AVG at this point, which is pretty unbelievable given just how great his results have been. I mean, how many players do you think, even over just a 16-game span like Acuna so far, are ever expected to hit nearly .400? 

But of course, it wouldn’t be very reasonable to expect this to continue all season. Acuna’s numbers will eventually begin to regress. However, the million-dollar question is just how much will these numbers decline, and if they don’t, at what point in the season do we start to wonder whether or not his 2021 season has the potential to be historic? Obviously it’s still too early to begin the greatest of all-time discussions, but at his current pace, Acuna definitely is on track. I point towards Memorial Day — the end of May — as the best juncture in the season to start really appreciating players’ statistics for what they are and determining whether the standings carry any real weight. We’ll just have to see.

But regardless of whether Acuna does the unthinkable and puts together the best single-season in baseball history or not, his start to 2021 — specifically these last 16 games — will be remembered for a long time here in Braves Country. Now hopefully, the NL’s Player of the Week can hurry up and get healthy so we can see just how great he plays this week. 


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