Ronald Acuna, Spencer Strider among best MLB players to build a team around

MLB: JUL 01 Marlins at Braves

The Braves feature loads of young talent; in fact, it’s the best core in baseball, and it’s not even close when considering the combination of talent and contracts.

Every single position except for left field is locked up for the foreseeable future. Michael Harris II is signed through 2032, Ronald Acuña Jr. through 2028, Matt Olson through 2030, Ozzie Albies through 2027, Orlando Arcia through 2026, Austin Riley through 2033, and Sean Murphy and Spencer Strider through 2029.

It’s a testament to Alex Anthopoulos and company’s work acquiring, developing, and extending talent. Every club would love to be in the Braves shoes. Two of the aforementioned stars were even included in Bleacher Report’s top 10 best players to build a team around — Strider and Acuna.

Strider came in ranked 8th, and it’s easy to see why he’s included. Starting pitchers with his stuff come along once in a generation. His slider induces whiffs more than 50% of the time, leading to insane strikeout numbers. He has 419 punchouts in 273.1 innings in the majors and has broken strikeout records in each of these past two seasons, including the fastest pitcher to 200 strikeouts in a season — a record he’s broken twice.

The Braves inked the hard-throwing righty to a six-year, $75 million extension last October, which can only be seen as an absolute steal considering the price tag for starting pitchers is approaching $50 million per season. He would’ve won Rookie of the Year last year had Michael Harris II not existed.

Spencer Strider is a perennial Cy Young contender and every rotation would love to have him, but he’s not as valuable as Ronald Acuña Jr, who came in ranked 2nd, behind only Shohei Ohtani.

The Venezuelan superstar is the best player in baseball. Ohtani shouldn’t be included in these arguments because he’s an alien; it’s my article, so I’ll do what I want. Ronald Acuña Jr. is the best player in baseball and the NL MVP frontrunner.

After winning the Rookie of the Year award as a 20-year-old in 2018, Acuña followed it up with a near 40-40 finish to his sophomore campaign, ending the season with 41 home runs and 37 steals en route to a fifth-place finish in the NL MVP voting that season.

Acuña was well on his way to winning his first MVP in 2021, enjoying the best campaign of his career before an ACL injury ended his season. When he returned in 2022, he just wasn’t the same, but he’s back and better than ever in 2023.

Acuña is slashing .338/.423/.577 with 29 doubles, 27 home runs, 73 RBI, 109 runs scored and 55 steals, all good for a 6.2 fWAR in 119 games. We’ve never seen a combination of this kind of speed and power. Oh yeah, he’s also under contract until 2028 at the very reasonable price of $100 million across eight years.

It might just be the biggest bargain in the history of sports.

David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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