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Acuna is Back for the Atlanta Braves and the Clear Frontrunner for NL MVP

Acuna with the Florida Fire Frogs in 2017

Who’s the most exciting player in baseball?  Many might say Shohei Ohtani or Aaron Judge.  But, if you turn your attention to the National League, the conversation probably starts with Ronald Acuna Jr.  In 2022, Acuna was coming off an ACL tear that caused him to miss most of the 2021 World Series Championship season.  While he had an All-Star season in 2022, 15 HR/50 RBIs/.266 BA/.764 OPS and 29 stolen bases still seemed to fall short.

Coming into 2023, baseball writers and pundits were high on Acuna.  Many suggested his full recovery from the ACL tear would have him poised for an MVP caliber season.  These types of predictions seem to rarely come to fruition, but in this case they were on the right track.

Inside the Numbers

It’s hard to believe Ronald Acuna Jr. is only 26 years old, because it seems his name has been circulating in baseball circles for such a long time.  Acuna burst on the scene in Atlanta in 2018 at age 20, capturing the NL Rookie of the Year award.  It’s been difficult to realize the full potential of Acuna, due to a combination of the 2020 COVID shortened season and his 2021 injury.  This disrupted the momentum he had coming out of an incredible 2019 season.  Here’s a closer look at his productivity:

  • 2018:  26 HR / 64 RBI / 16 SB / .293 BA / .917 OPS (111 games)
  • 2019   41 HR / 101 RBI / 37 SB / .280 BA / .883 OPS (156 games) *AS*SS*
  • 2020:  14 HR / 29 RBI / 8 SB / .250 BA / .987 OPS (46 games) *SS*
  • 2021:   24 HR / 52 RBI / 17 SB / .283 BA / .990 OPS (82 games) *AS*
  • 2022:   15 HR / 50 RBI / 29 SB / .266 BA / .764 OPS (119 games) *AS*

Thus far in 2023, Acuna’s number are already as good as 2022, and the season isn’t even half done.

  • 2023:  15 HR / 45 RBI / 30 SB / .326 BA / .966 OPS (71 games)

At this clip, Acuna has the potential, considering his number of home runs and stolen bases, to join the elite 40/40 club.  He will easily surpass 40 stolen bases, most likely by the All-Star Break.  If he’s able to keep up with his current home run pace, he may indeed break 40 by the end of September.  Perhaps the most impressive improvement in Acuna’s game is his ability to hit for contact.  He’s previously not broken .300 in his career.

Keeping the Braves on Top

The Atlanta Braves are easily one of the top five teams in MLB and arguably the best overall.  Despite an number of key injuries on their pitching staff (Max Fried and Kyle Wright), they have held it together on the pitching side.  However, it’s those bats that are the key to their success.  Ronald Acuna Jr.is without question the best lead-0ff hitter in the game.  He leads the league in runs scored, stolen bases and total bases.  But, followed in the lineup by Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Sean Murphy and Matt Olson the Braves lineup offers no relief for opposing pitchers.  Unsurprisingly, the team lead all of MLB in homers, SLG and OPS.

As the Braves look to capture the NL East title again this season, Ronald Acuna Jr. will likely continue to be at the forefront of their success.  In recent days, there’s been some discussion about the NL MVP race.  Acuna sits on top the list, followed by Freddie Freeman, Corbin Carroll, Luis Arraez and Mookie Betts.  So long as Acuna continues producing at this pace, it would be difficult to vote against him.

Brian is the Co-Owner/Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and son George. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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