The Baseball Case for Sending Ronald Acuna Down

When was the first time you heard of Ronald Acuna, Jr? Be honest.

If you said 2014 and your name is not “Kiley McDaniel,” you’re probably lying.

Acuna was signed as an international free agent in 2014. That season the Braves had limited funds to spend on the international market. Their monies were tied up in Major League albatross contracts for Melvin Upton and Dan Uggla. They were not players for any of the major names of that year’s international free agency class. Their newly promoted GM wunderkind was strategizing a new approach, hoarding international free agent dollars for a big splash two years to come. In 2014, the Braves were looking at low key, lesser known guys. Prospects who wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred thousand or so to sign. Fliers.

One of those guys was the son of a former minor leaguer who had a connection to the team. Ron Acuna, Sr had been player in the late 90’s. Rolando Petit, a longtime scout in his native Venezuela, had watched him work out. Ron’s son was also a player. Petit still worked the territory for the Braves. The same guy that scouted Dad back in the day signed his kid for $100k. Not a million dollars. Not 6 million dollars. One hundred thousand dollars.

Ronald Acuna, Jr was a lottery ticket.

He debuted as a professional in 2015. He split the short rookie league season between two squads. First up was Danville of the Appalachian League. Then a mid-season call-up to the franchise run Gulf Coast League Braves.* He did reasonably well at both stops. Not outlandishly well; reasonably well. 290/388/464 (851) in the APPY. 258/376/424 (800) at the GULF. That’s a solid, if unspectacular debut. Especially for a kid who was playing two and a half to three years younger than the respective leagues. Showed promise to be sure. Earned next year’s promotion to A-ball certainly. But Ronald Acuna, Jr still wasn’t a name brand prospect at this point. Not yet. You still hadn’t heard of him.

[ED: *In fact Acuna debuted in the Gulf Coast League, and then was promoted to Danville. The GCL is the lower level of “rookie league” baseball]

Acuna opened 2016 at single-A Rome. Again, he put up good but not otherworldly numbers. He was strong out of the gate, but then his season was derailed by injury. On May 13 Acuna was placed on Rome’s 7-day DL. He would not return to game action until August 22. He was reactivated and played a couple of rehab games back in the GULF before returning to Rome. There he played out the remainder of the South Atlantic League’s season. His combined line for all of 2016 was 312/392/429 (821). Again, a solid 800+ OPS while once more playing against competition three and a half years older than him. But you still hadn’t heard of him.

At this point he starts getting noticed a little. MLB Prospect Watch drops him into the #18 spot on their 2016 list of Braves. Right between Rio Ruiz and Dustin Pederson. Minor League Ball had him at #16, two slots behind world-killer Braxton Davidson. He didn’t break B-Pro’s top ten for 2016, nor was he included in their “five who are just interesting” list of also-rans. (Johan Camargo and Future Hall of Famer Mallex Smith were.) By now, deep prospect hounds are probably hearing his name, but they’re not talking about him with bated breath. He’s an interesting kid who lost half a season in A-ball. He’s not Dansby Swanson (#1) or Ozzie Albies (#3) in the pipeline. He’s not Kevin Maitan, who we hear the Braves are the favorites to sign!

In the winter between the minor league seasons of 2016 and 2017, Acuna was sent to Australia. He had just missed half or more of his A-ball campaign to injury and as a developing player, he needed at bats. The Australian Baseball League plays a short season during the summer month’s down under, which is usually off-season in America, because Oz is quite literally on the other side of the planet. Up is down, left is right, and winter is baseball season.

The AUBL is generally populated by MLB or MiLB washouts, foreign league journeymen, aging vets who still want to play the game a little, and Dave Nillson’s kids. Acuna was six years (6!) younger than the average player during his stint there. He hit 375/446/556 for a cool 1.001 OPS. He destroyed the league. But then again, so did David Rodriguez and Donald Lutz. Go ahead. Look those guys up. I’ll wait.

Be honest. If you’re not Kiley McDaniel, this is when you first heard of Ronald Acuna, Jr.

Coming off his destruction of the AUBL, the Braves promoted Acuna to their advanced A+ affiliate in Florida. This is, of course, where the mythos really kicks into high gear. He opens 2017 with an 814 OPS for the Fire Frogs (-3.8 years against league) He jumps up to AA Mississippi where he improves on that, posting an 895 (-5 years against the league.) Another bounce up the ladder where he proceeds to destroy AAA. With Gwinnett (-7.8(?!!?) years against the league) he drops a 940. The Braves keep this ship running full steam ahead and send him to Arizona for the Fall League. The OPS jumps to 1.053 (-3.5 years against the league.)

By now you have heard of Ronald Acuna. Everyone has. He is now not only the #1 prospect in the Braves system. Depending on how your rate Shohei Ohtani he may also be the #1 prospect in all of baseball. He is now officially RONALD FREAKING ACUNA, THE NEXT GREAT ATLANTA BRAVE!

The rest is common knowledge. Spring training invite. 432/519/727 (1.247) Sillyball numbers. Utter domination. The Boy Who Hits. Etc. Et al. And then the reassignment. Cue the sturm and drang. Bring on the professional wailers and paid mourners. Let us all gather together and spit into the wind about a transaction absolutely guaranteed by the current MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement. Let us gather around the fire and damn the evil suits for their Evil Suityness. Yes, yes. Let it out. Come together, bruhs and lady-bruhs. Shout with me. Primal scream therapy is only a crock of shit if you believe in science.

Okay. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, can we take a minute? Can we maybe step back a hair’s breadth from the precipice and reassess?

Ronald Acuna, who has played past his father’s minor league career and no longer requires the “Jr”, is a absolute phenom. He’s amazing. He’s had a stretch of baseball over the last 18 months that has been almost unreal. And he is 19.

Ronald Acuna played 55 games in Rookie ball when he was 17. 237 plate appearances.

Ronald Acuna played 42 games in A-ball (+2 rehab games back at Rookie level) when he was 18. 179 plate appearances. He played 20 games in Australia that winter. 83 plate appearances.

Prior to last year, Ronald Acuna had played in all of 117 professional baseball games. Less than a three quarters of a Major League season’s slate. 499 plate appearances; 427 official at bats.

In 2017, inclusive of the AFL, he saw 139 games, 612 PAs, and 557 at bats.

The arguments that Acuna is ready to break camp with the Braves, and that he is by far their best LF option, are hard to ignore. Impossible to ignore, really. His last 18 months of baseball have been otherworldly. Jaw dropping. Mind blowing. His reassignment to the minor league camp, and his next few weeks playing in Gwinnett rather than Cobb County is driven almost entirely by the financial games of MLB’s arbitration and free agency rules.

That said, he is a 19-year-old kid who has never played more than 140 games in a single year. Until last year he was an interesting but not terribly inspiring youngster with extremely limited exposure, in a sea of minor league possibilities. He’s never played a full year with a single club. He’s never been in a league long enough for opposing pitchers to develop a book on him. He’s never struggled.  He’s never had to adjust to better pitchers than his natural skills can handle. He’s never had to deal with failure.

All of these are things Ronald Acuna will eventually face. And there are actual good reasons to want him to face them in the lower pressure environment of the minor leagues, rather than in the glaring spotlights of The Show. Good baseball reasons. Good human being development reasons. No, I do not think those reasons are the driving force behind his reassignment this spring. I acknowledge that move to be driven almost entirely by the CBA. That said…

Given the reality of arb and free agency clocks; given the actual career of the prospect to date; given how young the kid is… I can personally justify sending him down, not only as “smart business” but also as “smart player development.” Yes, I am aware that he crushed spring training into a bloody pulp. I am aware that he is far more talented than any other outfielder the team has available to them in 2018.

I am also aware that he is a teenager who has never once in his life faced adversity on the diamond. I am aware that his entire professional career to date is barely longer than the first season of Firefly. I am aware of the fact that the average quality of pitcher he faced in this year’s spring at bats was just below what you’d expect to see in AA. B-Ref has an OppQual measure they generate with spring stats. 7 is AA caliber. 8 is AAA. 10 is MLB quality. Acuna’s average OppQual rating this spring was 6.9.

So, as I was saying… Can we take a minute? Can we step back a little and put the raging hormones of a fandom deferred away for just a sec? Let us retire, at least briefly, the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. It’s two and a half weeks. Six games at home, another nine on the road, and then he’s through the arb clock window and available for an April 16 debut at the stadium whose nickname I get yelled at for using. Tickets available now. If the Braves lose a playoff berth in the first two weeks of the season, Ronald Acuna wouldn’t have made them contenders anyway.

And if he’s not called up for that series? If he’s not killing everything at AAA and Preston Tucker is doing yeoman’s work in LF? Then maybe there was something a 19 year old with limited playing time could learn standing in against quad-A and MLB shuttle types? Maybe a couple of weeks, or even a couple of months of the dreaded “seasoning” wasn’t such a bad idea at all.

112 thoughts on “The Baseball Case for Sending Ronald Acuna Down”

  1. Very nice post by Sam, but I think even he would agree that if the weird arb/clock rules didn’t exist, Acuna would be in our opening day lineup.

  2. I can’t believe he wasn’t mentioned here before this, but the first mention of “Acuna” that I find in the comments here appears to be from exactly two years ago, by me, in response to Krussell:

    krussell Says:
    @15, lol. In my defense, the declining years of Raffy Ramirez were so bad that pretty much anyone looked like they’d be the next great things compared to him.

    Andres Thomas. Brad Komminsk. My early Braves years are filled with prospect expectations and dashed hopes. That’s why I fully expect Dansby Swanson to be barely replacement level. Can’t get hurt that way.
    — March 28th, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:
    Don’t forget about Ronald Acuna and Austin Riley!
    — March 28th, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Rafael Ramírez (by ububba)

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose…

  3. IIRC, I remember people in the comments in 2015 mentioning Acuna as one of those far-off potential guys to dream on, basically like people are doing with Pache right now (or like they were doing with Edward Salcedo a couple years before that).

  4. I remember whispers about him from that time frame too. He was an athletic toolsy outfielder who could be worth watching if he put it together and grew into his power.

  5. Chip and Joe just interviewed AA. You could just feel Joe giving him the stink eye every time the word “analytics” came up.

    AA brought up the “eye test” a few times and it seemed to settle him down some

    Edit: Joe said as much the next half inning haha

  6. Great post.

    I was a tiny bit concerned when I saw what I posted yesterday. has a tool where you can see how an entire organizations top hitting prospects fared against only such pitchers as ranked in all the other orgs Top 30 prospects that are pitchers.

    Albies was 2nd in our org at like .336 in ~100 ABs vs. only the MLB Org Top 30s and Pache was last at .162 and Acuna was at .257.

    Despite Spring, I believe that we should be looking at a hitter in the mid .270s with alot of Ks. Facing an OppQual of 6.9 and facing Max Scherzer who is not just ‘working on stuff’ is a big difference.

    I absolutely 100% believe in him, but I believe that there are more baseball reasons than what people are thinking.

  7. I really enjoyed the write up on Acuna. Technically Wren’s administration gets credit for signing him, but in reality there are hundreds upon hundred of prospects with similar pedigrees that never make it out of AA. It just confirms that the scouting is a crapshoot, with a few highly probables thrown in.

    My only prediction for Acuna is that he’ll outhit Kemp from last year. Looking back at Kemp’s stats, I think Tucker could come close to a .276 BA with a .781 OPS.

  8. My only prediction for Acuna is that he’ll outhit Kemp from last year. Looking back at Kemp’s stats, I think Tucker could come close to a .276 BA with a .781 OPS.

    Ronald Acuna (19): 3 years, 1028 plate appearences, 310/378/488 (866)
    Preston Tucker (27): 6 years, 2351 plate appearances, 282/353/491 (844)

    Tucker got started later, due to playing four years at U of Florida. His numbers, particularly his power stats, are somewhat inflated due to his time in the thin air of PCL parks.

  9. Preston Tucker remains the opposing hitter I’ve feared most in my 18 years as a Vanderbilt baseball fan. Hated when that guy came to the plate; always felt like he was going to hit a 5-run homer.

  10. @15, I doubt its anything more than a short DL stint, but I still think the Braves should have made a bigger effort to sign a 3B this offseason if Rio Ruiz is the plug in.

  11. Camargo/Ruiz/Santana/Culberson…I think the correct answer is none of the above. Unless the question is “who do you not want to see on your opening day roster?”

  12. Sam…

    Masterly summation, thank you. Good to be reminded there was a SR but now our guy has more than earned the right to be called his own man.

    Your conclusion is a bit too tidy though. Your most thorough listing of what he has accomplished speaks for itself, there is no need now for an age qualifier.

    I have written here more than once, and used Acuna as an exemplar, how the sports word is changing with regard to the responsibility that can be placed on young ‘phenomic’ shoulders. Verstappen/Neymar etc – these guys had already achieved idol status at seventeen and have proved more than worthy of it. They are at the very top of their intensely competitive professions, they got there very quickly.

    Our guy is 20. He is being asked to fit in gently somewhere in the middle of the league talent at first. No one expects Trout numbers in his first year, but after that, which one would you choose ahead if you had to do it now?

    I hope the FO don’t come to regret their mealy mouthed attitude to his call up date. They risk two things- empty seats and ruffled feathers which might still be askew when FA approaches. 13 days if we must, Sam, but months, never.Thanks again for a great piece. Age means nothing now, except for us!

  13. Your conclusion is a bit too tidy though. Your most thorough listing of what he has accomplished speaks for itself, there is no need now for an age qualifier.

    My primary concern isn’t his age. It’s the fact that he’s never been in a single competitive league for more than 57 games. No league has had the chance to scout him, book him, adjust to him, and pitch him against his instinctual tendencies. He hits a level, plays 25-50 games, and gets promoted. That suggests to me that he’s almost always being treated as “the new kid who just got called up.” That in turn suggests to me that he’s almost certainly seen a steady diet of fastball after fastball after fastball, because that’s what pitchers do to new kids who just got called up. They challenge them with heat “at the next level.” And if they hit the heat, they come back next time through and pitch him more strategically. Acuna has never been in a single league long enough to get to “the next time through.”

  14. Very nice piece, Sam. There are two conflicting tendencies… While hundreds of guys have been brought up too soon, demoralized and then stunted, there are a handful of immortals (as we know them to be with hindsight) who can thrive at 19 or 20 with little seasoning. Aaron had under 1000 Minor League at bats. Willy Mays came up after 367, though he was sent down for another 150. Ted Williams was just over 1000. I’m definitely not saying Acuna is any of those guys. But there are a few who can do it, and two weeks doesn’t make much difference one way or the other to find out. Junior was under 800 AB. For the players who are good enough to play at 19, you just can’t accumulate many plate appearances. Andruw Jones started so young that he had time to accumulate over 1200 AB, but only once did he play a full season in one place.

  15. I still do not find the case for sending Acuna down at all convincing from a baseball perspective.

    Doesn’t Acuna’s “lottery ticket” status speak more to the absence of a player development system in Venezuela comparable to what we have in the US, or even Korea and Japan? It seems like these contracts are as much as about access (to scouts, playing time, etc.) as they are about actual skills. He came out of nowhere partly because he wasn’t from somewhere that enough scouts, etc. paid attention to.

    The arguments about adversity, failure, etc. don’t make much sense to me either. Does the fact that he didn’t receive much attention in Venezuela count as adversity? What about the “reasonably” good 2015 season, after which he was still nowhere near a prospect list? How about the injury-derailed 2016 season? Perhaps he thinks of himself as someone who made his name on his own, overcoming the indifference of scouts, coaches, etc. in and outside of the Braves system. The answer is we don’t know, just like we don’t know about how his “failures” or his “flow.”

    And finally, what’s the measure of “ready” here? My read of what you’re saying is that “prospects often fail, more time won’t hurt, and the Braves won’t make the playoffs this year anyway, so whatever.” Which sure, but that’s different from saying another two weeks in the minors constitutes anything approaching a “baseball decision.” If they want to keep him in AAA through the All-Star Break to see how he and opposing teams make adjustments, then fine since we’re on year four of not caring about results anyway. But that’s not what will likely happen, and that’s not what is being discussed here–we’re talking weeks, not months. And the reason why we’re talking weeks is because it’s obvious that Acuna is ready for a chance at the MLB level. Will he immediately star? Probably not. But there’s plenty of space between “star” and “average major leaguer” that would be useful to the Braves, both this season and in the future. And there’s nothing to say that the development Acuna needs, like any young player, cannot happen at the MLB level over this season and the years to come. I’m also fairly certain he could learn the ropes from the utility-types and AAAA players on the Braves roster, who are and will be legion, and actual MLB players, which might be useful too. Perhaps he ends up like Dansby (who might still be good!), or worse. Maybe he’s another Mike Trout. Or he’s Heyward all over again. But in any event, that’s a question that’s answered in MLB. Unless, of course, you think Acuna could be exposed by AAA pitching in his second go-around in a matter of weeks.

    There are certainly worse things than more “seasoning” for Acuna, but the Braves will likely be worse off for it, except financially. But yes, so long as the team can make a baseball case for keeping Acuna down–not a financial case, since that might not be permitted–he can be stashed for a few weeks in AAA for an extra year of control. And perhaps when the Braves finally complete the rebuild and win the World Series, the writers will rave about all the surplus value on the field.

  16. By not having Camargo as the utility infielder who would still get 350+ PAs, we were always a Camargo, Albies, or Swanson injury away from Ruiz being your starting 3B, and a AAAA player like Santana being on a major league bench. It wasn’t hard to see that we’d have ended up here at some point, and we didn’t even make it to opening day. I’ve written my position previews in order of how optimistic I am about the position/unit, and based on that, I may never get to the bench.

    We didn’t let Dansby stay down in the minors, which is apropo to this post, because Camargo got hurt tripping on the foul line. What did you THINK was going to happen?

  17. I agree with Geoff that if you’re going to hold Acuna down for baseball reasons, it should be longer than about 9 AAA games or so. I actually don’t hate a 3-headed monster of Carrera, Adams, and Tucker fighting to the death over even as many as 200 PAs in left field if you kept Acuna down for a while. If we had absolutely no one, I may feel differently. But we’ve tacked a year onto this rebuild because we traded established players for players that weren’t managed properly and rushing prospects, so let’s not compound the problem.

  18. To be clear:

    1. I don’t think the Braves will leave Acuna at AAA until the end of April. As I said in the article, I think their primary motivation in all of this is arb clock shenanigans.

    2. I would gladly leave him at AAA until the All Star break, barring completely countervailing conditions. Those conditions would be “he’s OPS’ing 2000 bruh” or “the ML team is actually competitive, and Preston Tucker has been an abject nightmare.”

    I don’t believe Acuna is Mike Trout. I am chastened by the Braves track record – Francouer to Heyward to Swanson – of promoting the hot new thang immediately. While I’d love to see the ML team compete in 2018, I don’t see the talent across the roster that’s likely to make that happen. I’d rather have a well developed, “seasonsed” Ronald Acuna from 2019-2023 than a “struggling to adjust at the ML level and dealing with the crush of the ML press” Acuna in 2018.

  19. If Acuna is not up in mid April, it is because he is struggling, hurt or Tucker is leading the league in homeruns.

    This is the season to see what the young guys can do and then build around what we have.

  20. Everyone that fails was rushed. But nobody can ever give a cogent argument on how going back to the minors (where you have already had success) is going to fix it. If you can’t hit Max Scherzer, it would be beneficial to get a lot more ABs against him wouldn’t it? Hitting off of lesser pitchers probably won’t change much of anything.

    Can we at least wait until Acuna struggles before worrying about the but-what-if-he-struggles narrative?

    Also, letting our young guys go through a full season of adjustments and having teams’ scouts and bench coaches picking apart all your weaknesses…that’s totally normal, and delaying that process for a year won’t matter.

  21. @26

    1. Yeah, I can see that at times in the article. I think there’s a baseball case to be made that Acuna might not be the next Mike Trout. But that’s different from a “Baseball Case for Sending Ronald Acuna Down,” as the article is titled. The first doesn’t necessarily follow from the second.

    2. Again, sure, but do you think that’s what the Braves really intend to do? I just don’t think there’s much to be gained from sending him down other than some vague “seasoning,” which here isn’t the “old school” type of know-your-place (McCarthy’s tweet, etc. suggests the players want him up), but rather a front office imperative. I suppose you can construe the move as a “test” of sorts, but it’s tough to test someone’s “make-up” when you’re also delaying their paycheck. And, of course, the only reason were having the conversation is because of the extra year of control.

    3. The track record certainly isn’t great, and I’m totally with you about not getting ahead of ourselves with Acuna. But what did the Angels’ track record look like before Trout? I would imagine much like ours, but that’s an honest question. At some point, “seasoning” comes down to trying to see if someone will fail, and for Acuna, given his record to date, that’s a question for the MLB level. Of course there’s the possibly of struggles at the MiLB level, but that could just happen without it being “telling,” especially if you’re talking about a month or so. I suspect the Braves know that too, which is why we will likely see Acuna up by late April, regardless of whether he’s other-worldly or simply mediocre down at Gwinnett.

  22. I think you’re ignoring my basic argument about the psychology of failure and adjustment. My position is that all players will eventually face failure, and that a very young player who has never faced that failure in a low pressure environment (the minors) is going to have a harder time, mentally, when he first tastes it in the pressure cooker of the Major Leagues. My position is that by failing against quad-A lefty Shuttle McShuttlearm, the hitter is better prepared to understand and successfully navigate failure and adjustment against Max Scherzer. (Also, if Scherzer is the only guy that gets him out, the player isn’t failing. Failure is a prolonged slump against multiple pitchers.)

    That argument may not be sound, but it’s certainly cogent.

  23. @23. I’m hopeful your post wasn’t related to Lucas Sims continuing to be abysmal(again today…). WHY is he even in the picture anymore?

    But to your original point, do I think any of the TINSTAAPPs we have are #1 starters in MLB? I doubt it. Soroka and Wright may be #2s.

    The rest, the Bryce Wilsons and the other guys, no, I don’t think any of them are ace material.

    Remember though this is the same org that thought Wisler and Blair were ‘good’.

  24. I want players that have never faced failure to be on my team and play 162 games. I don’t want to send them somewhere else and wait to see if they might face failure.

  25. Funny headline from the mlb site is “Sims Deals vs Cards”. I’m not sure what he’s dealing, but with 8 runs in 3 innings added to his already abysmal spring, as noted, I think he’ll be getting a chance to deal in the minors in the very near future.

  26. I think Gohara could be a #1 for a little while. I don’t know that he’ll be Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer, but that’s not the standard.

  27. The bar for our #1 is “better than Julio”. A lot of guys in the pipeline can still fill that role.

  28. @35-36
    Granted, but in order to win, we need one of these guys to become a top ten pitcher in the league. The teams that win DO have a Kershaw, Scherzer, Kluber, Sale, Verlander, Bumgarner, so on.

    Right now we have a bunch of guys who project to be, well…Julio. So I don’t think we have anyone in the pipeline who looks to project any better.

  29. @37 I’d say Kyle Wright and Gohara have the greatest chances of turning into #1-ish guys. Kolby Allard has a #1 ceiling if he can regain his fastball velocity.

    I love Soroka – he may not be a huge strikeout guy be he could conceivably become a dominant workhorse pitcher in the mold of Roy Halladay.

  30. Julio’s best season has been repeated twice at 3.2 fWAR. I think we have no less than 7-8 pitchers in AA or higher that project to have peak seasons higher than that. With that said, had one of those 3.2 fWAR seasons been last year, Teheran would have finished as the 21st-most valuable pitcher in baseball. That’s a #1 starter. I think Gohara, Newcomb, Folty, Soroka, Wright, and maybe even Teheran could put up a 4 fWAR season, and if you hit that number, you’re a top-13 pitcher in baseball. And there are only 7 teams last year that said they had a 5 fWAR pitcher, so the ground is very much hallowed and reserved for only a small handful of teams to have a pitcher get to that number.

    It would not surprise me one bit if any of our 5 starters put up a 4 fWAR season this year, thus making them a top-20 starter. I made a more extreme statement at the beginning of the offseason, but all 5 of these guys could do that this year. I mean, Tommy Hanson put up a 4 fWAR season. Javy Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens did it in the same season. Jurrjens almost did it in 2 straight seasons. Hudson did it once. Shoot, McCarthy would have done it last year if he made 30 starts. The point is that our pitching is a lot better than people are giving them credit for, and this is before the “big wave” of pitchers come.

  31. Put it this way: I’d love for someone to explain to me what, if anything, is wrong with Kyle Wright.

  32. There is one comparison we can draw already with Mike Trout. Acuna is the better athlete.

  33. Like, when people say “#1 starter,” I take them to mean this is a pitcher who you start in a playoff game and you expect the team to win.

    Gohara looked like that he could be that guy last season. Wright has looked like he could be that guy almost his whole career.

  34. The post is interesting for the history lesson. But if there were truly “baseball reasons” for sending Acuna down, AA would have been able to articulate them clearly. It’s all about the service time. Everyone knows this, they just can’t say it because they want to avoid a grievance being filed. Fact is, none of us know how he will do, and we won’t know until he gets his shot. But how often do you see a prospect improve results with every promotion? His past performance indicates he is ready right now.

  35. Apparently Chris Stewart is a serious candidate to make the bench so that Snitker won’t be nervous to use a catcher to pinch hit. Smh

  36. The Ancient Greeks
    would play for weeks
    to find the perfect athlete
    but bats and balls
    and all those Halls
    were left for later heroes to compete.

    The pure athlete, Sam, would you deny it? Running above all, jumping, some wrestling. As an example he’s faster. Much follows from that.

    The bats and balls bit we shall see, it should be fun. I was going to suggest that at an appropriate time in the future, a year or so, the two should compete in the classic Olympian style, the winner awarded the classic laurel wreath.

    It would be great if both would agree to a full program of events. But then i read this…

    “During competition and training, athletes were usually naked and covered with olive oil to keep off the dust.”

    That’s your pure athlete, Sam. Trout would be lost.

  37. With the 5-man bench, you typically have a one-dimensional defensive player who is your “first bat off the bench”. Our ideal “first bat off the bench” would be the other half of Flozuki, but you can’t burn him if you don’t have a backup catcher. That’s why the 4-man bench is not ideal; you don’t have room for someone who isn’t versatile defensively. But when your best backup bat is a catcher, you’re heavily limited unless you carry that 3rd catcher. If you design your roster construction and game management to go to Flozuki as the first PH, then it totally makes sense to then have a 4-man remaining bench of Stewart and the rest.

    Another way of saying it: Flozuki as PH is more valuable than your 8th reliever.

  38. @47 -The impact difference of carrying a 6th outfielder vs a 3rd catcher for 2 weeks is infintesimal. I would say put whoever is hitting the best right now on the roster. However, why does it always seem like guys like Santana, who make the team because of a good spring, start off 0 for 20?

  39. Let’s call Tucker your starting LF for 2 weeks, and Ruiz is your starting 3B until Camargo gets back. Who is going to go on a 5-man bench anyway? It seems like you have to go with 6 with Culberson, Santana, Adams, Carrera, Suzuki, and Stewart. I guess then you have a 4-man rotation and 7-man bullpen, and you’ll make some hard decisions about those 3 OFs with some seriously small sample sizes. So when Acuna comes up, one of those 3 either get DFA’ed or sent down. When Camargo returns, Ruiz gets sent down. When you start needing a 5th SP, Stewart gets sent down. Or DFAed? Does he have an option with his minor league deal if he actually gets on the ML roster? He probably passes through waivers anyway.

  40. AJC notes that they will probably carry Stewart because he does not have options, and he’s more likely to make it through waivers two weeks into the season than immediately after ST due to roster lock with other teams.

  41. 51 — They won’t go with a 6 man bench. Either Adams or Carrera is probably out of luck, probably Carrera since we already have a LHB LF in Tucker.

    They probably won’t cut Santana since he can (poorly) play IF also.

  42. Acuna May be faster than Trout today, but I don’t think he’s faster than 19-20-year-old Trout was. Not that it’s a perfect measure of speed, but Trout stole 49 bases as a 20-year-old.

  43. Aaron Blair’s father was in the comments on Talking Chop putting some trolls in their place. Sometimes you just have to call out the good internets when you see it.

  44. Nick Senzel.

    With the Reds just giving Suarez a 6 year 67M contract to play third which, in their minds, moves Senzel to shortstop. Where more than one voice has been heard lately- Keith Law this week – saying he’s not very good there.

    So. Surely this is a better time than ever to talk to them about two young arms we have…or say 2 plus Swanson if they insist, Camargo to short.

  45. @56

    Never said he wasn’t but there will be others better, sheer numbers dictate that and I suggested one. Where Trout may be beyond the rest of the field is in his hand/eye coordination against ML pitching – he hasn’t struck out all spring apparently. This is the crucial unknown that Acuna must now start to come to terms with. But at least his raw athleticism gives him an edge. And silly is a silly word, one fan to another.

  46. His Full Name.

    Johan Valentín Camargo Ramos
    Yo!can Ritalin beat the embargo,Vamos!
    once worked nights widening the Panama Canal
    now ‘locked’ into his new swing which will exceed the banal.

  47. …Except for the Swanson throw-in part, blazon is right about Senzel. I’d rather trade for him than someone like Donaldson. I think the Reds are intent on keeping both, but they do need pitching.

    No one is better than Mike Trout.

  48. Mike Trout is 26 and boasts 54 fWAR. He’s a couple seasons away from being able to retire and pretty much be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Acuna… he’s going to need some time.

  49. Realistically, if Acuna ever had a season at half of Trout’s best single-season fWAR (10.3), I think we ought to be happy.

    Speaking of that season, how about the fact that Trout “only” mustered 30 HRs and 83 RBIs and yet accumulated 10.3 fWAR? We know that Trout was immensely valuable that season, but if you’re a bubble gum card stats guy, you would just be so far behind in understanding how truly great he is.

    Question for people more learned on WAR: does Trout enjoy a bump for scoring 129 runs that season? It’s obviously a lineup-dependent number, but does that factor?

  50. In all seriousness, before his knee surgery, do you guys think Chipper’s athleticism was comparable to Trout?

  51. @60 God bless PapaBlair. I’ve always rooted (a little more than normal) for Aaron Blair simply because in my OOTP league, he’s a guy who sort of snuck his way up into my rotation and held the spot for a few seasons before I let him walk in free agency. He seemed to perform solidly next to his perceived abilities, and he went on to continue a very solid career in spite of not being top of the rotation material.

    If only real life can mirror that.

  52. For the record, there is a factual mistake in this piece. Acuna started at the Gulf Coast League, then was promoted to Danville. I inverted his two rookie league stints.

  53. Since Donny mentioned OOTP, OOTP 19 came out yesterday and if you’re the least bit interested in online baseball games, this is the Holy Grail of sports games. This version is absolutely incredible.

    FWIW, My Acuna hit .266 with 28 HRs and 101 RBI and won NL ROY.

  54. Kurt Suzuki – first ever interview I see from him currently on – what a great guy. Talking hitting, complementing the coaches and Freddie as the reasons for his great offensive season.

  55. Tigers/Braves 3-3, top 7
    Other than FF(HR/Dbl) no one has hit the ball hard…awful
    Wisler explodes in the 7th. Left with no outs, gave up 5 runs.
    Tucker cannot play the outfield,can’t catch the tough ones.

    Guy from Nashville on TC now thinks AZ were not as stupid as we thought with their number one pick with Dansby, they might have wanted out before every one knew his limitations. My concern is now solely related to his trade value which is rapidly eroding. Adam, i was not being flip re any Senzel trade with Dansby, wish I was.

  56. @72

    Sanchez went a decent 6 before we got Wisler.
    It’s his Mother I worry about, painted in all her grief.

    Whistler’s Mother
    beyond any other
    most wishes he could pitch
    the irony, a trifle rich.

  57. What’s with us and Charlie Blackmon, love the guy, is it considered a dead issue, why?

    Too much money or, more likely, nowhere to play him? Either outfield corner will do fine – CB/Ender/Acuna- send Neck off with our thanks. I confess to thinking about this now – again – after watching us slapping the ball around against Detroit. It’s our biggest weakness, has been for years, we don’t have enough people in the line up hitting the ball HARD.

    OK, you’re sold. Now, do we have the money?

  58. Trout seems to get underrated as an athlete because he’s a stocky guy. Dude patrols CF with the best of them, crushes everything he sees, and can run like the wind. I’d absolutely take him over Acuna in a Greco-Roman grappling event, as well.

  59. @76

    Greco Roman
    Sam prefers the pudgy showman
    our guy’s from the wooded mountains
    no doughnuts for he, no ice cream fountains.

  60. One of us trains jiu jitsu. The other writes off-cantos slant rhyme poetry. Mike Trout is a beast of an athlete, bruh.

  61. @78

    Sam, this is a shocking development for us to hear for the first time. I have made plans to avoid the Atlanta area after dark.

    Of course he is, a great athlete, it was fun. And, again, thank you for all that work and time you must have put in to that excellent summary.

    Now, @75, could you throw any light for me on the Charlie Blackmon situation? I fear i have missed the boat.

    off cantos slant rhyme poetry.

  62. @82

    I don’t get Wisler, but I’m interested to see if he is a full-time reliever at AAA that can just stay there in hopes of a rebound. Sadly, he looks like a middle reliever right now.

  63. What is the question? Why is Charlie Blackmon not a Brave?

    Because the Rockies control him pre-FA, and they are trying to win, so he is not for sale.

  64. @ 84

    Ah…Adam you saved the day…made sense of it all.. i had figured his FA year was now…thanx.

  65. Albies just went yard off of Luis Severino. This kid is not getting the hype because of the Acunavacuum.

  66. Charlie Blackmon will be someone’s likely over-paid fall back “didn’t get Harper” signing next year. See also Pollack, AJ.

  67. /World Wrestling Fed. Announcer Guy

    ‘My God…is that….? Yes!…It’s Dr. James Andrews’ music!


  68. From TC: “After the game, Brian Snitker told reporters that Kazmir exited due to left arm fatigue. Kazmir later told’s Mark Bowman that he threw 90-100 pitches during a bullpen session on Wednesday and was unaware that he would be pitching on Saturday.”

  69. I know it’s been beaten ad nauseam, but I’ve never seen a broadcaster consistently say more factually incorrect things than Chip.

  70. -Kazmir leaves start due to left jaw contusion
    -Kazmir pulled early
    -Kazmir says he wasn’t expecting to pitch and threw a big bullpen the few days previous
    -Kazmir released.

    I think AA punched Kazmir.

  71. It’s a little depressing that in the 4th year of our rebuild we have a guy with an ERA of 6 last year in the starting rotation. I get it, and I’m glad we’re not rushing Fried or Soroka, but geez, we got nobody?

  72. Rex Brothers is probably going to make the team. I don’t have faith that Snitker will utilize him correctly strictly as a LOOGY specialist.

  73. I hope not. He’s toast and didn’t even hit LHP last season.

    Edit: On 2nd glance, he did have a really low BABIP last season. His defense is Kempian, though.

  74. Carlos Torres was released by the Indians. He might be a guy the Braves could take a flier on to fill out the bullpen.

  75. Kazmir was toast anyway, but the way this was handled with him doesn’t inspire any confidence. Modern baseball is all about rooting for the front office (or at least believing they’re secret geniuses) but these guys are so hard to like.

  76. @107. You can definitely see how since analytics has creeped into the game that the ‘human resources’ side of the game has slipped.

    I’m fine with Bautista for 1 year and 2-3M. Who knows, maybe he catches lightning in the bottle and is a plus bench bat. I’d rather take a chance on a once was, than a never will be like Jaff Decker.

  77. Am suffering the first symptoms of April Angst. The Phillies , they dominate our schedule then. Last year, ugh. FFG has slipped town, to be replaced by a more direct threat. Know him? He has a Welsh name, will hit cleanup, will keep me awake.

    Did something in his first 50 games Trout has done twice in his whole career.But he busted in September – hope springs, and all that. Who is he?

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