2022 Braves Player Review: Ronald Acuña Jr.

Ronald Acuña Jr. 2022 Topps Series 1 Baseball Base Card Short Prints Poster  # to 99

Ronald Acuña Jr. has been nothing short of a superstar since he arrived to the big. With the ACL tear, he started the year on the shelf, but Braves fans were pleasantly surprised his rehab had progressed enough to debut in late April (to be fair, AA might have waited a bit longer if the outfield wasn’t a raging dumpster fire).

In the first month, Acuña looked like he had never skipped a beat, but an ACL tear is no small injury, the pain lingered, limited his mobility, and Acuna suffered on both sides of the ball for the first time at the big league level.

The rest of the season had stretches where Acuña looked like himself and others where you could clearly tell he was hurting. He never seemed to trust the knee enough to fully break out in his typical Ronald fashion. Balls that were normally caught were falling. I blame PTSD. Balls that fly over fences were worm-burners. The knee was the sole reason he couldn’t get lift on the ball.

The Braves chose to rest Acuña at several points during the season due to soreness, including playing him at DH which greatly increased the outfield’s defensive struggles. Ronald himself even publicly noted the clear pain he was going through towards the end of the season.

Ronald’s speed was slowed down and he had far less success stealing bases than he had historically. He led the league with 11 caught steals despite only playing 119 games. He had his lowest OPS+ of his career, although still above league average. Acuña ended with the worst defensive metrics of his career after putting up -7 outs above average.

Despite all these struggles, there were some positives. For what it’s worth, Ronald was named an All-Star for the third time in his young career. Acuña did still manage to swipe 29 bags. He hit 15 homers, drove in 50 runs, and finished with 2.8 bWAR in an injury riddled season. The Braves lineup with Acuña in it was always better.

Most athletes come back much stronger in year 2 recovering from an ACL surgery. I expect the same from Ronald Acuña Jr. He is still only 25 years old and should be back into MVP conversations leading the Braves to a successful 2023 campaign. Expect greatness again, folks.

21 thoughts on “2022 Braves Player Review: Ronald Acuña Jr.”

  1. Thinking early about lineup construction, I think I’d do this:
    1. MHII
    2. Acuña Jr.
    3. Olson
    4. Riley
    5. Albies
    6. Murphy/D’Arnaud
    7. Murphy/D’Arnaud
    8. Luplow/Rosario
    9. Grissom

    I like Acuña leading off, but the idea of having MHII in front of him to lead off games puts the chances of the Braves scoring first really high and the team that scores the most runs wins the game.

  2. Ryan, to be honest I’d like to keep Ronald at the top of the lineup. We know he loves it, and we know how good he is at it.

    AND, we know that Michael’s biggest offensive weakness — and it’s not a small one — is a lack of walks. Putting him at the top of the lineup just feels like it could expose him in a way that would be both bad for the team and bad for his development and confidence.

    I’m thinking about this:

    1. Acuña (our best hitter)
    2. Riley (our second-best hitter)
    3. Olson (very possibly our third-best hitter)
    4. Albies (he can’t get on base but he can slug; he’s a pretty ideal #5 hitter but he’d be pretty good in cleanup)
    5. Harris
    6. Catcher/DH (could flip this with Harris depending on matchups)
    7. Catcher/DH
    8. Black hole of oblivion in left field
    9. Grissom
  3. Thanks Drake. I love the way Ronald plays the game, and I hope he can get back to his old self in the field and on the bases. Until then, his new self will do just fine.

  4. I have little doubt that RAJ, as long as he’s “happy,” will return as an elite player. We’re really gonna need it this year.

    Interesting idea leading off Harris, but… if Harris’ BA dips this year, that OBP won’t look so good. Could work, but if he’s gonna struggle — and it’ll probably happen at some point — I’d prefer to see it lower in the lineup.

    Funny, as I watched Harris this past year, I remember thinking, “If it were the ’70s, he’d be the ‘perfect’ lead-off guy,” meaning… he’s fast & he can steal bases at an astounding clip. But to have that and real power… pretty rare for a CF.

    I sure hope he’s the real deal; I think he’s my favorite player on the team now.

  5. @4

    I understand your point of view, but you’re wrong. (kidding).

    Harris carried a better BB rate in the minors and I’d bet good $ his BB rate would hover around 10% leading off. Also, I like Acuña in the 2nd spot because of his OBP and power combo. If Harris gets on, there’s…
    •A 6 % chance that the game is 2-0
    •A 5% chance that the game is 1-0
    •A 12% chance that there’s runners on 1st and 2nd with 0 out
    •A 14% chance there’s runners on 1st and 3rd with 0 out.

    I like those odds.

  6. @8,

    Because 3rd is the worst spot for an elite batter to be in as compared to 1, 2, or 4. Why?

    In inning 1, there is the single largest chance of any batter in any position in the order and in any inning to bat with no one on and with 2 outs. A number 3 batter therefore faces this position more often than a 7, 8 or 9 hitter. If somebody has power, you want somebody on base in front.

    So, your best all around hitter (obp and power): 2. Next best all around: 4. Then next best obp hitter: 1. Then, next 2 best sluggers, 5 and 6 (with better obp of the 2 at 5). Then, next best obp 3. Then handle them the best you can.

    All of that though, should be influenced by significant preferences for hitters. As in Acuna like to bat 1.
    He is a good obp guy and a very good power guy. You might get more out of him at 2 or 4, but you get more plate appearances at 1 and he likes 1, so you let him go 1.

  7. @3 – Gotta live somewhere in the offseason, I guess.

    $3.4M and you can still throw a rock and hit your neighbor’s house. If I had that much money, I’m getting away from people.

  8. @7, I’ll take that bet, at least for 2023. I spent a certain amount of time looking at the numbers for his player review, and his willingness to expand the zone is a real concern. Also, he never posted a 10% BB-rate in the minors; he was more in the 8-9% range. I think you’re just asking an awful lot of a 22-year-old in his second year in the bigs. He’s been an amazing overachiever so far, but I don’t think that batting him leadoff is the best way to take advantage of his strengths and set him up for success.

  9. Best hitter should be second according to the statistics gods. I like the idea of Harris at leadoff but I agree with Alex that Acuna likes leading off and plays better there. Last year, it seemed to me that Harris had a big problem with lefties ( he was atrocious) and struggled when he wasn’t lower in the lineup. I’ve always liked the idea of a “second leadoff” guy batting 9th. I’m not saying Grissom wouldn’t be good in that role but I think Harris excelled in it. I don’t think you can consider a lineup without considering handedness. Here is what I proposed before.

    vs. righties

    Harris
    Acuna
    Olson
    Riley
    Albies
    Murphy/D’Arnaud
    Rosario
    Ozuna
    Grissom

    vs. lefties

    Acuna
    Albies
    Riley
    Olson
    Murphy/D’Arnaud
    Luplow
    Ozuna
    Grissom
    Harris

    I think if you consider what Harris does against righties and what Ozzie does against lefties, you have to make this kind of adjustment. If you have to ultimately keep Acuna always at the top then just flip Acuna and Harris in the righty lineup.

    P.S. Grissom was OK against righties and I recall him tailing off at the end of the year, but his stats were great against lefties.

  10. I’d hit Harris 7th or 8th. I’m really worried about a sophomore slump with him. Taking as much pressure off of him as possible probably helps him and the team more than getting him more PAs.

  11. Grissom only had 48 PA against lefties, so I’d be hesitant to draw too many conclusions.

  12. @14 If he’s locked into SS then we might as well draw whatever conclusions are available to draw and adjust on the back end.

  13. Duvall to Boston, 1/$7M with a potential $3M in performance bonuses.

    I guess Alex had plenty of questionable outfielders.

  14. 7 million bones for Duvall is a great job by Duvall.

    @10 Down here in St. Pete, FL, a peninsula on a peninsula, $3.4M gets you a lot so small a child could throw a rock and hit your neighbor’s house.

  15. Now that I’ve read the article, a few thoughts:

    -Coppy probably has some sort of NDA with MLB. The article was really light on juicy gossip.
    -Coppy was stonewalled. What he did did not justify what ultimately was a 5-year ban and turning him into a complete pariah.
    -I still hate John Hart and his turtlenecks and Argyle sweaters. He got off completely scott free and still paraded himself all around MLB Network wth absolutely no remorse while the guy who did the dirty work took the fall.
    -Cheering for Coppy to get back into baseball and win a world championship. His stamp is still all over the organization.

  16. In general, I liked Coppy, and I think that the organization is in better hands with AA. The team is clearly doing fine. I’m happy that he is in a much better place now than he was five years ago. That’s a nice redemption story.

    There’s no question in my mind that the league decided to make an example of Coppolella, and of the Braves. The general crimes that have taken place in the world of Latin American scouting have been pretty widespread, and I don’t think that the Braves’ crime was comparably worse to justify the unprecedented scope of the punishment — Jim Bowden is an MLB employee today, for God’s sake, and he held GM jobs after being punished for his crimes. The Astros and Red Sox both got off far more lightly, and the Sox faced both a cheating scandal AND a Latin American scouting scandal. As in other areas, the use of the penalty of excommunication is not primarily a punishment — it’s a deterrent.

    I don’t feel that his punishment was just. But I’ve also moved on. I’m glad that he has, too. I’m not rooting for him to come back to baseball; I’d just like for him to find peace. Whatever unfinished business he had back then will stay unfinished, no matter what he does next. So I hope it’s equally meaningful.

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