Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the most exciting players in baseball. The Atlanta Braves outfielder has a rare combination of power, speed, and defense that makes him a threat in every aspect of the game.
He was the runner-up for the National League MVP award in 2019, when he hit 41 home runs and stole 37 bases, becoming the fifth player in MLB history to join the 40-40 club.
However, Acuña’s 2020 season was a disappointment by his standards. He missed time due to injuries and saw his batting average drop to .250, his on-base percentage to .406, and his slugging percentage to .581.
He also struggled defensively, posting a negative-5 defensive runs saved (DRS) and a negative-2.3 ultimate zone rating (UZR). He still managed to hit 14 home runs and steal eight bases in 46 games, but he was far from the MVP-caliber player he was in 2019.
The good news for Acuña and the Braves is that his bat is nearly all the way back in 2021. Through his first 11 games, he is hitting .447 with a .500 on-base percentage and a .947 slugging percentage.
He has seven home runs and three stolen bases, leading the majors in both categories. He has also cut down on his strikeouts, striking out only 14 times in 50 plate appearances, compared to 60 times in 202 plate appearances in 2020.
Acuña’s improved plate discipline and contact skills are evident in his swing metrics. According to Statcast, he has increased his zone contact rate from 78.8% in 2020 to 85.7% in 2021, while decreasing his chase rate from 28.6% to 23.8%.
He has also increased his hard-hit rate from 48.8% to 61.5%, while decreasing his launch angle from 17.9 degrees to 15.4 degrees. These changes suggest that Acuña is making more consistent and solid contact with pitches in the strike zone, while avoiding chasing pitches out of the zone.
However, while Acuña’s bat is nearly all the way back, the rest of his game lags behind. He has not shown much improvement defensively, as he has a negative-1 DRS and a negative-0.4 UZR so far in 2021.
He has also made some baserunning blunders, such as getting picked off twice and getting thrown out at third base on a fly ball. Acuña’s aggressiveness on the bases can be an asset, but it can also backfire if he is not careful.
Acuña is still only 23 years old, so he has plenty of time to refine his game and become a more complete player. He has already shown that he can bounce back from a subpar season with his bat, and he has the tools and talent to excel defensively and on the bases as well.
If he can do that, he will not only be one of the most exciting players in baseball, but also one of the best.
Final Thoughts: Ronald Acuña Jr. Has Bounced Back with His Bat, but Still Has Room to Improve
Ronald Acuña Jr. is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in baseball today. His combination of power, speed, and defensive prowess makes him a true five-tool player.
While his 2020 season was a disappointment, he has come roaring back in 2021 with a scorching start at the plate, leading the majors in both home runs and stolen bases.
What’s particularly impressive is how Acuña has made adjustments to his swing and approach at the plate. He has improved his contact rate within the strike zone while reducing his chase rate, resulting in more consistent and solid contact with pitches.
This has translated into a higher hard-hit rate and a lower launch angle, suggesting that he is focusing on making hard line drives rather than just trying to hit home runs.
However, Acuña still has room for improvement, particularly in his defense and baserunning. While his defensive metrics have not improved much, it’s still early in the season, and he has plenty of time to work on his positioning and reads.
As for his baserunning, his aggressiveness can be a double-edged sword, as he has already made some costly mistakes this season. With more experience and better judgment, he could become a more efficient and impactful baserunner.
Overall, Acuña’s talent and potential are undeniable. At only 23 years old, he has already shown that he can bounce back from a subpar season and dominate with his bat. If he can continue to refine his game defensively and on the bases, he has the potential to be one of the best players in baseball for years to come.