Atlanta Braves OF Ronald Acuña has proven to be one of the best players in the entire league. That being said Acuña has another level of offense that could let him challenge Trout for top dog in the game.
Fresh off an incredible 21-year-old season in 2019 that saw him hit .280/.365/.518 (126 wRC+) and total 5.6 fWAR, Ronald Acuna was a pivotal player in the Atlanta Braves winning the NL East title. Acuña proved himself to be one of the most valuable players in baseball, further supported by his team friendly 8 year, $100M contract.
Now, what if I told you Acuña had another offensive level in him that could make him an even better player? Well, Acuña has got it and as soon as the MLB season starts, we have a good chance of seeing it. Despite launching 41 dingers in 2019, Acuña was a primary ground ball hitter with a 38% clip. Sure, he hit fly balls at practically the same rate, but for his talent, Acuña should try to drive the ball in the air more.
Generally, hitting ground balls are guaranteed to be an out even with elite (96th percentile to be exact) foot speed like Acuña . When Acuña hit the ball on the ground, his expected weighted on base average (xwOBA) was a mere .231. Sure it was the same as Alex Bregman and Javier Baez, but it was also the same as Joey Rickard. Context is always good, Marlins pitcher Richard Urena sported a .231 xwOBA overall. Simply put, not what you want from your stud.
Victor Robles had the absolute worst difference in exit velocity between balls hit in the air and on the ground. Acuña’s isn’t as bad, but his 10.8 MPH difference is still one of the biggest deltas in the entire league. You think he’s good now? Acuña could hit 50 homeruns and have a 150 wRC+ or better. In 2018, he posted a 143 wRC+ with a 42% ground ball rate. Acuña’s exit velocity was an above average 90.6 MPH so he has every incentive to get the ball in the air to either go over the fence or go for extra bases.
Acuña had one of the best xwOBA’s in the game when he hit a line drive or fly ball. His xwOBA was 17th best in baseball and tied with former teammate Josh Donaldson at .716. The most insane part is that Acuña is only 22 so we haven’t seen the best part of his game yet. With a small adjustment on offense, he’ll challenge Trout to be the game’s best player and wreak havoc in the MLB for years to come.