How the Atlanta Braves have weathered Ronald Acuña Jr.’s injury

Just before the All-Star break, the Atlanta Braves had to weather a huge blow when they lost their star outfielder, Ronald Acuña, Jr., to a torn ACL.

Many people thought that the Braves, who had a 44-44 record after the game that Acuña, Jr. suffered the injury and 4.5 games back of the New York Mets in the NL East.

However, with the implosion of the Mets both on and off the field and a few excellent moves at the trade deadline, the Atlanta Braves were able to weather the storm and get nearly the same production that Acuña, Jr., who was going to be an All-Star and, perhaps, an MVP candidate for the Braves, was having.

Since Acuña, Jr.’s injury, the Atlanta Braves have gone 27-19 and they had a two-game lead in the NL East over the Philadelphia Phillies and a four-game lead over the Mets entering Saturday’s action.

The Atlanta Braves have weathered the injury to Ronald Acuña, Jr. because of a slew of outfield acquisitions.

Atlanta Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos traded for a lot of outfield help at the trade deadline in July.

On July 15, five days after Acuña, Jr.’s injury, Anthopoulos acquired outfielder Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs. On July 30 (the trade deadline), Anthopoulos acquired outfielders Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario from the Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and Cleveland Indians.

Rosario was out with an injury when acquired so he has seen limited playing time with the Braves (only six games) but he has played well. Duvall and Pederson have seen action in 31 and 43 games with the Braves and, particularly, had some good power numbers (a combined 13 home runs).

But Jorge Soler was the diamond in the rough that the Braves needed. He has played in fewer games than Pederson and Duvall (30 games) but his numbers are far better. In 30 games with the Braves, Soler has hit .273/.372/.545 with nine home runs, 17 RBI, and an OPS+ north of 140.

When he was in Kansas City, he only had 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 94 games with a .192/.288/.370 slash line (79 OPS+).

We caught up with Atlanta Braves first base and outfield coach Eric Young about what the loss of Acuña, Jr. was and how the four outfielders (primarily Soler in right field) have been a huge addition for the team.

“Losing Acuña was a sad day for me, personally, because I have a special bond and relationship with him being his outfield coach and his base running coach,” Young told Call to The Pen in an exclusive conversation. “From a team standpoint, he was our leader. He was our ignitor. He was one of the main reasons why we’ve had the success we have had the last two or three years. We were all sad and down and wondering ‘who’s going to pick up the slack?’ and ‘where are we going to get that production or part of that production from?’ That was a lot to put on (first baseman) Freddie (Freeman) at the time … But at (trade) deadline, when Double-A (Alex Anthopoulos) made those moves, it changed our whole lineup and whole makeup of our team from a team that you didn’t think would make it (to the playoffs) this year to a team that you can say, ‘Okay, you can compete with the big teams again.’”

The Braves also lost outfielder Marcell Ozuna due to dislocated fingers in late May. Ozuna was not having a great season in 2021 but he was one of the best players in the NL in 2020 as he led the league in both home runs and RBI. He came in sixth in NL MVP voting.

While the loss of both Acuña, Jr. and Ozuna is still felt in more ways than one by the Braves, they struck lightning in a bottle with Jorge Soler and company in the interim and they hope that lightning will continue to be there when they look to head to the World Series for the first time in this millennium.