Braves 2021 Player Previews: Ronald Acuna Jr., the Phenom

Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /
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Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna hits a 6th inning double during the rout. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Ronald Acuña is projected to have a big 2021 for the Atlanta Braves.

There are two questions that I know people are asking about Ronald Acuña in 2021. The first is, what is next for the young star? The second question is, can he pull off a 40/40 season?

We know he has the talent to put up gaudy numbers. Let us start by looking at the projection models.

Here are some projection models from Fangraphs:

  • The Bat- .281/.376/.540 40 HRs, 120 Rs,104 RBIs, 31 SBs, and a 141 wrc+.
  • ATC- .277/.379/.546 39 HRs, 119 Rs, 95 RBIs, 30 SBs and a 144 wrc+.
  • Depth Charts- .282/.385/.559 42 HRs, 125 Rs, 107 RBIs, 30 SBs, and a 141 wrc+.
  • Steamer- .281/.381/.551 41 HRs, 119 Rs, 101 RBIs, 28 SBs, and a 137 wrc+.
  • ZiPS- .282/.390/.568 43 HRs, 134 Rs, 115 RBIs, 33 SBs, and a 145 wrc+.

Pretty bold predictions from the projection systems that are usually extremely cautious. Essentially, Ronald is projected to hit around .280, approximately 40 HRs, around 230 Runs plus RBIs, and 30 steals.

If that happens, Freddie Freeman is going to have competition for the 2021 MVP title from his own teammate.

If there is one knock on Ronald Acuña’s game it would be his swing and miss rate. His K% jumped from 26.3% in 2019 to 29.7% in 2020.

However, Ronald was actually more selective at the plate in 2020. Remember, his walk rate jumped from 10.6% in 2019 to 18.8% in 2020.

Looking at his plate discipline chart on baseball savant shows a patient hitter. Ronald’s chase % dropped from 24.0% to 20.1% and his zone swing % dropped from 68.6% to 63.3%. His overall swing percentage dropped from 45.5% to 40.5%.

The difference was a dip in contact rate. Zone contact % dropped from 76.9% to 73.7%. Meanwhile, his whiff rate jumped from 27.7% to 29.9%.

Ronald made less contact in 2020, but he was swinging at far fewer pitches. This shows that he may be becoming a more disciplined hitter at the plate and looking for better pitches to drive.

This has to be encouraging as a whole that Ronald is trying to become more selective at the plate rather than just swing at any pitch. If he can continue to become more disciplined at the plate as he ages, he has the potential to become the most dangerous hitter in the game.

While he was making slightly less contact, it turns out that he was making better contact. This combined with a better approach at the plate shows that Ronald is growing as a hitter.

Ronald growing as a hitter has to excite the Braves for his future and worry the rest of the league as well.