The Atlanta Braves lost Ronald Acuña Jr. to a torn ACL on July 10th in a game against the Miami Marlins. What can we expect from the young superstar when he returns from injury?
If Ronald Acuña Jr. does not go down with a torn ACL, he was arguably on pace to win the National League MVP award. Unfortunately for the Atlanta Braves, they had to figure things out without their superstar as he went down right before the All-Star Break.
It is hard to replace Acuña, but a great trade deadline saw the Braves bring in four outfielders to replace Ronnie — it worked out well.
Talking about Ronald Acuña Jr., he was on pace for an MVP award. Through 82 games and 360 plate appearances, Acuña was hitting .283/.394/.596 24 HR, 72 R, 52 RBI, 17 SB, .412 wOBA, 157 wRC+, 155 OPS+, 4.2 fWAR, & 3.6 bWAR.
Acuña was solid on the basepaths with a 3.8 BsR and a 2.2 UBR. His defensive metrics were a 2 DRS and 0 OAA.
To show how great he was in his half-a-season, his 4.2 fWAR was good for 51st in all of baseball, 28th in the National League. His 4.2 fWAR would have led the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.
It is unfortunate that Acuña’s season was cut short because he was on a historic pace. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off in 2022.
What can we expect from Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2022?
In short, when Acuña is healthy, we can expect the same level of greatness we have already seen in his short career. The biggest question is how many games will he play in 2022?
The lockout complicates things because we are not getting any updates from the Braves on his return. However, Acuña has been posting some workout videos on his own.
He looks healthy and has been seen doing workout videos without a brace. He is young and looks like he is recovering nicely. Giving hope that he may not miss much time, if any, in 2022.
The Braves may choose to be conservative with his timeline, and rightfully so, meaning Acuña could still be in line to miss a few weeks to start the season. A lot will depend on his involvement in Spring Training.
Of course, if a universal DH is implemented, and it seems like a certainty at this point, it would possibly allow him to return sooner. Allowing him to not play the field every day would be a benefit.
Also, if the lockout forces the season to be delayed, it could mean Acuña does not miss any time! A silver lining for the Atlanta Braves and their fans.
We are going to remain hopeful that the lockout ends, and we get baseball on time. With a full season, most projection systems have Acuña playing at most 134 games. These projection systems are normally conservative in projections.
Here are seven projection models for his 2022 season:
- ZiPS: 123 games, 551 plate appearances, .277/.373/.562 35 HR, 104 R, 84 RBI, 20 SB, .398 wOBA, 147 wRC+, & 5.0 fWAR
- ZiPS DC: 131 games, 567 plate appearances, .277/.383/.562 36 HR, 107 R, 86 RBI, 21 SB, .398 wOBA, 147 wRC+, & 5.5 fWAR
- Steamer: 131 games, 602 plate appearances, .285/.391/.568 37 HR, 107 R, 86 RBI, 27 SB, .403 wOBA, 151 wRC+, & 5.9 fWAR
- THE BAT: 134 games, 590 plate appearances, .285/.385/.573 38 HR,105 R, 88 RBI, 28 SB, .402 wOBA, 150 wRC+, & 5.8 fWAR
- THE BAT X: 134 games, 590 plate appearances, .288/.388/.580 38 HR, 105 R, 89 RBI, 27 SB, .405 wOBA,152 wRC+, & 6.0 fWAR
- ATC: 134 games, 590 plate appearances, .281/.383/.564 37 HR, 109 R, 84 RBI, 23 SB, .399 wOBA, 148 wRC+, & 5.7 fWAR
- FGDC: 131 games, 567 plate appearances, .281/.387/.565 36 HR,104 R, 84 RBI, 23 SB, .400 wOBA, 149 wRC+, & 5.6 fWAR
The common theme is Acuña will put up MVP level numbers even if he misses nearly one month of the season. The projections predict a near 35-40 HR season with potentially 20+ steals coming off the knee surgery and adding in nearly 200 runs plus RBIs.
Additionally, Acuña has extra motivation because he was not able to participate in the Braves World Series run. The Braves do not make the World Series without Acuña keeping the team afloat in the first half of the season.
He wants to be on the field for one himself. He wants to win an MVP award. We could be looking at a monster season from Ronald Acuña.
He just needs to stay healthy.
He is only 24-years-old, so there is a chance we have not seen the best version of Ronald Acuña Jr. yet. He is already advanced at the plate (11.8% career walk rate) and cut his strikeout rate by 6% from 2020.
Now time for my personal projections for Acuña in 2022. I think he could play more than the current projection models, but I do not see him playing a full season. Somewhere in the 140-150 range feels right.
Projection: .284/.388/.572 40 HR, 118 R, 95 RBI, 30 SB
Add in elite base running and some solid defense and Ronald Acuña Jr. could be well on his way to a 6+ fWAR season. A healthy Acuña could exceed these numbers easily.
If the knee is healthy, I think we will see a monster year from Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2022.