Atlanta Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. is no stranger to receiving praise for his ability to play the game at an elite level. However, that doesn't mean getting praise from legendary players wouldn't get his attention.
Fansided's John Buhler recently spoke with Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones, who had massive praise for Acuña. Any player getting high praise from a player like Chipper should tell you all you need to know about their talent.
Now, Acuña did showcase that talent for all of Major League Baseball in 2023 as he is not only expected to win the NL MVP but he also set MLB history by completing the first-ever 40/70 season.
Acuña has the opportunity to become the 5th MVP winner for the Atlanta Braves. There were 3 players before Ronald to win the award including Freddie Freeman, Chipper Jones, Dale Murphy, and Terry Pendleton. Winning the award would also make him the 8th MVP in franchise history across Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.
You'd think that would be the highest level a player could reach in their career. However, according to Chipper, the Venezuelan native is just scratching the surface.
We are just getting started
Buhler and Jones sat down for a chat at an event where Chipper was being honored with the Rally for Research Award for the amazing job he has done helping combat pediatric cancer with TheRally Foundation. Jones was a great player on the field but also a great advocate for others behind the scenes.
When speaking about Acuña, however, he stated that Ronald has yet to reach his ceiling for the Braves. Chipper has always been excellent at evaluating talent and he's been watching Acuna play for a long time.
"The scary thing is that I'm not sold on the fact that he has reached his ceiling. I've watched this kid since Double-A, Triple-A. He's different. I said it from the time I saw him, this guy is gonna be one of the top two or three players in the game. I think he's there right now, if he's not the best. What I'm not so sure about is that the ceiling can't be higher. I think he could hit 50."- Chipper Jones
It is wild enough that Ronald hit 40 home runs and stole 70+ bases in 2023 but the thought that he may be able to hit 50 homers and steal 40+ bases in a season is absolutely mind-boggling.
Jones continued by saying he thinks you can attribute Acuna's success to the fact that he has improved his plate discipline and has cut down on swings and misses. That is something that plagued Ronald early on in his career.
"The plate discipline he has gotten, the more you're starting to see his swing and misses go down. His strikeouts have gone down and his walks have gone up because his pitch recognition has gotten so much better."- Chipper Jones
However, he has matured a lot at the plate and is able to pick and choose when he should swing much more often. In 2023, he walked 80 times and struck out just 84 of them through 643 at-bats.
After Ronald injured his knee during the 2021 season, it was unclear how successful of a career he may have. Injuries like that can be hit or miss when recovering from them. Luckily for him, it did not derail his future and he's at the start of what could be his best years as a professional baseball player.
He came back in 2022 at what seemed like 75% as he didn't give full effort in the field or when running. That's understandable as anyone would be timid when returning from a knee injury. He finished 2022 with a .266 average over 119 games.
Will Ronald Acuña Jr. maintain this performance?
2023 was the return of Acuña prime as he ended the year with a line of .337/.416/.596, a 1.012 OPS, 41 HR, 106 RBI, and 73 SB. That was the second time in his career he hit 40+ home runs, the first being during the 2018 season.
The big difference between the two seasons is he cut down drastically on the strikeouts as mentioned above. In 2018, he had 188 strikeouts versus just 84 of them in 2023. That alone shows his maturity at the plate and his willingness to work hard to be the best player in baseball.
His performance in 2023 also made him just the second player in MLB history with 75 or more extra-base hits and 70 or more stolen bases in a season. The only other player to do so was Ty Cobb back in 1911.
While we don't know exactly what performance Acuña will have over the next few seasons, it's safe to say the sky is the limit with the talent he possesses. If he can continue to persevere through adversity and maintain his health, he has the opportunity to be one of the greatest players in not only Braves history but also MLB history.
Chipper Jones is a hitting consultant for the Atlanta Braves and he sees Acuña hit often so if he says he believes Ronald has yet to reach his ceiling, it's pretty easy to believe him. Chipper has been a great help for so many Atlanta hitters unlocking their full potential.
Atlanta Braves fans are lucky to get a front-row seat to the journey of one of baseball's best talents. This won't be the last time a legendary player has kind words for Acuña.