Braves lineup after devastating Ronald Acuña Jr. injury: Who leads off?

The Braves find themselves in a tough position to replace their lead-off man.
San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves - Game One
San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves - Game One / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

It's still hard to believe that the Braves lost Spencer Strider and Ronald Acuña Jr. for the 2024 season. The year hasn't been kind to Atlanta whatsoever with injuries to key players. This is a severe blow to the Braves World Series chances and baseball as a whole.

Now the team has to figure out how to move on without the reigning NL MVP. Acuña is one of the most dynamic lead-off bats in Major League Baseball and replacing him at the top of the lineup will be a tough task.

However, it was a down year for Acuña offensively to this point but it felt like he had started to turn things around. It's unfortunate that his season ended in such a bizarre way.

So, who do the Braves turn to as their lead-off man now? There are a few candidates to choose from and we examine them below.

Atlanta Braves lineup after devastating Ronald Acuña Jr. injury: Who leads off?

Ozzie Albies

The player with the most experience batting at the top of the lineup is second baseman Ozzie Albies. He seems like the most obvious choice at the top due to his experience batting first. Over his career, Albies has a .244 average over 136 games with 144 hits including 25 doubles, 34 home runs, 87 RBI, 40 walks, 115 K, and an OPS+ of 90.

Not the most impressive numbers in the world but it certainly has an upside since Albies is a switch hitter and has a good bit of speed. His main issue is lack of plate discipline and that's not something you typically want from a lead-off bat.

His first-inning stats in 2024 indicate that he could be a great option as he's slashed .325/.357/.550 with a .907 OPS. Through 42 plate appearances, he has 13 hits including three doubles, two homers, six RBI, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

Michael Harris II

Despite having a rough season at the plate, Michael Harris II is an obvious choice to replace Acuña at the top. He has all the right tools to be successful in that spot but his struggles in 2024 could deter Brian Snitker from going with him.

Harris has only batted first one time in 2024 and he was 1-for-5 in that game with one hit and one strikeout. When looking at his young career, he's only led off games for Atlanta 4 times with a .211 average. He has four hits including one double, one homer, one RBI, and three strikeouts.

There's not a ton of data to back up Harris statistically but his speed on the basepaths and ability to drive the ball could work in his favor.

Jarred Kelenic

It has been a bit of a rough month for Jarred Kelenic after an impressive first month of the season. However, he could be an option the Braves turn to at the top of the lineup as he showcased a good approach during April. He was driving the ball to all fields and making solid contact. Those are great traits for a batter to have when leading off.

Kelenic replaced Acuña on Sunday afternoon after he was removed from the game and did pretty well. He was 3-for-4 with one double and carried a similar approach that helped him succeed in the first month.

While he's only batted first 22 times in his career, he could be an option for Brian Snitker if he feels Albies or Harris aren't the right move. Kelenic has 12 hits including three doubles, two HR, seven RBI, nine walks, 26 strikeouts, and a .138 average when batting first.

Those numbers aren't super encouraging or eye-popping but it is a rather small sample size. He could very easily flourish in the role for the Braves.

There are some outside-the-box ideas Atlanta could roll with including Zack Short but with Austin Riley set to return soon, he won't be in the lineup for much longer. The Braves could look to Marcell Ozuna at the top similarly to how they used Jorge Soler in 2021 in that role.

Ozuna is the best hitter for Atlanta right now with a .311 average and 57 hits including 15 homers and 47 RBI. However, that seems less likely to happen as he doesn't have a lot of speed on the basepaths but nevertheless, it is an option to consider.

There's no real easy decision for the Braves when looking to replace Ronald Acuña Jr. He is one of the most exciting lead off hitters in baseball. However, this is the hand Atlanta was dealt and they'll have to find a way to persevere.

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