Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr. Off to Hot Start

Ronald Acuna Jr. is off to a scorching hot start this season for the Atlanta Braves. The 23-year-old outfielder continues to show why he is one of the best players in the game.

Although the Braves are off to a bit of a slow start at 6-8, Acuna is not. Through 14 games, Acuna has seven home runs, 16 RBI’s, 18 runs scored, 24 hits, a .946 slugging percentage, and a 1.431 OPS. He leads all of MLB in each of those categories. He’s also third in doubles with six and fourth in batting average at .429. 

However, the most impressive attribute Acuna is showing this season is his hustle and speed. In years past Acuna has been criticized and ridiculed for lack of hustle and deservedly so. In August of 2019, Acuna was benched after not hustling out of the box on what he thought was a home run and ended up being a long single. Two months later he did the same thing in the playoffs against the Cardinals.

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This year Acuna is leaving it all out on the field in the first few weeks of the season. On April 11 against the Phillies, he beat out a routine hard-hit ground ball to the shortstop. The very next day against the Marlins, he scored on a sac fly pop-up to the second baseman. Then on April 16 against the Cubs, Acuna scored from second base on a ground ball hit to Javier Baez at shortstop.

Acuna is only 23 but the maturity is starting to show in his game. He already plays with a lot of flare and emotion but this is a huge step for him going forward as he is likely going to win an MVP in the future.

Thankfully for the Braves, Acuna has kept the team afloat while the rest of the division is also off to slow starts. The Mets are 5-3 to begin the year with the Phillies and Marlins sitting right around .500.

If it weren’t for Acuna, the Braves may not have any wins this year. Nobody else on the team is hitting above .222. Last year’s MVP Freddie Freeman is off to a bit of a slow start for him, producing a little bit with four home runs and nine RBI’s. Yet, teams are pitching around him early in the year as he has accumulated 10 walks.

The three-time NL East defending champions will find their way. Acuna probably won’t continue this tear throughout the whole year and the rest of the lineup will find their groove over the summer. After making the NLCS last season, the Atlanta Braves should be in contention to make another run this October.

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You can follow Tyler Samsel on Twitter @tylersamsel.

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