Ever since being signed as an amateur free agent on July 2, 2014 with the Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr. was a prized prospect coming through the Atlanta organization and last season he finally made his way to the major leagues, making his debut on April 25. He did not disappoint.
Acuna Jr. went on to win National League Rookie of the Year and he finished 12th in MVP voting.
The Braves went through a pretty big rebuild and Acuna was viewed as the centerpiece of what Braves fans are hoping can be a long period of sustained success and it’s clear that after about one full season of MLB games that Acuna has played, Atlanta views him as a centerpiece because they went ahead and gave him an eight-year, $100 million deal, that includes club options for the 2027 and 2028 seasons.
Acuna was set to make $560,000 this season so this will obviously be a huge pay raise for him. This also could hurt Acuna in the long-term if he continues to play like he did last season because he could make more in arbitration, but he is now guaranteed this money so there is no risk and it’ll likely take some pressure off of him as he won’t be playing year-to-year for a contract until he hits free agency.
Also, if the full length of this contract happens and the club options are picked up, he would only be 31-years old when he hits free agency so if Acuna keeps playing like he’s capable, he should get another pretty large contract.
Ronald Acuna Jr. was about as good as anyone could be on offense as a rookie last season and it wasn’t a fluke because he only made soft contact 13.7% of the time last season and there’s a pretty direct correlation between hard contact and putting up big numbers.
Defense however is an aspect of his game that Acuna needs to improve on.
Last season in left field Acuna was responsible for -2 defensive runs saved, but the good thing for Braves fans is that he’s flipped that into +2 so far in this very young season.
There’s no reason for him not to be a good fielder as he is an athletic player and he has a strong throwing arm, but it’s something he will have to keep improving on the longer he’s in the league, but he’s already taken positive steps forward.
Offensively it’s hard to imagine Acuna not being a star because he is so good at making hard contact and because he is a pretty disciplined hitter. The next evolution of his offensive game should be to spread the ball around better, but overall his spray chart isn’t too bad for someone who is early in their second season:
While the Braves could’ve saved money in the short-term by not doing this, it shows they are taking care of their players and now they will have one of the faces of their franchise in Atlanta into what would’ve been some of his possible free agent seasons.
Top photo of Ronald Acuna Jr courtesy of: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports