‘Baseball Prodigy’ Acuña Wants to Win ’40-40′ and MVP at the Same Time

After tearing his ACL on July 11, 2021, while playing defense, Ronald Acuña Jr. fell short of expectations last year, posting a .764 OPS in his first season back from injury. This season, however, he has lived up to his nickname as the “second coming” and is off to a strong start.

So far in the 2023 season, Aquino is hitting .333 .415 .571 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) with 11 home runs, 30 RBIs, a wRC+ of 163 and a wins above replacement (bWAR) of 3.1, making him the No. 1 candidate for National League MVP. He was also named the American League’s Player of the Month on April 4.

The 10-year, $134 million extension he signed ahead of the 2019 season is now considered a “slave contract,” and many fans are excited about the resurgence of Aquino, who became the youngest player to reach 30-30 since Mike Trout.

Acuña has regained control of his fastball and improved his ability to make contact.

Last season, Aquino’s response to body fastballs (four-seam, sinker, two-seam, and cutter) was significantly different than it was before the injury, as his timing at the plate was subtly off.

As a result, he struggled to initiate pitches in the zone and, more importantly, his hard-hit batted balls dropped significantly (8% of hard-hit batted balls against those pitches last season/ 19% career average), leading to a career-low .603 OPS against those pitches last season. His “barrel batted ball” rate, which refers to batted balls with excellent launch angle and launch velocity, also dropped to a career-low 13%.

This season, however, Acuña has been able to regain his normal batted ball timing against body fastballs. He has completely overcome the weaknesses he exposed last season, posting a .997 OPS against those pitches and bringing his barrel hit rate back up to his career average of 15%.

As a result of his improved ability to make contact, he also improved his swinging strike rate and walk rate, which were among the worst in the league, to among the best in the league (20% swinging strike rate) and near the top (14% walk rate), respectively, this season 스포츠토토.

Overcoming his weaknesses, Acuña has evolved into a complete player, ranking among the top players in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage so far in the 2023 season. Most positively, his projected metrics are better than his actual performance, suggesting that he has more upside in the future.

The challenge of making the 40-40 Club and winning an MVP award together

While Acuña has 22 doubles as of Sept. 29, he only has 11 home runs through 50 games, so the math doesn’t look good for a 40-homer season. In order to reach 40 homers for the second time in his career, following a 41-homer season in 2019, he’ll need to improve his fly ball rate (22%), which is around league average.

Additionally, the aftermath of a major injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament – will likely have a significant negative impact on his MVP race, as his outfield defense has dipped to the bottom of the league, ranking -6, which is in the bottom 1% of the league in “zoned-based defensive metrics relative to league average” (OAA).

In fact, Aquino needs to improve his defense as well, as his league-leading numbers at the plate and on the basepaths are not enough to overwhelm the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR).

Fueled by Acuña’s resurgence, Atlanta is tied for the National League lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers with a winning percentage of over six percentage points (.604) despite the loss of several players, including Rookie of the Year Harris, last season. It will be interesting to see if Acuña, who has become a complete hitter since returning from injury, can join the 40-40 club for the first time in his career and win the MVP award at the same time.

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