Acuna Jr., Freeman named All-Star starters

June 28th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Ronald Acuna Jr. will become the youngest Braves player to start an All-Star Game, and will be the first Atlanta representative to make consecutive starts since Chipper Jones did so at the start of this century.

Acuna and Freeman were both elected as All-Star starters when the results of the first Starters Election were announced Thursday night. This marks the second consecutive year the Braves will have two players in the National League’s starting lineup.

“It’s always an honor to play in the All-Star Game, and to be voted as a starter for the second straight year is really special,” Freeman said. “I want to thank all of the fans who voted for me and my teammates, and I’m looking forward to representing the Braves in Cleveland.”

Acuna will be 21 years and 203 days when the All-Star Game is played in Cleveland on July 9. This will make him the eighth-youngest player to start a Midsummer Classic and the third-youngest Braves player to play in an All-Star Game, trailing Hank Aaron (21 years, 157 days in 1955) and Ozzie Albies (21 years, 191 days in 2018).

Eddie Mathews (21 years, 274 days in 1953) had previously been the youngest Braves player to be named an All-Star starter.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for giving me the opportunity to be in my first All-Star Game,” Acuna said. “Hopefully, there will be many more to follow. Thanks to all the fans for their support, to my family and to all my people from Venezuela.”

Acuna will team with Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger to serve as the NL outfielders. The Braves’ center fielder narrowly gained the third starting spot by winning a close election battle against Charlie Blackmon.

NL manager Dave Roberts told reporters he plans to put Bellinger in center field, Yelich in right field and Acuna in left field.

Freeman also emerged victorious in his tight election battle with the Pirates’ Josh Bell. The Atlanta first baseman will be the first Braves player to start consecutive All-Star Games since Jones in 2000-01.

Second baseman , shortstop , third baseman , outfielder and catcher were the other Braves on the Starters Election ballot. The remainder of the National League’s reserves and pitching staff, which could include Atlanta rookie , will be announced Sunday.

Acuna will certainly garner attention, as he enters his first All-Star Game widely considered one of baseball’s next superstars. The young outfielder won the National League Rookie of the Year Award after proving to be one of the game’s most productive players after last year’s All-Star break. He has hit .287 with 19 home runs and a .875 OPS over 81 games this season.

Acuna ranks fourth among all MLB players with 38 homers and seventh with a .944 OPS dating back to last year’s All-Star break. The Braves averaged 4.8 runs per game before he was moved back to the leadoff spot on May 10. They have averaged 6.0 runs over the 44 games that have followed and worked their way back to the top of the NL East race.

While Acuna has influenced this rise, Freeman has been constructing his own MVP-caliber credentials. The four-time All-Star has hit .312 with 22 homers and a .994 OPS through this year’s first 82 games.

Freeman has positioned himself for a potential 40-homer season as he has tallied 15 homers and produced a 1.072 OPS over 179 plate appearances dating back to May 16. He will be the first Braves first baseman to start consecutive All-Star Games since Fred McGriff (1995 and ’96).

The pitchers and reserves for both squads -- totaling 24 for the NL and 23 for the AL -- will be determined through a combination of “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the Commissioner’s Office. The balance of the All-Star rosters will be announced on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN during the “Google MLB All-Star Selection Show.”

The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on Tuesday, July 9, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.