Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Braves Team News

Impressive comps for Acuña's first 162 games

May 25, 2019

On Friday night in St. Louis, Ronald Acuña Jr. played the 162nd game of his career for the Braves, giving him the equivalent of one full Major League season under his belt since his debut last April 25. Acuña arrives at that milestone at a young age, as he won't

On Friday night in St. Louis, Ronald Acuña Jr. played the 162nd game of his career for the Braves, giving him the equivalent of one full Major League season under his belt since his debut last April 25.

Acuña arrives at that milestone at a young age, as he won't turn 22 until December. The dynamic outfielder already owns a National League Rookie of the Year Award and a memorable October moment, having become the youngest to hit a postseason grand slam -- off the Dodgers' Walker Buehler in Game 3 of last year's NL Division Series.

Acuña also has provided stellar production. Here is his career stat line through 162 games: .289/.367/.533 with 32 doubles, five triples, 37 home runs, 95 RBIs and 113 runs scored

Among all MLB hitters with at least 600 plate appearances since the beginning of 2018, Acuña ranks 12th in wRC+ (138), just behind teammate Freddie Freeman and ahead of the Cardinals' Paul Goldschmidt. Depending on whether you use the versions of WAR available at Baseball Reference (6.4) or FanGraphs (5.4) -- which factor in different evaluations of his defense -- Acuña either ranks just outside the top 20 or top 30 among position players.

Acuña's performance is all the more impressive given his lack of age and experience. He remains younger than many college players who will be picked in the upcoming Draft, and at this time two years ago, he had just been promoted to Double-A for the first time.

It should be noted that Acuña isn't entirely alone among his peers. The Nationals' Juan Soto, the runner-up Acuña bested in last year's NL Rookie of the Year voting, is even younger and has posted comparable numbers, at least on the offensive side, through 157 games. And the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger had a .911 OPS and 43 homers in his first 162 games through last May 2, although he was about four months older upon his MLB debut than Acuña is now.

Looking back through baseball history, it's tough to find comparable hitters. Acuña and Soto are currently two of just 11 hitters who have debuted in the past 70 years to post a wRC+ of 130 or better in 600-plus plate appearances through age 21. The others are almost all baseball legends.

With that in mind, here is a look at how Acuña's first 162 games stack up against others who also got to that point before they were 22.

Acuña's .289 BA is comparable to: Manny Machado (.287, 2012-13)
There aren't many high-average hitters these days, with just 14 batting .300 or better over 600-plus plate appearances since the start of last season. But Acuña is striking out at a rate below the MLB average this year, while making hard contact at an elite rate (47.9 percent). That's a good recipe for racking up base hits.

Acuña's .367 OBP is comparable to: Alex Rodriguez (.367, 1994-96)
Acuña has walked in roughly 10 percent of his career plate appearances, better than MLB average. He's not particularly prone to chasing out of the zone and also has been hit by 10 pitches.

Acuña's .533 SLG is comparable to: Mike Trout (.531, 2011-12)
Trout struggled in his 40-game debut in 2011 before breaking out the next year, at age 20. Acuña has hit basically from day one. Roughly 14 percent of his career batted balls have been barrels -- having an optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle -- on par with the likes of Nelson Cruz, Christian Yelich and Justin Upton over that span.

Acuña's 138 wRC+ is comparable to: Bryce Harper (137, 2012-13)
Harper was even younger (19) when he debuted, and like Acuña, showed right away he wasn't overwhelmed or overmatched in the big leagues. An era- and park-adjusted offensive stat, wRC+ has a league average of 100. A few notable hitters who fell between 135-140 for their careers: Vladimir Guerrero, Reggie Jackson and David Ortiz.

Acuña's 37 HR are comparable to: Giancarlo Stanton (38, 2010-11)
The home run environment is a bit more favorable now than it was when Stanton arrived, but there is nothing cheap about Acuña's big flies. His 106.9 mph average exit velocity on homers is well above average, and only the Rockies' Trevor Story has a longer average distance than Acuña (415 feet) among those with 30-plus homers since last season.

Acuña's 21 SB are comparable to: Ken Griffey Jr. (22, 1989-90)
Griffey went on to steal 167 bases through the end of his 20s before slowing down, and Acuña has the chance to rack up plenty of thefts, too. His average sprint speed has been over 29 ft/sec in both 2018 and '19, well above the MLB average (27 ft/sec). Overall, Acuña's baserunning has been worth about four extra runs in his career, according to FanGraphs.

Acuña's 6.4 bWAR is comparable to: Albert Pujols (6.6, 2001)
Pujols didn't debut until he was 21, but that was on Opening Day of the 2001 season, when he went on to play 161 games and immediately establish himself among the game's elite. Pujols was the superior hitter, but Acuña's all-around game brings the two roughly even.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.