The Atlanta Braves and Ronald Acuña Jr. have agreed to a long-term contract extension that will run through 2026 and contains two club-options for 2027 and 2028 that may push the total deal to 10 years and $124 million. Acuña originally signed for a $100,000 bonus with Atlanta in 2014 and put up one of the better age-20 seasons in recent memory, becoming only the seventh player in major league history to hit 25 home runs in a season before the age of 21 (joining Eddie Mathews, Orlando Cepeda, Al Kaline, Tony Conigliaro, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott).
Acuña helped cement his status as one of the better players in baseball with major improvements in the second half of 2018:
His expected wOBA (used to get a sense of a hitter’s true talent level) went from slightly above average in the first half to MVP-like in the second half, improving his OPS by nearly 300 points (.742 to 1.028). He started to chase less pitches outside of the strike zone (O-Swing%; otherwise known as chase rate), while swinging at more strikes (Z-Swing %; zone swing rate) and increasing his overall contact rate. Swinging more at good pitches and less at bad pitches is usually a solid foundation towards continued improvement in his plate discipline.
Among 183 hitters with at least 450 plate appearances in 2018, Acuña finished tied 9th in SLG%, 12th in OPS, 14th in Isolated Power (minus batting average from slugging percentage), 12th in wOBA and 12th in wRC+. He ended up with 26 home runs, 64 runs driven in, 78 runs scored and 16 stolen bases, all in only 111 games and at a non-legal drinking age. It’s safe to say getting a player of Acuña’s talent for a potential average annual value of $12.4 million over the next decade should turn out to be a massive steal for the Braves.
Featured Photo Credit: Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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