The Atlanta Braves have one of the most talented farm systems in all of baseball. A lot of their young talent has already made its way to the big leagues and is a vital reason they’re currently sitting in first place in the NL East. Two of those players who are making a huge impact and have risen to the big leagues together are Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna.
First, there is 21-year old Ozzie Albies. The rookie is enjoying a spectacular beginning to his big league career, hitting .286 with 14 homers and 34 RBI in just 47 games. Albies is currently second in the National League in homers to Bryce Harper, who’s clubbed 15 this year. The Curacao native ranks among the top five in the NL in homers, runs batted in, slugging percentage, runs scored, and hits. Not bad for a 5’8” rookie second basemen. Albies had some major league service time last year and hit .286 in 57 games with just six homers. He’s come out of nowhere in 2018 with this legit power to all fields at the dish, and that alone has made him one of the most exciting rookies in all of the big leagues.
Albies is a switch hitter which makes him even harder to pitch to because he’s a threat from both sides of the plate. The Braves second basemen is hitting .407 off left-handed pitching, to just .242 off right-handers. However, Albies has crushed nine of his fourteen homers off right-handed pitching. Like most rookies, he is getting most of his hits off the fastball. Albies is hitting .288 off the heater, and nine of his long balls have come off the fastball.
An interesting fact that shows he does have some good patience is his average against off-speed pitching. Albies is hitting .310 against off-speed stuff (changeup, split, fork, screw). Despite only drawing 12 walks this season, that average against softer stuff from pitchers really does show his patience to sit back and drive the ball the other way. His average against breaking balls is only .244, but as he gets more big league service time he will most certainly get better at hitting the breaking ball.
We’ve all seen first hand what Albies can do at the plate. His defense and speed however are just as impressive. Albies doesn’t swipe a lot of bags. He’s only stolen 14 bags in 104 games to this point in his major league career. Despite that, he can absolutely fly around the basepaths. Numerous times this season, he’s turned singles into doubles because of his tremendous speed. That alone is so important to any team. When you can put yourself in scoring position at any given time, it’s so beneficial. That speed and quickness have translated right over to Albies defense at second base. He has great range and can get a lot of balls in the hole because of superior athleticism.
Ronald Acuna Jr
Acuna was called up in late April to make his big league debut at the tender age of 20, and quickly proved why he is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. He hit .421 in his first five games in a Braves uniform but has slowed down since. Acuna is now hitting .260 with four homers and 12 RBI in 25 games this year, which aren’t any eye-popping numbers. But for Acuna, it’s all about the potential that he has. Acuna absolutely lit up the Arizona Fall League last fall, winning the MVP and batting title. It was there where Acuna began to solidify himself as one of the most talented prospects in all of minor league baseball. He basically forced Atlanta’s hand to call him up after hitting .305 lifetime in the minor leagues and proving that he was ready for the bright lights of Major League Baseball.
Just like Albies, Acuna is the full package. He has lightning quick hands at the plate and has shown he can make hard contact on a consistent basis. He has struggled as of late, but that’s to be expected of a 20-year old. His numbers in the minors and the flashes of star potential that he has shown at times since being called up speak for themselves. One thing that has been extremely impressive is Acuna’s ability to hit the breaking ball. He is hitting .297 off curveballs and sliders. That is a huge testament to his maturity as a hitter because you don’t see young players like this who can handle a big league breaking ball this well. He is very advanced for his age offensively. The future is very bright for Acuna.
Just like Albies, Acuna can fly on the basepaths. He’s only stolen two bags this year, but he does have the potential to be a guy who can steal 30+ a year. His speed helps him even more in the outfield. Acuna has been playing mostly left field for the Braves, and his athleticism and quickness have helped him make some highlight reel diving catches in the alleys. Acuna also has a great arm in the outfield.
Albies and Acuna made their way through the minors together to the big leagues, and are both making their impact for the Braves. Between other names like Mike Soroka, Lucas Sims, and Dansby Swanson, the Atlanta Braves have a very good chance of being serious contenders in the National League for many years to come.
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