What was expected to be a relatively quiet off day on Tuesday turned into anything but, as the Braves announced a long term extension with phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year hit .293 with a team-leading 26 home runs with a .917 OPS in 111 games. Perhaps his biggest moment came in Game Four of the NLDS when he hit a 3-1 pitch deep into the Atlanta night for a grand slam against Walker Buehler, becoming the youngest player since Mickey Mantle to hit a postseason slam.
After starting the season at Triple-A last year, Acuña joined the Big League club on April 25th, and proceeded to hit the first of his 26 homers the very next day at Great American Ball Park. Acuña quickly showed how clutch he could be, batting a blistering .341 with runners in scoring position, and .400 (4-for-10) with the bases loaded. But perhaps even more impressive was how he seemed to thrive in two out situations. With runners in scoring position and two outs in the inning, Acuña hit .364 with a 1.095 OPS in 44 at bats. And then there were the leadoff homers. 8 of his team best 26 homers came leading off the game. Overall, as the team’s leadoff man, Acuña slugged 19 homers with 15 doubles and a 1.042 OPS in 262 at bats at the top of the Atlanta order.
Not due to hit free agency until 2025, the Braves have locked up a major part of their future for an extremely team-friendly deal. Just consider what the Angels recently gave Mike Trout (12 years/$426 million). Acuña could make up to $124 million over the next decade, or roughly one-quarter of the deal Trout received. And, scouts have constantly referred to Acuña as “the next Mike Trout” this is an absolute grand slam of a deal for both the Braves and their fans. After today’s news, I can’t wait to see the reaction and ovation the 21 year old gets when he takes the field tomorrow as the series with the Cubs continues at SunTrust Park.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet