While the Atlanta Braves have a need for a clean-up bat in their lineup, will Ronald Acuña Jr. remain in the leadoff position?
While Acuña possesses the power found in most clean-up bats, he is far too valuable when it comes to leading off for the Braves.
This seems to be a conversation that has existed amongst Braves fans during the last two off-seasons.
Many believe Acuña should be moved down in the lineup while others disagree and say that he is fine where he is. I happen to agree with the latter statement.
The numbers speak for themselves as Ronald Acuña has absolutely crushed the ball when batting first in the order as opposed to fourth.
How do his stats compare between each spot?
When you break down the numbers, it’s easy to see why most fans believe Acuña should remain as the leadoff man for Atlanta. He’s just simply had much more success leading off.
During Acuña’s debut season, that saw him take home 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, he went on a ridiculous tear once he was placed at the top of the lineup.
Despite this incredible tear, the Braves elected to try him in the 4-hole after acquiring Josh Donaldson who preferred to bat second in the lineup. This led to Acuña attempting to provide Freeman the protection he didn’t have in 2018.
We will break down Acuña’s numbers for 2019 only since the information would be skewed due to him not batting cleanup in 2018.
Let’s begin with his stats when batting behind Freddie Freeman.
Acuna’s slash line looked like this in 133 at-bats when hitting fourth in 2019:
- .278/.373/.481, .854 OPS, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 18 BB, and 35 Ks
Those aren’t the worst numbers in the world and look like a fairly successful clean-up hitter. But we all know that Ronald was very up and down when batting there.
When you compare that to Acuna batting first, it’s fairly similar with a few notable differences:
- 492 at-bats, .280/.364/.528, .893 OPS, 34 HR, 78 RBI, 35 SB, 58 BB, 153 Ks
Some of the differences are skewed due to sample size but as you can see, Acuña’s average and on-base percentages were nearly identical.
The only major differences came in the form of slugging percentage and OPS. Something just clicks when Ronald leads off for the Atlanta Braves. He becomes one of the most relentless hitters in the league.
When leading off an inning, Acuña had some nice numbers as well. He hit .265/.324/.470 with an OPS of .794 and 14 HR/14 RBI.
In his career, he has hit .293/.350/.559 with an OPS of .908 and 29 HR/29 RBI when leading off. It’s safe to say that the 21-year-old Venezuela native likes to drive the momentum for Atlanta. I don’t know what it is but the kid just seems to thrive in that spot.
Now, his strikeout percentage was higher around 31% compared to 26% when in the clean-up role. However, it’s yet again an extremely similar result.
So, is this enough evidence to keep him in the leadoff spot?
I’m one of those people who is a big believer in the idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s very clear that Ronald Acuña Jr. enjoys setting the tone for the offense and is comfortable in that role.
He’s got the tools necessary to be a successful leadoff man. He gets on base, runs the bases extremely well, works the count, makes solid contact but also has the ability to hit the ball a long, long way.
I don’t think it’s wrong to experiment with the idea of Acuña becoming the future clean-up bat for Atlanta. As I said, the numbers speak for themselves and they aren’t terrible.
The longer he is in this league, the better he will become at situational hitting and driving in a lot of runs. It would be nice to see him possibly get more at-bats throughout the course of the game.
Although I’d say with the way he hits leading off, he gives himself the opportunity to have plenty of at-bats. The only difference is, there aren’t a lot of people on base when he launches a monster homer.
I don’t think Atlanta really loses anything with what they decide to do with Acuña in the lineup but I have to believe he proved why having him at the top of the order is the best-case scenario for this Braves team day in and day out.
I think it’s safe to say that he will be leading off for the Atlanta Braves when March 26th, 2020 rolls around and that’s okay with me. Hard to complain about having one of the game’s most talented players set the tone for this team every day.
There are worse problems to have.