Ronald Acuña Jr. is about to be even more valuable for the Atlanta Braves. The reigning NL MVP is poised to help the Braves get over top in the deep National League next season after having not won a postseason series the last two Octobers since winning the World Series in 2021. Acuña did not play in the Fall Classic that year, as he was still on the mend after tearing his ACL down in Miami in mid-July.
Well, that knee seems to be made of steel now, as Acuña was spotted working on his middle infield chops. Earlier this offseason, he was showing off his abilities as a switch hitter. While he is probably never going to have to do either in any game of consequence, kudos to him for working out new muscles in an attempt to keep things fresh and learn a few new skills while playing the game he loves.
It may have only been a few grounders taken in and around the second base bag, but Acuña already looks more comfortable as a middle infielder than Vaughn Grissom ever did. Should anything bad happen to Ozzie Albies or Orlando Arcia, in a pinch, just signal Ronnie Beisbol to come in from right field and play some second base or something. If Mookie Betts can do it, then Acuña can so do this.
It is all about repetition, something Atlanta must adapt with Ron Washington now leading the Angels.
As long as he stays healthy, the Braves will have a top-five player in baseball going forward in Acuña.
Ronald Acuña Jr. flashes the leather taking some grounders in the infield
If Acuña were to transition from right field to middle infield at some point, it might be more seamless than we all would think. He thrives in right field because of his range, athleticism, rocket arm and legs. As long as he is still fleet afoot, right field will always be a place Acuña calls home. However, his dexterity and footwork may be a reason why he could have success as a future middle infielder, too.
Truth be told, defense is a big part of Acuña's game, but not the primary or secondary factor. His two greatest attributes are his power bat from the right-hand side of the plate, as well as his set of wheels on the base paths. His 40/70 season this past season was historic, which is why he was the runaway winner to be named NL MVP. But eventually, his legs will let him down and his game will have to pivot.
Look. Just because foot speed is one of the first things to go when a man leaves his 20s and enters his 30s doesn't mean he cannot retain some of his inherent levels of athleticism. He can still make plays defensively in the field, and do whatever he wants at the plate. It just may have to be more of the methodical variety. Be a student of the game even more to help gain and sustain one's edge in this.
The Braves are already a sound defensive ball club, but Acuña's versatility makes them even better.