Acuña Jr. & Super Two: A Primer That Won’t Be Needed

Acuña Jr. & Super Two: A Primer That Won’t Be Needed

I really never wanted this to happen, but here we are. Talking about how long Ronald Acuña Jr. could stay in the minors. Will it last until the Super Two deadline? What in the hell is a Super Two deadline? Why can’t the Braves fans have nice things?

If you haven’t heard, you live under a rock. But just in case, here’s the news. Even though Acuña Jr. has been down in the minors long enough to buy a seventh year of team control, the Braves still have no plans to bring him up from Gwinnett ahead of their homestand that begins today. In fact, they could leave Atlanta after “Blooper Bobblehead Giveaway” on Sunday with Acuña Jr. still in the minors. A reminder: some – ahem, me – weren’t fans of leaving him in the minors to begin with despite understanding and accepting the logical argument that the seventh season of team control was a valid reason to leave him in Triple-A.

There are a few reasons for Acuña Jr.’s struggles to open 2018. A .238 BABIP and striking out a third of the time, for starters. In addition, there is a litany of sports psychologists around (on social media) who will tell you that Acuña Jr. is either moping at the plate or pressing. Others point to a lay-off between Acuña Jr.’s last bit of action this spring and the late start of the minor league season due to a scheduling quirk. Still, others point to the idea that Acuña Jr. is simply a slow starter, though to push that idea, you have to use some extra-small sample sizes.

And then, there are the variables completely out of Acuña Jr.’s control. The Atlanta offense is rolling and Preston Tucker‘s .391 wOBA at the plate is a big reason. Nick Markakis is also hitting well and while neither is likely to sustain their current rates of production, don’t you have to ride the hot hand while it’s hot? Furthermore, there’s the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I read about both of these rationales from the Big Book of Managing.

Super Two

The result is that the longer Acuña Jr. stays in the minors, the more the term “Super Two” will be thrown around. After all, it is pretty similar to the argument of leaving Acuña Jr. in the minors to open 2018. But if you are not familiar with the term, I’ll go over it and we’ll look at what is a possible date to aim for should the Braves go after Super Two status.

The simplest way to remember Super Two is that it includes the players with 2 years of service time + a supersized amount of days that aren’t quite a full year of service time. I’m sure you are aware that players reach arbitration after three years of service time. To avoid insane roster manipulation by teams, players negotiated Super Two in to allow for those players who are close to three years to reach arbitration a year early. As a result, they get four arbitration paydays rather than the regular three. In response, teams simply manipulated a less concrete, but fairly easy-to-predict date. And, for some reason, the MLBPA has yet to address that.

Let’s look at Mike Foltynewicz as an example. He spent parts of four seasons in the majors from 2014-17, but due to not accruing service time while in the minors, Foltynewicz finished 2017 with 2 years and 163 days of service. That left him nine days short of a full year of service time. Without Super Two, he could have been as cheap as the major league minimum for 2018. Instead, because he ranked in the top 22% of players with at least two years of service time, but less than three years, he was arbitration-eligible last offseason.

Because the cut-off is based on a percentage, it’s unknown what it will be in any given year before the season ends and everyone’s service time can be added up. Last year, it was 2 years and 123 days. That was on the lower side of where the mark has been since 2009. It’s also been as high as 2 years and 146 days. The average over the last nine years is about 2 years and 132 days. Seem simple enough?

So, if Atlanta wanted to make sure that Acuña Jr. missed the cut-off, what date could they bring him up? The actual MLB calendar is longer than the service time one. There are an additional 15 days for a calandar length of 187. Let’s be safe and go with the lowest amount of minor league time the Braves would need to cross to get Acuña Jr. to a safe zone (2.123). That would leave us at about 65 days into the calandar. That calandar began this year on March 29.

Let’s do our quick math. Three days in March + 30 days in April + 31 days in May + one day in June = 65 days. By that, the Braves could call up Acuña Jr. on June 2 to face the Nationals on a Saturday day game. But maybe the Braves want to be super safe and and add some more time in there. After the Nationals series, the Braves go on a six-game, eight-day road trip out west before returning home on June 12 for a six-game home stand against the Mets and Padres. After a travel day, they visit Toronto for two days before another travel day and a second six-game homestand – that just so happens to include Hank Aaron Weekend as well. In that case, Acuña Jr. would begin his major league career with a dozen of his first 14 games at home.

As a result, if the Braves want to keep Acuña Jr. in the minors for Super Two reasoning, my gut says we won’t see him in Atlanta until at least June 12.

It should be said that the goals of the two service time manipulations the Braves would consider in this scenario (keeping him at Triple-A for mid-April vs. mid-June) are not the same. One seeks to gain an additional year of team control. The other is completely about financial gain. It should also be said that, while certainly, this may not be the only time it happened, I can only recall the Braves playing Super Two games once. Back in 2009, the Braves called up fringy prospect Kris Medlen over stud prospect Tommy Hanson to keep the latter from reaching Super Two status. In early June, Atlanta brought up Hanson.

But I Don’t Think Any Of This Matters Right Now

I went over Super Two in detail and tried to nail down an earliest call-up date and, in addition, a safer call-up date. But I don’t think Alex Anthopoulos is really thinking about that. Nor do I think Tucker and Markakis are keeping Acuña Jr. in the minors. When we talk about Acuña Jr.’s numbers, we’re a lot closer to the reasoning, but something that Knockahoma Nation’s Josh Brown said in their recent podcast gets us even closer.

The Braves sent Acuña Jr. down while telling everyone he needed more seasoning. The MLBPA started to look into the idea of filing a grievence because everyone can see through that justification as just BS. Acuña Jr. doesn’t need more seasoning no matter what eight games to open 2018 may say. He was ready for a cup of coffee last year. He was ready for opening day this year. And he’s ready to be called up now. However, a wrench has been thrown into the works and no, it’s not Preston “MotherTucker.”

If Atlanta promoted a guy hitting .152/.222/.182 after saying he wasn’t ready two weeks ago – and with no injury to a Braves outfielder to cover them – they would be admitting that they lied. We all know that they did, but it’s kind of like the federal government admitting that there was a 100-to-1 disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine convictions because of race and income. We all know it’s the truth, but you can’t admit it. Admitting that Acuña Jr. is in the minors because of service time reasons will take that grievence the MLBPA thought of filing and throw it into overdrive. It will upset the status quo. It could prompt immediate changes to the CBA – changes that should be made, but without the nastiness that a major league baseball team admitting to manipulating the system would cause.

So, Acuña Jr. waits. And as do the Braves. And both aren’t happy with it. When the Cubs did this to Kris Bryant, he hit .321 with three homers over seven games. The Cubs couldn’t pretend anymore that he needed more seasoning and immediately promoted him after getting the extra year of team control. Unfortunately, due to whatever reasons, Acuña Jr. hasn’t given the Braves the necessary cover they need to bring him up. On the other hand, he’s actually brought some validity to their ridiculous claims.

Sure, should these struggles – knock on every damn piece of wood – continue, the Braves might even begin to consider the Super Two ramfications. But at this point and for the next month or so, I can’t see them considering it at all. Atlanta wants Acuña Jr. in the majors. They just need him to fulfill his part of the bargain by getting hot. Once that happens, he’ll be in Atlanta.

10 Comments

Tommy, this was quite helpful. I had not realized the intricacies of the percentage that designates the cutoff for Super Two eligibles. You and your colleagues really help us with the “inside baseball.” And, the 2018 Atlanta Baseball Preview is absolutely wonderful, reviewing the entire farm system, right down to the organizational guys who rarely get any coverage at all.

Tommy…..you neglected to mention that Mike Olt’s breaking his hand due to getting hit by a pitch (you could say that he was The 2015 Cubs ‘version’ of Preston Tucker, holding down a position while The Cubs could gain that 7th year of control over Bryant)…forced The Cubs to call up Bryant. If Olt had gotten off to a similar start that Tucker has this year…I wonder how long The Cubs would have kept Bryant down in Triple A?

Prior to the beginning of this season, my hope was that The Braves could get through the 1st 15 games with a 7-8 record (like most, I had concerns with how many runs we’d score with a ‘limited power’ lineup outside Freddie Freeman). However, this lineup is a doubles machine! The Braves are 2nd in all of MLB with 2.64 doubles per game! Despite getting virtually NOTHING from leadoff hitter Inciarte…..this Braves lineup scores runs AND routinely turns over without having the pitcher hit leadoff (I’d love to see a stat as to how often a team avoids having a pitcher hit leadoff..and where The Braves rank in that ‘category’).

In other words, the ‘urgency’ to call up Acuna….has lessened. Remember..dude is 20 years old! It isnt like he’s going to ‘regress/never hit a baseball again’…if he has to wait until June 4th to make his MLB debut!

Like it or not…the economics of the game MATTERS! From a payroll perspective…The Braves would be better off having Acuna making a pre-arbitration salary from June 4th til the end of 2018, all of 2019-2020-2021! I know, it would SUCK for Acuna to have to wait that extra year. However if it gives The Braves an advantage when it comes to offering Acuna a long term contract by having that extra year of pre-arbitration control…then The Braves would be FOOLISH to not USE THAT ADVANTAGE!

It comes down to this: is having Acuna for the next 46 games (from April 16th to June 3rd) WORTH potentially paying Acuna an EXTRA $11 mil in 2021 (if Acuna turns out to be as good as we think he’s going to be during the rest of 2018-2020….then he’ll be in line to SURPASS the $10.85 mil that Kris Bryant settled for this offseason in his 1st season of Arbitration…for his 2021 Season…whereas The Braves would only owe Acuna around $600k in 2021 IF they waited until June 4th to call him up).

That’s..a fair thing to ponder. 46 games of Acuna in 2018…vs. saving $10 mil-plus in 2021! By holding Acuna back until June 4th…we’ll still have 102 games of Acuna in 2018 PLUS three FULL SEASONS of Acuna from 2019-2021 at pre-arbitration prices!

I’m willing to risk having Tucker and Markakis ‘hold the fort’ during the next 46 games. This team is only going to GET BETTER as the year goes on! Flowers, Carmago, Gohara are coming back by early May….PLUS Soroka, Allard and Wright could be coming soon after The ASB! Getting Acuna on June 4th would make this A HARD TEAM to beat come summer!

I don’t believe there is a thing Mike Olt could have done that would have kept Kris Bryant in the minors. Olt was already an old, busted prospect by that point. He was a placeholder.

The economics of the game matter to an extent, but the natural extension of your argument is that you can keep Acuna Jr. indefinitely. There is no end to it. Why not put off worrying about arbitration with Acuna Jr. until 2023? 2024? At some point, you need to ignore the financial side – which is full of hypotheticals – and put the best possible product on the field. And you are willing to do that with Gohara, another super prospect. Why not Acuna Jr.?

The only way it makes any legit sense in my mind to keep Acuna Jr. in the minors until at the earliest June 2 is if his slow start continues. Then, maybe you look at the Super Two possibilities.

Wright just got pounded tonight in MS. There is a 0% chance either Wright or Allard get called up after the ASB. Maybe in Sept; maybe not. Soroka should get called up due to an injury to a major SP (after Gohara is back) – even then Sanchez might get the starts. I don’t think Super 2 is a big enough deal to wait on Acuna. I do think he needs a little hot streak to make all the talk go away. And I also agree that it’s mostly in his head now. Baseball is a hard game and as Yogi says “Baseball is 90% mental…”. After the statement he made in Spring about playing so good it forces them to put him on the OD roster and then playing beyond those expectations, he must have been hurt to not make it for such a non-baseball related reason and, now, I can see him feeling a little of “what’s the point”. Playing these service time games can, evidently, have unintended consequences.

Roger…if you’re 20 years old..and the prospect of waiting 46 games to make your MLB debut is going to ‘devastate’ you to the point where you simply ‘lose it’ at the plate…then The Braves are better off finding out that Acuna (or anyone else) is FRAGILE mentally!

Ozzie Albies got hurt in a playoff game at the end of The 2016 Season! He was in line to have a September callup….and be our Opening Day 2nd baseman in 2017. However he got hurt….was slowed by another injury in Spring Training last year..and got off to a slow start in Triple A last year.

YET he ADJUSTED, caught fire, and eventually made his MLB debut IN AUGUST last year!

The adversity that Albies faced at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 didnt make Albies (whose a year older than Acuna) ‘crack’! I expect Acuna to turn out to be JUST FINE, regardless of whether he has to wait until June 4th to make his MLB debut or not!

You’re talking about A LOT OF MONEY when it comes to the difference between pre-arbitration and arbitration. It’s easy for a fan to say ‘it does matter’..because we are not the ones having to fit salaries into a MLB payroll.

I’m not worried about Kyle Wright’s bad start tonight. Given that Mississippi had a rainout yesterday….I doubt that the weather in Mississippi is all that ‘great’ tonight! He has two good starts to open the season. His stuff is GREAT. Let’s see how he is doing come late July!

Kolby Allard can simply LOCATE, LOCATE, LOCATE! His time will come shortly after Soroka comes up!

Meanwhile, nice win by The Braves tonight! Julio Teheran actually looked like he can pitch at home tonight! After that home run by Herrera in the 1st inning…I was like “oh no”. However he buckled down and grinded out 6 innings tonight! Another good job by the bullpen (no Luke Jackson, no Jose Ramirez, lol) tonight.

Really important to get that 1st win out of the way. Folty and McCarthy coming up the next 2 games. Would like to see one of those guys go AT LEAST 7 innings. With Carle, Minter and Vizcaino used tonight….Moylan, Winkler, Freeman (and possibly Carle, given that he looks to have a ‘rubber arm’ like Freeman has, lol) will be options tomorrow when Folty falters. Vizcaino can be used if it’s a save situation.

However I would not use Minter..because he pitched 1 1/3 innings (two innings of warmup pitches included). Minter’s injury history..is the reason why I want to see The Braves go after Craig Kimbrel during Free Agency after the season ends. I dont trust having Minter as your MAIN GUY (at least not yet..maybe 2-3 years down the line). Vizcaino is not someone I feel can be counted on to get you saves in crucial, post season situations (he’ll possibly be traded when The Trade Deadline comes this year…I dont feel that he’ll be worth what he’ll be asking for in arbitration after the season).

I know..it’s tough to trade your closer when you’re competing for a Wild Card spot (I dont see The Braves coming close to winning this division. The Nationals are too good..and will make a ‘GO FOR IT TRADE/TRADES’ later in the season….something AA SHOULD NOT DO this year). However, this year is all about preparing for next year (which will be the first year in potentially A LONG RUN of playoff success). I DO NOT want to see any future pieces…traded for a one game PIPEDREAM that is a ONE GAME Wild Card Spot!

Sure, it would be ‘nice’ if we could make the playoffs this year. After all, the last 4 years have SUCKED. However, I’m ok with taking THE LONG VIEW here….I’m 46 years old and I’ll probably live another 30-40 years. The 2018 Season IS NOT going to ‘make/break’ me, lol. I have NO PROBLEM with waiting until Opening Day of 2019..when I’LL KNOW I’ll be able to say ‘from here on out (for the next 15 years or so), my Braves will be making The Playoffs EVERY SINGLE YEAR’! That is HOW GOOD/HOW DEEP/HOW MUCH Payroll FLEXIBILITY that The Braves SHOULD have…for a number of years!

Sun Trust Field and the surrounding Battery Properties are A PRINTING PRESS. Around 2027, when the local tv contract is up…The Braves will be position to drastically increase revenues! As long as AA continues to draft well…they can weather The Latin Market Penalties.

Tommy….I NEVER stated that I want to see Acuna kept ‘indefinitely’ in The Minors. I’m saying that June 4th (whether this year OR any year) is ‘the optimal date’ to bring up a HIGHLY TOUTED prospect.

Luis Gohara was brought up late last year…because 1. he was ready. 2. The Braves have A LOT of potentially ‘high ceiling arms’ behind Gohara who will be coming up in the next few years. It’s important that Gohara gets an opportunity to show what he can do….BEFORE the likes of Soroka, Allard and Wright come up.

Lucas Sims..and to a degree, Max Fried, were given opportunities to start in the latter part of 2017. Braves management needed to see how these prospects performed (service time be damned). Sims showed that he’s, at best, a back-end starter for a cellar dwelling team. Fried, I feel, is better suited to an Andrew Miller-like role. However he’ll be given a chance to start in Triple A..and perhaps later this year (depending on the health/any trades that AA may make later this year by The July Trade Deadline) in Atlanta. Starting lefties DO NOT grow on trees, lol.

Because of the volatility of pitching…playing service times games makes little sense. However, the way things are setting up (at least for the forseeable future), The Braves can call up Soroka, Allard and/or Wright around/after The ASB..and still get 3 full seasons of those guys after The 2018 Season. Perhaps they can do the same thing with the arms that they decide to bring up during The 2019 Season.

Think about it…unless The Braves suffer a RASH of injuries…which Minor League Pitching Prospects (other than Soroka, Allard and Wright) will be in line to possibly open The 2019 Season with The Braves? I dont see anyone (unless they are a bullpen piece). I see the high upside starting pitching prospects (like Tooki, Weigel, perhaps one or two of The Florida Fire Frogs starting pitching prospects) starting The 2019 Season in Triple A….and pitching AT LEAST half a season there.

AA will have some tough decisions (a good position to have) on who he wants to ultimately keep long term! There will be MLB teams that come calling BEGGING for ‘our scraps’ (who’ll be GEMS on their teams, lol)!

I was in favor of keeping Acuna down for the two weeks to start the season because in the grand scheme of things a few games weren’t going to make much difference in the standings, and the economics of it. At this point though, as Tommy said, there’s not much more of a point in trying to game the system. The future is an unknown. He could be a Hall of Famer one day; or he could get hurt one day, and never be the same. I wouldn’t bring him up as ice cold as he is now, but if he strings together 3-4 good games in a row, bring him up. The only way I’d change my stance on that is if we’re still having this conversation in the last week of May, in which case then, and only then, should they maybe consider waiting. I think he’s too talented for that to come to be, though.

King….Acuna is THE REAL DEAL. Dude can flat out play. Again, I AM NOT worried about his slump ONE BIT. If economics werent an issue, I’d be in favor of calling him up YESTERDAY! His presence in the lineup…would put FEAR into opposing pitchers…in addition to providing some lefty-righty balance AND LENGTHENING the lineup! Also, his defense in left (and in right on the road) would provide LIGHT YEARS better defense than Tucker in left (and Markakis in right..who should be moved to left on the road if Snitker insists on keeping him in the lineup).

Snitker having to take Tucker out of the lineup from the 6th inning on after The Braves get a lead…BOTH weakens out lineup offensively AND takes a pinch hitter away. Acuna being in the lineup would actually STRENGTHEN our bench (we currently lack a power hitting pinch option…which Tucker would provide).

In other words, I’m a TRUE BELIEVER in Acuna. The next three years, he’s going to provide The Braves with some GREAT VALUE and production.

However, as I’ve stated previously…it boils down to this. If The Braves were to call up Acuna today….the 45 games that they would be getting from him in 2018 (the number of games left before June 4th) would potentially end up costing them an additional $10 mil-plus (instead of paying Acuna around $600k in 2021…if Acuna performs as we expect Acuna to perform over the next 3 seasons….he would be in line to EXCEED the $10.85 mil that Kris Bryant settled for prior to this season as a Super 2).

That kind of payroll difference in 2021..cannot be ignored. People like you keep saying ‘oh, there’s not much of a point in trying to game the system’. Dude, it’s called ‘trying to put your team in the best position economically…to field the best team possible’ (balancing out with trying to win now…with trying to win IN THE FUTURE).

Dude, if AA goes out and SPENDS some serious cash on acquiring the type of Free Agents in The 2018 Free Agent Offseason that will make The Braves PLAYOFF CONTENDERS for years to come…..The Braves Payroll will be VERY HIGH from 2019 and onward! While the influx of young, cost controlled, high production players like Albies and Acuna (along with our starting pitching prospects) will help…..in a few years they will start getting increases in salaries via Arbitration. $10 mil-plus FOR ONE PLAYER (like Acuna) in 2021 IS NOT something to ‘not worry about’!

If The Braves keep trotting out Jose Ramirez in tied ballgames in extra innings….they might as well keep Ronald Acuna down in Triple A until June 4th.

The past two games against Philly AT HOME have shown what I feared coming out of Spring Training: A lineup that struggles to score runs because outside of Freddie Freeman, The Braves lack a true home run threat. Ronald Acuna would definitely help with that.

If Acuna gets called up tomorrow (if The Braves are going to call him up..they need to do it SOON because 1. the losses could soon pile up without his offensive threat/defensive improvement…2. the price of calling him up before June 4th, per game, is going to rise when it comes to what they will end up paying Acuna come 2021)…then Peter Burjouis needs to be demoted/released. Second, Jose Ramirez needs to be demoted (not sure if he has team options or not) as well! Either call up Josh Ravin or Jesse Biddle to replace Ramirez! Finally, I’d call up Johan Carmago and release/demote Charlie Culberson IMMEDIATELY!

This team needs an INJECTION IMMEDIATELY…or The Braves might as well go ahead and call this season what I stated during The Offseason that it would be: The last season that we’re going to SUCK! However, if AA makes the above moves TOMORROW….this Braves team can actually COMPETE in 2018. In a few weeks, Flowers and Gohara will come back…..and between The ASB and The July Trade Deadline..Soroka, Allard, Wright and/or Fried are possible rotation/bullpen reinforcements!

The Starting Pitching is starting to grind out 6 plus innings regularly. The upper parts of the bullpen is effective. We just need to inject Acuna’s power/defense….Carmago’s arm/defense at 3rd (Flaherty not making that play on the bunt by Hernandez in the top of the 11th….gave away an out/put a runner on base)….as well as strengthening the back end of the bullpen!

Your thoughts?

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