Acuña Jr. or Soto for Rookie of the Year?

Acuña Jr. or Soto for Rookie of the Year?

Despite this being a Braves blog, I – with no hesitation – must say I love Juan Soto. The fact that, in his first game of the year back in April, Soto was facing the Rome Braves is astounding. He hit a homer off Kyle Muller, who ranked #13 on the Walk-Off Walk Midseason Top 50 Prospects. In his final at-bat that day, lefty Thomas Burrows (#34th) struck him out.

Just over a month after that game, Soto was in the majors. That’s absurd. He homered against the Yankees’ Chad Green that day to break up a 3-3 tie. And with that, the lefty slugger began a scorched Earth campaign against the major leagues. He’s bashed another 19 home runs, reached base at a .421 clip, and in a season of massive disappointment for the Nationals, Soto has given them hope that should they lose Bryce Harper, not all will be lost.

Oh, and Nationals fans would like me to point out that he’s just 19. I won’t speak for what you were doing at the age of nineteen, but I certainly wasn’t putting up a weighted On-Base Average around .400 against major league pitching. In fact, still waiting to get a chance to face a major league pitcher to show the world what I can do. Any. Day. Now.

What Juan Soto is doing is nearly unprecedented. He’s joined Tony Conigliaro (1964) and the aforementioned Harper (2012) as the only players to hit twenty home runs as a teenager. And no teenager – not John McGraw, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, or Ty Cobb – had an OBP over .400 while playing in the majors before the age of 20. Soto is ridiculously good right now.

Such a shame that he plays in the same league as Ronald Acuña Jr. Otherwise, Soto would be able to add a Rookie of the Year to his trophy case.

As much as I love Soto, he’s simply not Acuña Jr. Like Soto, the latter began the year in the minors, though he was in Triple-A. That’s less impressive, but the only reason he didn’t face major league pitching last year or when this season started was for service time reasons. In addition, Acuña Jr missed time with an injury. Despite that, with nearly an equal amount of plate appearances, Acuña Jr. has not only caught Soto in many categories, he’s breezed by.

Once again, this isn’t to say that Soto is not a deserving candidate. And before I continue, I can hear other fans saying “what about our guy?” Apologies to Cardinals fans because Harrison Bader has been very good and I see you, Brian Anderson, in Miami. But neither one of you, nor Walker Buehler in Los Angeles, are in this discussion. It’s limited to Soto and Acuña Jr. It’s easy, especially if you watch an exorbitant amount of one over the other, to want “your guy” to win, but objectively, this does belong to Acuña Jr. and it’s not just limited to the stats.

Ronald Acuna Jr. | Jeff Morris @JeffMorrisAB

Though, statistically, since we are on the subject, Acuña Jr. has passed Soto in fWAR. Maybe you prefer the Baseball-Reference version and in that, Acuña Jr. is crushing Soto by 1.5 bWAR. If you like offensive analytics, both are very close to one another in wOBA, wRC+, and Soto holds a big league in WPA. If you are the more traditional stats type, Acuña Jr. has opened a good lead in home runs and steals while Soto holds the edge in RBI and walks.

But there are two things that really separate Acuña Jr. from Soto.

1) Defense – While Acuña Jr.’s defensive metrics in left field have been a bit quirky, he long had the reputation as a talented outfielder. There is no reason to believe that scouting report is inaccurate. Consider his Defensive Runs Saved of 7. DRS is a way of quantifying the idea of “RBI in his glove.” Seven is a respectable number for a guy learning new ballparks and ranks just outside the Top 10. Juan Soto, who only plays left field while Acuña Jr. has moved to center field and even right field this season, can’t compare. He has a -5 DRS and his defensive metrics simply lag behind Acuña Jr. in every way.

Another popular metric is from Statcast called Outs Above Average. Ender Inciarte ranks in a dead heat for first place with Bader. Acuña Jr. is ranked 36th. Out of 250. Soto? Ranked 228th. While both hitters post similar offensive numbers, Acuña Jr. doesn’t hurt his team in the field. That’s a big deal.

2) Context – But if you weren’t completely convinced about defense ending this discussion, try this on for size. In the second half, the Braves have struggled at times. Dansby Swanson has a love-hate relationship with a .300 OBP, Nick Markakis‘s power left him, and Ozzie Albies has yet to see a high fastball he didn’t want to swing at. Even Freddie Freeman has looked, in a word, off.

Meanwhile, the bullpen has wavered far too often while the rotation outside of Mike Foltynewicz has been prone to short outings and ineffective pitching. And sure, there are some individuals that have performed well during this stretch (Johan Camargo, for one), but throughout the second half, the Braves have simply not looked as good as they did entering the All-Star Break. It briefly led to them losing their stranglehold on the division.

The Braves are now riding high with a rapidly increasing division lead and several players contributing, but for a while, the only guy who seemed to step up was Acuña Jr. Moved to the leadoff spot where Inciarte and Albies had struggled at times, Acuña Jr. was not just a table setter – he cleared the table quite often. As the Braves went through the motions, their 20-year-old wunderkind carried the team. He did so much that some believe that the real debate is whether or not Acuña Jr. should be the National League MVP.

Juan Soto is a great player. A special player. Having the two of these players in the same division should be fun to watch for years to come. And in many years, Soto is the clear Rookie of the Year.

But not in 2018.

Not with Ronald Acuña Jr. doing his thing.

9 Comments

100% agree. It is especially the defense that separates them and we can only hope awards voters understand or consider that. Not so sure about context. The gNats have a deep, experienced hitting roster and that surely helps Soto to some extent but he has really boosted their lineup especially when Harper was underperforming earlier in the year. There is no doubt, though, that Acuna carried this team by himself for a short period and then with Camargo and Swanson and then as part of the whole team as many returned to hitting.

I think that baserunning and steals is a more significant factor then you indicate. Acuna’s impact has been much more that Soto’s in that respect. I hope that Acuna can run some more and get to 20 steals so that he can add 20/20 to his resume. Next year, he could easily be a 30/30 guy. That would cement him as a perennial MVP candidate.

So let me get this straight: bottom of the 6th inning, 1 out, runners on 1st and 3rd (score 5-2 Nationals). Dave Martinez replaces Tanner Roark with the lefty Tim Collins to face Ender Inciarte (who Snitker decides to not pinch hit for him with Adam Duval)…who proceeds to LOOK HELLA BAD when striking out.

However, Snitker has the ‘bright idea’ of pinch hitting for Tyler Flowers (who in his previous at-bat hit a two run homer off of the righty Roark) with Lucas Duda..after Dave Martinez brings in a righty to relieve Collins…..and Duda proceeds to LOOK BAD after striking out.

Sure, Inciarte was 12 for his last 25 against lefties. However Collins is HELLA TOUGH on lefties (only giving up 4 hits in their last 31 at-bats against him). So if Sntiker is going to use ‘recent’ at-bat success as a ‘rationale’ for keeping in Inciarte to face Collins….WHY NOT use Flowers’ ‘recent at-bat success against righty pitching (like his 2-run homer in his previous at bat) to keep him in the game?

Does Snitker even know what he’s doing? It seems like he manages with ‘a hopeful gut feeling’ (meaning that he keeps Inciarte hitting in high leverage situations where he has A LOW % of being successful). Earlier in August, he had Duval hit in high leverage situations against right handed pitching.

Whether it comes to how he uses Luke Jackson/Sam Freeman….I just dont get it!

Hopefully The Marlins will hold on (they are up 6-2 in the top of the 8th inning) and beat Philly…because if Acuna and Camargo arent hitting homers….our offense struggles to score run (because Freddie and Markakis have pretty much GIVEN UP on hitting homers as our #3-#4 hitters since August 1st).

1 FREAKING HOMER between Freddie and Markakis in the month of September….in a COMBINED 102 at-bats! WTF?

Only Brian Snitker (whose HELLA ADDICTED to using the same relievers OVER AND OVER again, even with expanded rosters, leaving a number of relievers buried without being used for over a week at at time…like Max Fried, Kolby Allard and Bryce Wilson)….can run out of pinch hitters by the bottom of the 7th inning (apparently being forced to use Ryan Flaherty to(pinch hit for Shane Carle).

He used Ruiz, Tucker and Duda (Suzuki was brought in to replace Flowers when he used Duda to pinch hit for Flowers….using 2 players to replace one…so Suzuki wasnt even used to pinch hit, he has to replace Flowers, lol).

So basically, Snitker used 4 of our best pinch hitters, prior to the end of the 6th inning. If Camargo isnt even available to pinch hit today….the only pinch hitters we have left are Adam Duval and the non-hitting catcher Rene Rivera.

Meanwhile, Acuna and Albies have turned into pop up hitting machines today (meaning that with Freeman and Markakis not being A THREAT to hit homers anymore…The Nationals bullpen can throw strikes without worrying about giving up any homers, Flowers lucky 347 foot homer down the left field line earlier today not-withstanding, lol).

Martinez hasnt been taking any chances when it comes to leaving in his bullpen pitchers in high leverage situations. In both the 6th and 8th innings..he’s IMMEDIATELY brought in relievers who will face hitters who are the same handed as them..OR…force Snitker to burn through his pinch hitters.

However, how many times (ESPECIALLY in September with expanded rosters)….has Snitker kept pitchers like Luke Jackson to face opposing handed hitters? It’s like Snitker feels like he’s ‘being fined’ every time he has to make a pitching change.

Meanwhile…Charline FUCKING Culberson just hit a 2-run jack….his SIXTH homer against The Nationals this year! 5-4 Nationals….do we have anymore left in the tank? Can we get AT LEAST one more run?

Dave Martinez EASILY OUTMANAGED Snitker today. Yesterday, Snitker left in Newcomb TOO LONG.

A classic example of how STUPID The Masses are (THROUGHOUT HISTORY, The Masses have been ON THE WRONG SIDE of A LOT OF STUFF)…will be how The Masses in baseball (whether fans, The Media, and even management-types) will end up giving Snitker The Manager of The Year Award, lol.

Yet what do the stats say about what The Braves record ‘should’ be? It says that our record should be EVEN BETTER than it is: meaning….that our ‘Manager of The Year’ (in reality, ‘MORONIC Manager of The Year’) is COSTING The Braves games!

I’ve yet to see ONE INSTANCE, where Snitker ‘outmanaged’ an opponent! How often does he put our players in positions where they are less likely to succeed (meaning high leverage situations where they have a LOWER % chance to succeed….like Brach facing Soto today INSTEAD of Venters)?

Hey Paul, calm it the hell down. Seriously, this is neither your blog nor your home to just throw a million comments out. Further, I’m not anxious to read f-bombs in our comment section. This is getting ridiculous. Braves lost. Go take a walk.

Right now, with 13 games left for The Braves (only 12 left for Washington…14 left for The Phillies)….The Braves have a 6 1/2 game lead against Philly (magic # of 8)…7 1/2 game lead against Washington (magic # of 6).

Now let’s say that WORST CASE SCENARIO…The Braves lose all 7 games this week at home (I know, highly unlikely, but possible..because The Cardinals are a good team..and Philly will be playing DESPERATELY to win)…while BOTH Philly sweeps The Mets (upcoming 3 game series prior to them coming to Atlanta on Thursday) AND Washington SWEEPS BOTH The Marlins (who they play twice) AND The Mets (who they play 4 times starting on Thursday).

That highly unlikely scenario..would put Philly in 1st place by 1/2 a game over The Braves…while Washington would be 1 1/2 games behind Philly.

HOWEVER, what will probably end up ‘saving’ The Braves (assuming that we could rebound against The Mets the 3 games to begin the last week of the season)…would be 1. Philly having to fly to Colorado to play A FOUR GAME SERIES starting on the last Monday of the season…then IMMEDIATELY fly back to Philly after that last game on Thursday to face The Braves on the last Friday (while The Braves only have a short trip from New York to Philly) of the season.

Philly DOES NOT have any off days the rest of the way (while The Braves have one more on the last Monday of the season). While Washington has two off days left (on this coming Wednesday, the other one a travel day the last Thursday of the season)…they do have to play their final 3 games of the season…IN COLORADO!

In other words, Braves fans will probably end up becoming THE BIGGEST Colorado Rockies fans during the last week of the season!

The Nationals next 9 games prior to flying to Colorado to end The Season….2 at Miami…4 hosting The Mets….3 hosting The Marlins. They will be treating every game left as MUST WINS…while becoming THE BIGGEST Phillies fans on this planet, lol! They have NO CHANCE to come back..UNLESS The Phillies, at worst, takes 6 of 7 against us (in reality, they need Philly to sweep all 7….giving The Nationals ‘a little margin of error’, meaning that they could possibly lose one of those 9 games that they have against The Marlins and Mets..and still have a chance to run down The Braves).

While I feel that even Snitker cant mismange The Division away (at this point)….I was hoping that The Braves would be able to clinch The NL East in front of their home fans BEFORE next Sunday…celebrating at Sun Trust Field IN FRONT of The Phillies…then field a team of SCRUBS on the final home game next Sunday (you know, like start the following against Philly…just to rub salt in their faces:

1st base-Duda
2nd-Ryan Flaherty
3rd-Rio Ruiz
SS-Charlie Culberson (he’d be THE BEST player on the field)
left field-Adam Duval
center-Lane Adams
right field-Preston Tucker
catcher-Rene Rivera
pitcher-Kolby Allard

If we could beat The Phillies with that lineup/with Allard starting….the fans would go CRAZY! Resting our main guys (giving them a few at-bats before pinch hitting for them mid game…or letting them pinch hit if we dont start them) the final week….would be really nice.

However, we need to take care of business THIS WEEK!

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