The Atlanta Braves currently sit 1st in the NL East and are tied for the most wins in the NL. They lead the MLB in AVG and are 2nd in OBP, SLG, and OPS. While the success of the team can’t be attributed to just one single person, there are two guys on this team that stand out.
Ozzie Albies made his debut last August and finished the season with a .286/.354/.456 slash line in 57 games. He managed to hit 6 home runs in that span and swipe 8 bags. So far this season, in 40 games, he has a slash line of .277/.312/.588 with 13 home runs, which is tied for the league lead. He also leads the NL in doubles and total bases.
His partner in crime and current top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Ronald Acuna, had his debut 3 weeks ago and is already impressing. In just his 2nd game in a Braves uniform, he launched one 416 ft into the upper decks at Great American Ballpark with an exit velocity of 105.8 mph. He has three more long balls on the year, with one against the Mets that went 451 ft and one against the Rays that went 434 ft. He launched his 4th home run and 1st at SunTrust over 400 feet to dead center last Tuesday against the Cubs.
Braves skipper Brian Snitker is hitting the two young guns at the top of the order with Albies leading off then having Acuna right behind him in the 2 spot. The amazing thing about these two youngins is that they are the two youngest players in Major League Baseball. Albies is 21 and Acuna is 20. These two are already setting many records together. When they both homered against the Reds, they became the youngest players to homer in the same game since 1978 when Glenn Hubbard and Bob Horner did it for the Braves as well. With Acuna’s solo shot against the Rays last week, he became the youngest player to homer in a 1-0 game since 1935.
The two of them have been great friends since their minor league days. They came up through the system together and they both knew the other would succeed in the pros.
Albies has never been known for his power, he’s always been a speed guy. During his career in the minors, he had not hit more than 9 home runs in a season. He currently has 13 on the year. He has managed to steal roughly 20 bags a season each year in the minors. He is a switch hitter who has better power from the right side but a better average from the left side.
When you break down Albies home and away splits it leaves one glaring question. Why is Albies not hitting well at SunTrust, which is essentially a launching pad? You would think most of his home runs come at home, but he only has 2 at SunTrust this year. He has 11 when he’s on the road. His batting average is also significantly lower at home where he holds a .238 BA compared to a .298 BA on the road. While the sample size is still small and we are just a month and a half into the 2018 season.
If Albies he keeps up what he’s doing on the road and can translate that to SunTrust, then we could have an MVP discussion on our hands. But that is a big if. Albies would need to be a little more patient at the plate when it comes to drawing walks, which he does at a 4.2% rate. But when you look at the sabermetrics, he has an ISO of .311, which should regress because he has not finished one season with an ISO of above .200. But his BABIP is at a .275, which is the lowest in his career. So, however the rest of Albies’ season goes will be a fun one to follow. At this moment in time I would vote Albies for the All-Star game.
Watching Acuna hit a baseball is a show in itself. This man played across 3 levels in the Braves minor league system in 2017 and thrived in all 3. At High-A he had a .287 BA with a .411 BABIP. After 28 Games he got the call to Double-A Mississippi, where he put up a .326 BA and a .396 BABIP in 57 games. He also managed to mash 9 long balls in his 243 plate appearances. He got the Triple-A Gwinnett call and was raking there too, with a .344 batting average and a .404 BABIP. He again mashed 9 long balls in 243 plate appearances. So far in 2018, he’s got a .260 BA and a .333 BABIP. He is only 18 games in, so I will give him a little longer until we start making our final judgments on the kid. But for the time being, I am very high on him, as I have chosen him as my NL ROY. So hopefully, he proves me right.
The more you look into Albies number the more it starts to either impress you and raise your eyebrows. In 40 games this year, Albies has 40 at-bats in the first inning. He has a .450/.450/1.025 slash line with 6 home runs.
As long as Snitker keeps this dynamic duo at the top, I see no scenario to where these two couldn’t lead the Braves to a playoff run. And potentially a World Series or two in the near future when the pitching fully develops. But for the time being, just enjoy the show that is Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna. Remember these kids are 21 and 20 respectively and they haven’t even hit their prime and they are already creating buzz. A new chapter has started in Atlanta and boy is it going to be a good one.