The Atlanta Braves are fresh off of winning 101 games en route to their fifth consecutive division title in 2022, but there is reason to believe that this team could be even better in 2023.
That has everything to do with its resurgent superstar, Ronald Acuña.
Now that we're less than a week away from the opener in Washington D.C., Caleb Johnson and Garrett Chapman discussed how important Acuña is to the Braves this season. They went on to talk about why this team is at its best when its superstar is, too.
"Another guy that I’m looking at is Ronald Acuña," Garrett said on Sunday night. “He looks like he's having fun again. And I think that was the biggest thing with Ronald last year, I didn't feel like he was having fun. He was timid around the knee and he wasn't hitting for power.”
While Acuña had a solid year in 2022, it was a far cry from what fans had come to expect from the Braves' young outfielder.
In his last full season in 2019 (2020 was shortened due to COVID), he hit 41 homers, drove in 101 runs, and led the NL with 37 stolen bases. Then in 2021, he was likely en route to the best season of his career. He carried a struggling Braves squad with 24 homers, 16 stolen bases, 20 extra-base hits, and 52 RBI in the team's first 82 games before the ACL tear ahead of the All-Star Break that cost him the season.
After being reinstated in May of last year, Acuña never looked to be 100 percent. He certainly held his own with 15 homers and 29 steals, but he looked human for much of the season. He wasn't chasing balls in the outfield with the same tenacity and the power wasn't where it had been before the injury.
After strong performances in both spring training and the World Baseball Classic, it looks like Ronald Acuña is back to being Ronald Acuña.
"He’s playing with that swagger again," Garrett continued. "And Ronald Acuña, when he's playing at the level that he could play at, where he had that home run the other day where I think he hit that thing like 500 feet -- I swear he hit that to Truist park -- and when he's playing at that level, he's one of the best players in the game."