The Braves are two wins away from their first National League pennant since 1999, and have gotten here without one of their star outfielders.
Ronald Acuña Jr., the NL Rookie of the Year in 2018, hasn’t played for the Braves since July 10 because of a torn right ACL that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
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He played in 82 games before the injury and had 24 home runs and 52 RBIs while stealing 17 bases. His slash line in that span was .283/.394/.596 while being worth 3.6 WAR, fifth-best on the team, even among his teammates who played more of the season than he did. He was also named an All-Star for the second time in his career but couldn’t compete because of the injury.
This isn’t the first time Acuña Jr. missed significant time because of injury, either. Last year, he missed 14 out of a possible 60 games with various minor ailments, most notably a wrist injury in August that landed him on the 10-day IL. Even still, he returned to the Braves in September and helped lead them to within a win of the NL pennant.
After that postseason, Braves GM Alex Anthopolous admitted the wrist injury lingered and followed Acuña Jr. into the postseason.
This year, the Braves didn’t have to worry about any lingering injuries to Acuña Jr., but did have to try to replace him. Thus far, it’s worked with Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler all being acquired midseason to give the Braves some much needed outfield help.
What happened to Ronald Acuña Jr.?
It was July 10 and the Braves were playing the Marlins. At 43-44, the Braves were tied for second place in the division with the Phillies entering the game.
Acuña Jr. was having a nice day at the dish already — he was 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, a run scored and a stolen base.
Then with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Acuña tried to field a deep fly ball off the bat of Miami’s Jazz Chisholm that wound becoming an inside-the-park home run.
End of the road for the Braves? Ronald Acuña Jr is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL after last night’s game against the Marlins pic.twitter.com/MB2WOa70iu
— Belly Up Sports (@BellyUpSports) July 11, 2021
That was the play on which Acuña tore his ACL, eventually requiring him to get carted off the field and miss the remainder of the season.
The Braves won the game 5-4 to move to .500 and set the table for eventually winning the division.
Who replaced Acuña Jr.?
After losing Acuña Jr. to injury and after Marcell Ozuna got arrested for domestic violence, the Braves needed help to bolster the outfield and quickly.
They went out and acquired four outfielders, all of whom have been crucial parts of their postseason run to date.
They acquired former AL home runs leader Jorge Soler from the Royals, former All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson from the Dodgers, former All-Star outfielder Adam Duvall from the Marlins and left fielder Eddie Rosario from the Twins.
At various points throughout the second half of the regular season and much of the postseason, at least one if not more of the new acquisitions have been integral to the Braves winning big games. Most recently, Rosario recorded a walk-off single in Game 2 of the NLCS to give Atlanta the 2-0 lead.
Ronald Acuña Jr. contract details
In April 2019, Acuña signed an eight-year contract extension worth $100 million. At the time, it was largely thought to be a massive discount for the Braves, totaling just $12.5 million annually at time when players such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were making in excess of $30 million annually.
Acuña is under contract to the Braves until 2026 with a team option for 2027 and 2028.