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The Atlanta Braves have come into the 2018 season with a fresh outlook and thoughts of future success. They have lost only one of their series so far and have put themselves right in the running for the early season division lead.
A Minor Issue:
Braves phenom minor league prospect Ronald Acuña has yet to be called up to the majors. The 20-year old outfielder was sent down to AAA Gwinnett at the start of the season so Atlanta could gain an extra year (a 6th year) of arbitration rights on his contract. Friday April 13th was the date most teams were waiting for to bring up prospects in the same situation but the Braves didn’t budge.
Acuña is not producing the way the team has expected him to at this point. He has a dreadful .180 batting average, nine hits and 19 strikeouts. Coaches in the minors say he’s chasing a lot of pitches, giving pitchers a wider strike zone. That kind of problem can’t be overlooked when calling up a prospect. Especially when Major League pitchers will try everything in their power to decieve hitters by using pitches outside the zone.
Acuña is a part of the Braves’ future, immediate and distant. Don’t look for him to be in the minor leagues too much longer. His numbers will have to improve, but he’s coming.
Seeing the ball:
Another reason why Acuña won’t be called up so soon is because the Braves are hitting the leather off the ball. There’s no room in the outfield due to Preston Tucker and Nick Markakis pounding the ball. Tucker is hitting .262 and is tied for third in the National League with 18 runs batted in. Markakis is hitting .278 with 11 RBI and 12 walks. Center fielder Ender Inciarte hasn’t been nearly as good offensively but his glove work and throwing arm are near the top of the NL.
The Braves infielders are no slouch either. Young second baseman Ozzie Albies and shortstop Dansby Swanson are doing their part hitting. After an up and down 2017 season, Swanson is hitting .342 with 12 RBI and eight doubles (tied for second in MLB). Albies leads the majors with nine doubles, hitting .302 with 12 RBI and six home runs.
Freddie Freeman has driven in 15 runs and drawn walks.The face of the organization is having another productive season, hitting .296 and he also has eight doubles. Catcher Kurt Suzuki is hitting .326 and third baseman Ryan Flaherty is hitting .362.
Atlanta leads the National League in most offensive categories including a .266 team batting average. All the starters are working counts and driving the ball with runners on base. The hot start will need to proceed to a hot season hitting-wise. While the National League East holds a bunch of formidable pitchers, the Braves will need the bats to keep it coming if they plan on staying in contention.