The Braves are two wins away from their first National League pennant since 1999, and they’ve come here without one of their star outfielders.
Ronald Acuña Jr., the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year, has not played for the Braves since July 10 due to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament that left him out 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 he was 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 was unable to compete due to injury.
This is not the first time Acuña Jr. has missed a lot of time due to injury. Last year, he missed 14 of a possible 60 games with various minor ailments, most notably a wrist injury in August that landed him in the 10-day IL. Still, he returned to the Braves in September and helped lead them to a National League pennant victory.
After that postseason, Braves general manager Alex Anthopolous admitted the wrist injury persisted and followed Acuña Jr. into the postseason.
This year, the Braves didn’t have to worry about Acuña Jr.’s lingering injuries, but they did have to try to replace him. So far, it has worked with Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall and Jorge Soler, all acquired mid-season to give the Braves much-needed field 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 in the division with the Phillies entering the game.
Acuña Jr. was already having a good day at the plate, going 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 attempted to field a fly ball from the Miami Jazz Chisholm that ended up becoming an inside-the-park home run.
End of the road for the Braves? Ronald Acuña Jr will be out for the remainder 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 where Acuña tore his ACL, ultimately requiring him to be taken off the field and missing the rest of the season.
The Braves won the game 5-4 to go to .500 and set the table to eventually win the division.
Who replaced Acuña Jr.?
After losing Acuña Jr. to injury and after Marcell Ozuna was arrested for domestic violence, the Braves needed help to strengthen the outfield and quickly.
They went out and acquired four outfielders, all of whom have been crucial parts of their postseason career to date.
They acquired former American League home run 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 has been integral to the Braves winning big games. Most recently, Rosario posted an exit single in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series to give Atlanta a 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 the time when players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were making more than $ 30 million annually.
Acuña has a contract with the Braves until 2026 with a team option for 2027 and 2028.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.