Ronald Acuna Jr. is back. The Braves announced this morning that they’ve reinstated their star outfielder from the 10-day injured list — the culmination of a nine-and-a-half-month rehabilitation process following an ACL tear sustained last July. It’s a bit of a surprise, as the Braves had been targeting a May 6 return according to manager Brian Snitker, though Snitker acknowledged at the time of that statement that the date was not set in stone. In a corresponding roster move, Atlanta has designated outfielder Alex Dickerson for assignment.
The 24-year-old Acuna is one of the game’s most dynamic talents and effectively has been since the moment he reached the Majors as a 21-year-old in 2018. Shaking off a rough couple of weeks to begin that original MLB promotion, Acuna went on an absolute tear and finished out the ’18 campaign as the near-unanimous Rookie of the Year winner, claiming 27 of 30 first-place votes (with two going to Juan Soto and one going to Walker Buehler).
Acuna slugged 26 homers and swiped 16 bases as a rookie, hitting at a .293/.366/.552 clip along the way. He’s kept that pace in the three seasons since that time, and will come off the injured list looking to build on a .281/.376/.549 career batting line and add to his already impressive total of 105 big league home runs (to say nothing of 78 doubles, seven triples and 78 steals).
While some fans may worry that Acuna is being rushed back to the big leagues, he certainly hasn’t shown any rust in his limited work with Triple-A Gwinnett so far. It’s only six games and 25 plate appearances, but Acuna is 7-for-19 with a double, six walks and three stolen bases (in three tries), which certainly paints the picture of someone whose major knee injury is firmly behind him. And, given that the Braves’ outfield is producing — or rather, failing to produce — at an alarming level, Atlanta brass has opted to proactively make a move to inject some life into the offense.