Acuna Matata and A Soto Story

Full disclosure:  I own both Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto in my 12 team auction keeper points league.  Our league is set up where you can assign contracts years to player and a maximum of 3 years, but you cannot extend the contract years unless you acquire them via trade.  We are in the process of assigning our contracts to players that aren’t aren’t currently under contract. I’m planning to give them both a 3 year contract at $1. Each year that passes they incur a $5 inflation escalator.  So 2020 season, they will be $6 and so on. I picture my league-mate puking repeatedly as they are reading this just like they do when I reference Moneyball. But you didn’t come here to read about my league….

A long time ago in a fantasy league far, far away…there were two teenagers that took the league by storm.  Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto came onto the scene like two wrecking balls, finishing first and second by wide margins as National League Rookie of the Year voting with Acuna taking home the hardware. And I’m quickly shooting for the most pop culture references in one article.  One was expected and the other came out of nowhere like the Millennium Falcon jumping to high-speed racing through the minors and skipping AAA altogether to land on the scene. Juan Soto did just that last year, starting the year by playing 16 games in Low A, followed by 15 games at High A and just 8 games at AA before getting the call to The Show.  In 155 games, Soto slugged 36 HRs with 100 runs, 122 RBI, 35 doubles, 5 triples. Let me give you a minute to digest that…….because I need a minute.

Still need time?  Go ahead. Take it.  We could stop right here and you would, and should, be fairly excited.  But wait… there’s more. Soto walked at a 16% clip, which helped push his OBP north of .400 to .406, which ranks numero-uno on the OBP list for players in their age 19 seasons that had a minimum of 400 plate appearances.

Name OBP Name  OBP 
Juan Soto .406 Ed Kranepool .310
Mel Ott .397 Rusty Staub .309
Edgar Renteria .358 Cass Michaels .307
Tony Conigliaro .354 Robin Yount
Jimmy Sheckard .349 Phil Cavarretta .305
Buddy Lewis .347 Al Kaline .303
Bryce Harper .340 Will Smalley
George Davis .336 Bob Kennedy
Ken Griffey Jr. .329 Joe Quinn .280
Sibby Sisti .311 Ben Conroy .262

When you look at the list of names on this list in their age 19 season, I find it odd that Juan Soto is slipping to an ADP of 31.42 in redraft leagues. I’m fully on board the Juan Soto hype train, and to be honest, it’s a pretty quiet hype machine.  

So what is causing the hype machine to be a little quiet?  Soto’s GB% was at 53.7%, which is really high for someone that you might be counting on to hit 30+ HRs.  If there is any regression in his Hard hit % or if he starts chasing pitches outside the zone, then Soto could wind up hitting the proverbial sophomore slump.  In fact, he did start to show some signs of weakness in the month of August.  He hit .255 for the month, while his GB% went up to 57.1% and he started hitting the ball up the middle more often.  His Pull% dipped to 25.4% in the month of August, which leads me to believe that he was being pitched differently in the second half than when he first arrived.  This wouldn’t be too uncommon as pitching notes make their rounds and the book gets out on a hitter on how to attack them.  

As if I couldn’t be more excited to watch Juan Soto, and baffled as to why the hype machine isn’t on overdrive for him, it’s because there is another chosen one that resides in the NL East.  Mr. Ronald Acuna, who just turned 21, snagged the ROY honors right away from Soto during his blistering second half stretch that has driven his hype all the way into the first round with an ADP of 8.85.  

Acuna missed a few weeks of the season with a scary knee injury, otherwise this hype train could have taken Acuna a few picks higher in the 3-6 range.   In his 111 games, he mashed his way to 26 HRs and a .293/.366/.552 slashline that makes grown men blush. His ISO of .259 ranks 5th on the list of players in their age 20 season.  

Name ISO Name
Mel Ott .306 Tony Conigliaro .244
Ted Williams .281 Mike Trout .238
Alex Rodriguez .273 Mike Trout
Frank Robinson .267 Carlos Correa
Ronald Acuna Jr. .259 Jimmie Fox

Acuna’s batted ball profile doesn’t sound off too many alarms that should spook you off of him at his ADP.  However, the Snitker sounds like he wants to bat him in the cleanup spot despite Acuna pleading to hit in the leadoff spot.  Acuna batting cleanup would limit the amount of the plate appearances that he sees (as opposed to batting first or second) and would seemingly depress his value on the base paths.  Ideally, you’d like to see him hit in the 3 hole or leadoff spot like last year.  This will be an interesting to development over spring training to watch to see how the Braves plan to fill out their lineup card.

It’s not every season that we witness historically great seasons from products of the farm system, but the 2018 season will go down as one for the ages. These two will set the tone for the storyline of the 2019 season to see if they can back up their rookie campaigns.  What does it all mean for these two youngsters? It means no worries.


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