By Matt Citak
In Major League Baseball, along with all professional sports, each player’s path to success is different.
Some guys take a few years in the majors before they truly start playing up to their potential, while others come screaming out of the gate, dominating the league almost from day 1.
In the case of Atlanta Braves rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., the young outfielder has taken door number two.
It hasn’t been all smooth sailings for the talented young ballplayer. A couple of weeks into his major league career, Acuna suffered a mild ACL sprain and bruise in his left knee, along with a back contusion. These injuries kept him off the field for just over a month.
Upon returning from the DL, Acuna endured a rough July in which he hit a measly .256 with a .322 on-base percentage. Despite all of the hype surrounding the young outfielder at the start of the season, it seemed as if Acuna was having trouble truly acclimating himself to MLB pitching.
Well whatever concerns there were about him earlier in the year have been put to rest, as Acuna has proven during the month of August that not only does he belong in the majors, but that he could also end up being the sport’s next young superstar.
Acuna is in the midst of an historic stretch, one that has already landed the youngster in the MLB record books.
Over his last eight games, the 20-year-old outfielder has 16 hits and eight home runs, making him the first rookie in MLB history to accomplish that feat over any eight-game span.
And that’s just the start of it…
In addition, Acuna has become the youngest player ever to:
- Hit two home runs on back-to-back days
- Hit eight home runs in an eight-game span
- Hit six home runs in a five-game span
- Hit a home run in five consecutive games
- Hit a leadoff home run in three consecutive games
- Hit five career leadoff home runs
To show just how spectacular he has been over the past week, let’s take a look at his stats before and after this terrific stretch.
Only a week ago, Acuna was batting .261/.321/.478 with 11 home runs and 28 RBI.
Now, the outfielder is hitting .288/.346/.576 with 19 home runs and 43 RBI, having raised his OPS by 122 points. That sort of dominant stretch is unheard of in today’s MLB, especially from a player who is still a few months away from being legally allowed to order himself a beer at a bar.
Of course, it’s still way too early to tell what kind of career Acuna is destined to have. Things can change rather quickly in today’s MLB, and with only 67 games under his belt, who knows how Acuna will turn out.
However after witnessing the sheer greatness the young outfielder has displayed over the last week, it’s hard not to compare Acuna to some other superstar outfielders that started to make a name for themselves while only 20-years-old, such as Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr.
Obviously Acuna has a long ways to go before he comes anywhere close to the level of the other two. But, just the fact that he is being mentioned in the same discussion as Trout and Griffey goes to show how truly special and rare Acuna’s performance has been during his rookie campaign.
And with 34 games remaining on the season, I for one cannot wait to see how many more milestones the talented, young outfielder can reach before the end of his rookie year.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.