For the Atlanta Braves, finding a solid leadoff hitter has been a decade-long search that proved mostly fruitless. Players like Martin Prado, Yunel Escobar, Omar Infante and, more recently, Ender Inciarte were placed atop Atlanta’s lineup, but hardly anyone has clicked since Rafael Furcal departed in 2005.
But that was before manager Brian Snitker made the bold decision to put Ronald Acuña Jr. in the leadoff spot on July 20. As the first hitter in the lineup, the 20-year-old has batted .352 with 12 home runs in a 24-game span.
Tuesday night, Acuña led off the game against the Miami Marlins with a home run, the third consecutive game in which he achieved that feat. It was his fifth game in a row with a homer, making him the youngest player in the history of Major League Baseball to go deep in five straight games.
For someone who has only appeared in 67 MLB games and can’t legally drink until a week before Christmas 2019, none of this should be happening. It doesn’t make sense, and when you consider what Acuña’s doing, it becomes very hard to overstate what this means for the Braves.
Acuña hasn’t played a half-season’s worth of games at the big-league level yet, and he has already established himself as a key piece of the Braves’ batting order. Better than perhaps any other leadoff hitter in Braves history, Acuña has shown himself fully capable of putting a quick run on the board to start a game.
Just imagine what that could do to help Atlanta’s chances in a one-game playoff, should it become necessary in the postseason.
The Braves are so far removed from the days of Furcal that it can be difficult to remember an Atlanta lineup with a solid leadoff hitter. But thanks to Acuña’s promise, it could be a decade or more before that spot in the lineup is a concern again.Follow @Sean_Breslin