Ronald Acuna

Ronald Acuña, the first baseball player with swag

Over the weekend, I was spending time with my friends, my wife, and my dogs in the lovely mountains of Boone, NC when I made the mistake of checking Twitter. Saturday afternoon, I saw several tweets calling out John Kruk for his terrible remarks about a certain Ronald Acuña home run.

From my understanding, based on the tweets I saw, Ronald Acuña had hit a homer (again) and admired it before proceeding to first base. It appeared that John Kruk had scolded Ronald Acuña for admiring his work. Some tweets even insinuated that Kruk was a racist for having such a response and that old white people are going to hate the way he is going to play the game.

Then I watched the actual clip Monday morning.

Saturday’s John Kruk/Acuña drama has led me to the conclusion that I need to spend less time on social media.

There seems to be a lot of younger fans on the interwebs who believe that older white folks are going to hate the swagger that Ronald Acuña plays with. There seems to be folks who think Acuña is the first young baseball player to admire a home run, and that all old white men will hate the way he plays baseball.

Here’s a fun Ryan Klesko bat flip compilation. He’s a white guy.

Check this guy out. He’s also a white guy.

This cracker had the audacity to pump his fist around the bases after blasting one into the seats.

Look at all the angry white people in the stands after this guy gloated after murdering one of his 493 career home runs.

Check this guy out with his chains and swag. Then notice the angry white folks.

White people are fun. Non-white people are fun. Baseball is fun. The end.

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Episode 44 – Knockahoma Nation Podcast

On episode 44 of Knockahoma Nation, Prospects Matter Summit (part 3) – we’re rejoined by Doc Herbert (@BravesHerbert), Dylan Short (@DylanXShort) and Andy Harris (@K26DP) to talk about Braves most overrated and underrated Atlanta Braves prospects.

Also on this week’s podcast, philosopher Ken discusses the parts of a story and Josh and Ken imagine extra innings under Rob Manfred’s rules.

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My center fielder.

For two years we’ve heard the Andruw Jones comparisons. Writers and fans alike have compared Ronald Acuña to the greatest center fielder of all time – former Atlanta Brave, Andruw Jones.

The Andruw comparisons all started with Randy Ingle and Chipper Jones. Randy Ingle, up until recently, had been the manager for the Rome Braves since 2006. The man has over 30 years of experience in minor league ball (and… fun fact – Randy Ingle holds the record for highest career BA at Appalachian State University) so I think he’s qualified to make such a comparison. Chipper Jones is not only a Hall of Famer, but he played with Andruw Jones himself for a decade, so he is also qualified to make such a comparison.

Since Chipper and Randy made the comparison two years ago, so far (knock on wood) their comparisons look pretty darn good. Ronald Acuña is flying through the minor league system in the same fashion as Andruw Jones did, they have freakishly similar numbers, they have virtually the same swing, they both hit for power, and scouts say they have the same glove.

So, would you actually put “Andruw Jones 2.0” anywhere but center field? Please. I don’t think so.

Keep in mind, Andruw played right field when he was first called up to the Major Leagues. Unless something weird happens with Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña will do the same, making his baseball journey even more freakishly similar to the man he’s compared to.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Ender Inciarte is a 27-year-old Gold Glove center fielder who can rake. In my opinion (and I don’t care that he doesn’t hit for power) he’s top 3 best all-around center fielders in baseball. But here’s the crazy thing – If the scouting reports end up being correct, if Ronald Acuña really is the next Andruw Jones (as crazy as that may sound), then Ronald Acuña is going to be better than Ender Inciarte. It’s that simple.

Last winter the Atlanta Braves extended Ender Inciarte to a 5-year $30.5MM deal. In my opinion, this is the best thing John Coppolella did during his time in Atlanta. The Braves are sitting on a gold mine with Ender Inciarte.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “So, Josh… you’re saying the Braves should trade Ender Inciarte?” Not really. Plus, I don’t think the Braves have plans to. Here’s my two cents. I think the Atlanta Braves keep Ender Inciarte, eventually move him back to right field in 2019 and move Acuña to center. Ender has a cannon, and in 2015 he won a Fielding Bible Award playing primarily right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In short – The Braves call up Ronnie around April 13, put him in RF (RIP my favorite right fielder), they move him to CF late in games throughout the season (and the occasional Ender off-day) just to flirt with your hearts and move him there permanently in 2019. Put that in your pipeline and smoke it.

If I’m completely wrong and the Atlanta Braves stick Acuña in right field for years to come, it’s certainly not the end of the world. Braves fans will basically be watching two Gold Glove center fielders playing next to each other. I can imagine much worse things to watch.

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Prospect rankings aren’t Gospel.

Ranking baseball prospects is fun. I’ve done it. Our podcast even had some Braves prospects experts on this past week to wax philosophic about numerous prospects in the Atlanta Braves system. So this isn’t meant to be a hit piece on anyone who ranks baseball prospects.

Ranking prospects is great. For one, it’s a way to get us baseball nerds through the cold off-season. It’s also a fun way to educate ourselves about the future of our beloved sport, and raise our hopes for our favorite team’s future. As we all know, baseball has a farm system like no other sport, which lends itself to pretty honest process (if you’re good, you advance, if you’re not, you don’t), and it’s a blast to follow. A player gets drafted or signed, they make their way up through the system in hopes of one day playing in an MLB stadium in front of tens of thousands (unless you play for the Marlins). So, ranking that talent and making predictions on that talent is great.

Not only is ranking prospects a grand old time, but lists like the Baseball America top-100 end up being fairly accurate. Some of the game’s greats were top prospects at some point along their respective journeys. Harper, Trout, Griffey, Jr., just to name a few.

According to Andy Harris, of Outfield Fly Rule, players in Baseball America’s top-10 have an MLB success rate of around 90%. Players ranking from 90-100 come in at around a 35% MLB success rate. Andy says that the record is generally better for ranked position players versus pitchers (because of injury risks). Andy goes on to say that of those #1-10 ranked prospects, only 35% end up being elite performers. In short – On any given year, that Baseball America top-10 prospects list you’re looking at only has a few potential stars.

It’s important to remember that prospect rankings are not always the GOSPEL. One of the best things about our sport is that it can be unpredictable. Not only is the game itself unpredictable, but the talent can be, too. Case and point – Ronald Acuna signed for $100,000 in 2014 and is now heralded as the best prospect in the game, and rightfully so.

Sure, Baseball America and guys like Keith Law have certainly gotten it right over the years. But it’s also important to remember that there have been many great ballplayers who were never ranked. Some even had Hall of Fame caliber careers – Jim Edmonds, Jose Altuve, Jeff Kent, Mariano Rivera, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Robinson Cano, Josh Donaldson, Daniel Murphy and James Shields were never top-100 prospects according to Baseball America, just to name a few.

The opposite of this is also true. Especially if you, like me, grew up collecting baseball cards. How many guys with “rated rookie” or “future star” on their baseball cards ended up being completely forgotten about? Baseball’s weird.

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