Ronald Acuna was one of the brightest, most electric pieces that baseball had seen in a while. He had won two silver sluggers in a row and was rocking a stat line of 24/52/17 with an OPS pushing towards 1.000 before tearing his ACL in July. Going into 2022, what is his outlook for fantasy? Will we see any limit or drop off? Is he at risk for re-injury?
Where should Ronald Acuna slot in drafts; should buy his ranking?
A normal ACL injury timeline is at least 9 months before return to sport and usually requires that the participant be able to pass a series of tests to ensure they are ready for each stage of recovery. A video released around December shows Ronald Acuna in the batting cage as well as doing ladder drills and core stability work.
Ronald Acuña Jr. returns to the batting cage 🙏
— Bally Sports: Braves (@BravesOnBally) November 22, 2021
The big takeaway from this was twofold:
1. He is set to return to sports activities at 6 months which is a good sign he is on track. However, it would have been
even more encouraging to see him doing lateral movements, which is a big test for his recovery and his ability to play his fielding position to the best of his ability. In regards to his fielding position, now that universal DH is available, Acuna will be able to slot back in without taking the hardships of fielding on his knee. So, I would expect his playing time to not need altering at the beginning of the season as it would had he been returning without the DH.
2. The second takeaway is a little concerning. There does seem to be a slight difference in quad size between his right and left quadriceps size, which can take time after an ACL. He still had 3 months between this video and the start of the season (we hope) to build this up, but it is something to keep an eye on as it could lead to a decrease in steals and power.
Baseball ACL injuries are rare compared to other major sports, making stats and comparisons difficult. Some small studies, like this one done in 2019, show that players after 18 months showed no difference between power and speed compared to control. Other studies have shown, however, that when the dominant leg is affected, a reduction in batting average is expected.
|Player||Bats||Injury R/L||Hard Hit % (year after injury)||Hard Hit % (career avg)||EV (year after injury)||EV (career avg)|
The above chart, although a small sample size, shows a dip in power in the year returning from ACL. Based upon player results from the past and research studies, we could expect a dip in production for Acuna, especially early in the season.
League Format Dependent
Because of this dip, I would apply a wait-and-see approach in daily fantasy formats on Acuna. For roto leagues and H2H leagues, I would fade a little. His ADP ranges from 5 to the teens. Without the assurance of him being 100% for the start of the year, he isn’t worth the risk of a first-rounder in my opinion. Once you get outside the top 10, he falls into the likes of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts who have injury concerns of their own. I would feel more comfortable placing him higher than Trout and Mookie, being younger and with a better injury history overall. In dynasty, I would say look to use this information to your advantage. The research shows that risk of reinjury is low, especially after 9 months, which he will be at the start of the season, and after 18 months seeing no difference between players according to the aforementioned studies.
If we get a season this year, consider the risk before taking Ronald Acuna as your first-round pick in roto and H2H. Take advantage of the possible slow early-season production and look to get a cheap buy at the trade deadline. In dynasty, expect no long-term issues so value the young slugger for all the hype he has been