One of the fun parts of covering a Major League team is having the ability to watch batting practice from on the field on a daily basis. This spring has provided some serious thrills, having the opportunity to take in sessions from current starts like Ronald Acuna and Josh Donaldson, but also have a chance to check out Braves of tomorrow in Alex Jackson, Austin Riley and Cristian Pache to name a few. It’s also a treat to have the chance to pick the brains of the manager, coaching staff and others who mill around the cage as to what they see from certain players. And Tuesday morning at Disney was especially enjoyable as guest instructor Dale Murphy held court as the Braves took their cuts at Champion Stadium.
There were plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” as Ronald Acuna took his whacks in a group that also featured Ozzie Albies, Adam Duvall and Ender Inciarte. Those tasked with shagging on Tuesday didn’t have to do a lot of running during Acunas cuts, as most of his ended up on the berm and at least half a dozen cleared the scoreboard in dead center. The reaction on Murph’s face was priceless, as he turned around, jaw hanging and asking if we all were watching what he was. Of course we were, Acuna’s BP’s have become just as “must see” as his at bats during games. And, deflecting any credit, one Braves coach simply turned and said “that’s not me, that’s God” when referring to Acuna’s power stroke.
With Acuna likely starting the season in the four hole, behind Freddie Freeman, the RBI opportunities should be plentiful for the 21 year old. And watching his poise in pressure situations in 2018, I don’t think anyone worries if he can handle the spotlight. He’s checked all the boxes throughout the course of his pro career to this point. No need to wonder if the cleanup spot in the order will be too much for him. And if you’re Freddie Freeman, the thought of that type of power protecting you has to be quite a thrill here in mid-March.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet