Braves devastated to lose Ronald Acuña: ‘All we can do is go win it all for him’

Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) waves to fans before the start of the Atlanta Braves post season workouts in preparation for the MLB Playoffs at Truist Park, Tuesday, October 3, 2023, in Atlanta. The Braves first playoff game will be on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 at Truist Park for game one of the NLDS. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) waves to fans before the start of the Atlanta Braves post season workouts in preparation for the MLB Playoffs at Truist Park, Tuesday, October 3, 2023, in Atlanta. The Braves first playoff game will be on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023 at Truist Park for game one of the NLDS. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

There’s no replacing Ronald Acuña. All the Braves can do now, as they see it, is go win it all for their MVP.

In a devastating development for the player, team and sport, Acuña suffered a torn left ACL while making an awkward movement on the bases Sunday. The Braves will play without their All-Star outfielder for the remainder of the season – again. This will be Acuña’s second such surgery in less than three calendar years after he also tore his right ACL in July 2021.

“I feel even worse for the kid than us, that he has to go through this again,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It felt like he was starting to get things turned around and going good. It’s just a freak thing that happened. I feel for him that he has to go through that process again.”

Second baseman and friend Ozzie Albies: “Broken for him to go through this again. I know it’s hard, it’s not something easy. I’ve been hurt myself, so I know how it feels. It’s tough. He just has to keep his mind ready and strong and do his rehab so he can be back next year stronger than ever.”

Acuña, who doesn’t turn 27 until December, is already one of the greatest talents in baseball history. Last season, fully healthy and distanced from the previous ACL tear, he posted MLB’s first season of 40 homers (41) and 70 stolen bases (73).

He played in 159 games, leading MLB in runs (149), hits (217), stolen bases, on-base percentage (.416) and total bases (383) en route to winning his first National League MVP award.

“They call him five tool, but I think he’s a six-tool player,” Albies said. “He can do it speed-wise, power-wise, arm, catch, he’s an athlete. That’s what makes him special. He sets the tone for the entire team. When he gets on, it’s a different ballgame.”

The Venezuelan superstar also won Rookie of the Year in 2018 – when he helped spark the upstart Braves to 90 wins and a division title – and has made four All-Star teams. He has three Silver Slugger awards and has placed top-12 in MVP voting three times beyond winning it in 2023.

“It’s indescribable because you saw what he did last year, and I feel like he can do even more,” outfielder Michael Harris II said. “Now it’s more frustrating for him because he can’t go out there and prove it. He has to wait another year. Everyone knows now that was my guy in high school. I don’t want to see that for anybody, but one of the best players in this game, it’s tough to see.

“He’s changing the game. He does a lot of things people can’t do and he does them at a high rate. Obviously last year, his numbers spoke for themselves. A lot of people have definitely clinged to that. There’s a lot of young kids, even adults who dream to be like him one day. So he means a lot (to the sport).”

Acuña was off to a quiet start, hitting .250 with a .716 OPS. He had four homers and was 16-for-19 in stolen-base attempts. Because of his talent, it felt inevitable that Acuña would eventually have a hot streak.

He’d shown signs of improvement lately, going 9-for-31 (.290) with a homer, triple and two doubles in his past eight games. Now, he won’t play again until sometime in 2025.

“It’s terrible,” third baseman Austin Riley said. “There are few players in this league that are on the level that he is. It’s a joy to watch him every night. To see that happen, you feel for him because he’s such a talented player. Just try to give him my best as much as possible. I know he’s going to work his butt off to get back but it’s definitely tough to replace Ronald.

Riley continued when asked about Acuña’s impact: “Obviously he wasn’t swinging it to the way he’s capable of and wants it to be, but he was still being an impactful player. He gets on base, next thing you know he’s at third. He’s in a league of his own and it’s tough to replace those guys. We’re going to have to step up and pull our weight. He will be missed, for sure.”

Catcher Sean Murphy views Acuña as a face of the organization.

“When you think of the Atlanta Braves, people think of Ronald,” Murphy said. “He’s our leadoff hitter. When he goes, we go. I don’t think that’s any surprise to anybody. Not saying anything shocking there. But we’re going to have to move on and keep plugging along with who we have.

“You don’t replace Ronald. I don’t think there’s anyone in the big leagues who can do what Ronald does. So everyone else might have to step up a little bit and we’ll try to combine for an extra Ronald, see if we can do that.”

The story of the 2021 champion Braves cannot be told without the Acuña injury. He tore his right ACL playing the outfield in Miami just before the All-Star break, ending his season and prompting the Braves to acquire a bevy of outfielders in July – Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario – that ultimately helped them win a title.

That serves as a reminder here: The Braves are still capable of winning the World Series without him. This is an uber-talented club that just needs its best players to perform to expectations. It will use Jarred Kelenic in left field and Adam Duvall in right field right now, hoping the two produce with regular playing time.

Losing Acuña makes the franchise’s goals tougher, but the team feels up for the challenge.

“All we can do is go win it all for him,” Albies said.