Crushing news for the Atlanta Braves over the weekend as young superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a season-ending torn ACL Saturday against the Marlins. Acuna landed awkwardly on his right leg after jumping on the warning track in right field to try to catch a line drive from Miami's Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the fifth inning. It was pretty clear immediately that it was serious as Acuna fought back tears as he was carted off. Without the 23-year-old MVP candidate, the Braves' chances of reaching the playoffs dropped nearly seven percent via the SportsLine Projection Model.
At the All-Star break, the Braves are a disappointing 44-45, four games back of the NL East-leading New York Mets. Acuna Jr. has been terrific with a WAR of 3.6. He was batting .283 in 82 games with 24 homers, 52 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. He is just fifth player with at least 100 career homers and 75 stolen bases at age 23 or younger, joining Mike Trout, Andruw Jones (a former Brave), Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.
Acuna, who had been a +600 third favorite to win NL MVP behind Jacob deGrom (now -110) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (+130), is expected to miss nine to 10 months, which would put him in jeopardy of missing the start of the 2022 season.
"The only thing I can say is that I'm obviously going to put maximum effort to come back stronger than ever," Acuna said via Braves interpreter on Sunday. "If was giving 500 percent before, I'm about to start giving 1,000 percent."
Atlanta lost its first game without Acuna on Sunday, 7-4 to the Marlins. Miami right-hander Pablo López set a major league record by striking out the first nine batters to start a game. Ehire Adrianza started in right field and hit leadoff in Acuna's spot. Adrianza was 0-for-4 on the day.
Via the SportsLine Projection Model (see below), the Braves' season win total minus Acuna Jr. drops from 83.2 to 81.4, their chances of winning the NL East from 12.8 percent to 7.9 percent and of reaching the playoffs from 19.3 percent to 12.4 percent. At William Hill, the Mets are -275 to win the division and the Braves +600.
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