Ronald Acuna Jr. Named MLB’s National League Rookie of the Year

Ronald Acuna Jr. has kicked off his Major League Baseball with a bang, and now he’s got the title to prove it.

The 27-year-old Venezuelan Atlanta Braves outfielder has been named the named National League Rookie of the Year.

Ronald Acuna Jr. 

Acuna received 27 first-place votes and three seconds for a total of 144 points. Fellow international phenom Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals got two firsts and 89 points, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler was next with one first and 28 points.

“First of all, I would like to give thanks to God, my family, my parents and to all my teammates who’ve always supported me from the first day that I got the call to the big leagues,” Acuna said in a statement. “This award represents all our hard work as a team this season.”

A Venezuela native, Acuna signed with the Braves as an international free agent in 2014. After hitting .325 with 21 home runs across three different minor league levels in 2017, he entered the 2018 season ranked as the top prospect in baseball by ESPN‘s Keith Law.

Acuna is the eighth Braves player to win Rookie of the Year and first since Craig Kimbrel in 2011. He’s the first Braves position player to win the award since Rafael Furcal in 2000.

Despite hitting .432 with four home runs in 16 spring training games, Acuna was optioned to Triple-A to start the season, a move that was criticized by those who believed the Braves demoted the young star for contractual reasons. Acuna was called up April 25 and made his big league debut against the Cincinnati Reds later that day, going 1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts. At the time of his promotion, Acuna became the youngest player in the majors, a title he would soon cede to Soto.

After the All-Star break, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker moved Acuna into the leadoff spot, where the rookie outfielder was a catalyst for a surprising Braves team that won the National League East. Batting exclusively at the top of the order, Acuna thrived, hitting .322 with 19 home runs in 68 games during the second half of the season; his eight leadoff home runs were the second-most by a rookie in a season in MLB history.

Acuna’s 1.028 OPS after the All-Star break ranked third in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers‘ Christian Yelich and Los Angeles’ Justin Turner.

In August, Acuna became the youngest player ever to homer in five consecutive games, and was named NL Rookie of the Month. Soto, his main competition for Rookie of the Year, won the monthly award in June, July and September.

Although the speedy Acuna is widely considered a better defender than Soto and a more complete player, the two international phenoms put up nearly identical offensive numbers in their debut seasons, creating one of the tightest Rookie of the Year races in recent memory.

In 111 games, Acuna hit .293 with 26 home runs and 64 RBIs, while posting a .917 OPS. In 116 games, Soto batted .292 with 22 homers and 70 RBIs, with a .923 OPS. According to FanGraphs, both players had an identical 3.7 wins above replacement.

Buehler, a 23-year-old right-hander, was 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA in 23 starts and one relief appearance.

Quintana Named to American League All-Star Team

It’s a special first for Jose Quintana

The 27-year-old Colombian professional baseball player, a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, has replaced the Cleveland IndiansDanny Salazar on the American League All-Star roster.

Jose Quintana

A first-time All-Star, Quintana is 7-8 with a 3.21 ERA, sixth in the AL at the start of Sunday. He joins teammate Chris Sale on the AL roster.

Kansas City‘s Wade Davis, Boston‘s Craig Kimbrel and Toronto‘s Marco Estrada also were dropped from the AL pitching staff because of injuries, and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez were added.

In the National League, Los AngelesClayton Kershaw and New York‘s Noah Syndergaard got hurt and won’t pitch, along with Stephen Strasburg, who just came off the disabled list, and San Francisco‘s Madison Bumgarner, who starts Sunday. New York’s Bartolo Colon, San Diego‘s Drew Pomeranz and Washington‘s Max Scherzer were added.

In the infield, Aledmys Diaz replaced St. Louis teammate Matt Carpente. In the outfield, Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce and Pittsburgh‘s Starling Marte replaced the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and Chicago‘s Dexter Fowler.

Miami‘s Marcell Ozuna and Colorado‘s Carlos Gonzalez entered the starting lineup in place of Cespedes and Fowler.