Saying that both Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna made significant impacts in their rookie seasons would be an understatement, as they quickly emerged as two of the best outfielders in the game. That is going to bring the question as to why we currently have Soto ahead of Acuna in our outfield ranking for 2019:
- Juan Soto – OF9
- Ronald Acuna – OF10
For those who want to push Acuna higher up these rankings we get it, and wouldn’t argue with that direction (the two reside in the same tier, that starts at #8, so there is a bit of personal preference involved). Let’s take a look as to why things fall the way they do currently:
You can argue that the two are fairly even, as they showed similar power last season:
- Juan Soto – 22 HR courtesy of a 24.7% HR/FB
- Ronald Acuna – 26 HR courtesy of a 21.1% HR/FB
Acuna should have a slight advantage (even though an 11 HR August helped to inflate his ’18 total), with Soto taking a more groundball-centric approach (53.7%). That said we’d expect a little bit of an adjustment as he matures, with an eye towards putting a few more balls into the air and therefore over the fence. At this point it’s a virtual draw with both expected to hit around 30 HR.
The advantage clearly lies with Acuna, who stole 16 bases in 2018 and has the potential to routinely swipe 20+ bases (though hitting in the middle of the lineup we’ll be a little bit more conservative with the outlook, especially with the potential average questions). Soto, on the other hand, only stole 5 bases and is unlikely to reach double-digits.
This is where Soto gains a significant advantage, and it tips the scales. While both provided impressive averages in their rookie seasons, it’s Soto who is far more likely to maintain it considering his approach at the plate:
|Player||AVG||BABIP||Strikeout Rate||SwStr%||Walk Rate||O-Swing%||Oppo%|
While Acuna showed a better Hard%, everything else points to potential struggles in his average/OBP. There’s far more risk of being prone to the shift, thanks to his inability to consistently use the entire field, and there’s the potential for a lot more swing and miss.
It’s interesting that Acuna kept his Whiff% down against breaking balls (12.98%) and offspeed pitches (10.00%), which does give hope that he can figure it out and keep the strikeout rate in check. That’s hardly a given and we can’t overlook the fact that he hit .249 in 169 AB in the first half of the season as he struggled with strikeouts (30.4%) and posted a more realistic .327 BABIP (.367 in the second half). Soto, even while opposing pitchers adjusted, hit .286 in the second half as he continued to draw walks (16.1%) and keep the strikeouts in check (20.4%).
At the end of the day would you be upset owning either one of these two stud outfielders? Either could ultimately provide Top 5 numbers and are going to be among the elite in the game. The upside in Soto’s average helps to tip the scales in his favor, just slightly, though arguing it the other way is just as believable due to Acuna’s combination of power and speed.
What’s your thoughts on the two? Who would you rather own and why?
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball