2019 Player Throwdown: Juan Soto vs. Ronald Acuna: Who Is The Better Option?

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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:

Power
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.

Speed
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.

Average
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:

PlayerAVGBABIPStrikeout RateSwStr%Walk RateO-Swing%Oppo%
Juan Soto.292.33820.0%7.6%16.0%21.9%27.5%
Ronald Acuna.293.35225.3%11.6^9.2%27.5%20.1%

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%). 

Conclusion
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

4 COMMENTS

  1. I think both are seeing a little helium in their ranking. Everyone gets blinded by their upside but ignore the red flags for a sophomore slump. With that said, I think Acuna is a much better bet.

    Soto’s flyball rate, 28.8%, is a big concern of mine. Is a 24.7% HR rate repeatable? If not, he isn’t going to help in HRs or SBs. I see him as more of a 22-25 HR guy which isn’t worth the draft price. His patient approach is also a bit concerning for me. He might be to selective in RBI opportunities thus capping his upside.

    Acuna seems like the better play for me. He has the flyball rate, 39.4%, to sustain his power(21.1% HR rate). Considering his hard contact rate (44.4%) and speed, I don’t see his high BABIP as something he cant keep at a high level. He has always had a high BABIP in the minors. The concern with Acuna is that people are reaching into the first round to get him. If Atlanta bats him 4th behind Inciarte, Donaldson and Freeman he could have strong RBI upside for someone who can steal 20 bases.

    • Also regarding Acuna, His second half was a much bigger sample size:

      1st half: .249 Avg on 184 PAs. 6.5% BB / 30.4% K

      2nd half: .322 Avg on 303 PAs. 10.9% BB / 22.1% K

      He had almost twice as many ABs in the 2nd half so I think it would be prudent to weigh that more heavily in his projections.

    • It’s all fair points and I def. wouldn’t argue those who favor Acuna to Soto. They are close, but the key for Acuna is going to be adjusting as pitcher’s adjust. I worry that the pull heavy approach and swing and miss is going to cause issues.

  2. I own both in a keeper league. Where you can keep them at rounds they were drafted in the first year. Minus 2 rounds the next year. I have Acuna in 23rd. Soto in 25th. Robles 20th. Dahl 22nd. Aguilar 24th. So I just like reading articles like this. They just pump it up more for me

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