Atlanta Braves' Top Bounce-Back Candidate For 2023

Plenty of players at camps all around Florida and Arizona looking to prove themselves worthy of a shot at the big leagues. But for some, they're looking to bounce back to the star level they once possessed. 

We continue our look at a bounce-back candidate from each team around baseball, focusing this time on the Atlanta Braves. And while the entire team is trying to bounce back to another World Series, one player in particular seems primed to regain his superstar status.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

The former Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star, Acuna came back last season from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2021 season and his team's World Series run. And he performed pretty well on the whole. But he was nowhere close to the superstar status he'd established, as one of the very best players in the game.

Acuna finished 2022 with a .266 average, 15 HR, 50 RBIs and a .764 OPS—the latter was over 200 points below the level he'd established the two previous seasons. 

Eno Sarris of The Athletic says Acuna was, quite understandably, pressing a bit in his urge to get back to his previous levels. But he says a complete return to superstardom could be coming in 2023.

Basically, in his first year back from surgery, he hit too many ground balls and chased a few too many pitches. Seems understandable for a guy trying to get back online. Another 30/30 season could be in the cards — maybe even 40/40 with the new base running rules — and if his defensive numbers also improve, he could easily be in the conversation for MVP in 2023.

Despite his plate struggles, Acuna did still swipe 29 bases last season—proving that his surgically repaired ACL was just fine, thank you. The power will come next. 

"Acuña had the second-best raw power of his career by maximum exit velocity (98th percentile in the league)," wrote Sarris. Expect a return to at least the 30-HR mark. 

Certainly, if fantasy players have anything to say about it, they expect a big bounce-back season. Acuna is currently the No. 1 overall pick on average in fantasy drafts thus far this spring.

Other bounce-back candidates:

Photo: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports