Ronald Acuna Jr. (May 26, 2024) [1296x729] - Copy
Ronald Acuna Jr. (May 26, 2024) [1296x729] - Copy (Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

No winds of change yet but USA aren t here just to make up the numbers

Fantasy baseball managers frustrated with the curiously diminished play of Atlanta Braves OF Ronald Acuna Jr., the National League's defending MVP and obvious No. 1 pick in this season's drafts, have a bit of closure today, but not what they were hoping for. Acuna, who hit .337 with 41 home runs, 106 RBI, 73 stolen bases and 149 runs scored during the historic 2023 season, tore the ACL in his left knee on Sunday afternoon. His 2024 season ends after 49 games with a .250 batting average, 4 home runs and 16 steals.

Few expected Acuna to match his mammoth 2023 stats, but he entered this week a disappointing 38th on the ESPN Player Rater (roto leagues) and outside the top 50 hitters in ESPN points formats. It sure is not what everyone signed up for, but at least he was playing baseball. Now he is not. Replacing Acuna's current, underwhelming numbers in a points league, where the stolen bases hardly stand out as valuable as in a roto format, is not as difficult, but still, this stinks for baseball and in fantasy. Last season's Acuna is not coming back until next year.

For now, the Braves likely will break up their left field platoon of OFs Jarred Kelenic and Adam Duvall and let each player perform regularly, until they make a trade. The lefty hitting Kelenic is not doing much, posting a .713 OPS with only three home runs versus right-handed pitching. If he earns extra playing time, it is not really a good thing. The right-handed hitting Duvall, 35, has a long history of hitting for power and he clubbed 18 of his 21 home runs in 2023 for the Red Sox against right-handed pitching, though staying healthy is an issue. Add Duvall over Kelenic.

Acuna averaged 2.3 ESPN fantasy points per game this season and, over the past 30 days, 1.8 points. Neither mark remotely close to his 2023 production. In a points format, there are myriad ways for a hitter to accrue fantasy points, so don't worry about targeting the stolen bases. Just worry about the overall numbers, and these 10 outfielders have been productive at times this season and who knows, they may continue their success.

Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins: Kepler has always shown better than average power and the ability to draw a walk, and he enters the week hitting .301 with the best fly ball rate of his career. Kepler, averaging 2.6 fantasy points this season and 3.2 over the past four weeks, hit 24 home runs last season, and we have a reasonable baseline for his ability.

Kerry Carpenter, Detroit Tigers: Carpenter homered twice in the weekend series versus the Blue Jays, giving him eight blasts on the season, after he hit 20 last season. The Tigers platoon Carpenter, limiting his fantasy upside, but he is torching right-handed pitching. He should be hitting at least 25 home runs annually.

Luis Matos, San Francisco Giants: Matos became popular when he knocked in 11 runs over a two-game span last week, and while he has been quiet since, at least he is playing regularly. Matos, 22, combines an intriguing blend of power, speed and plate discipline.

JJ Bleday, Oakland Athletics: On the other side of the bay, Bleday homered in three consecutive games recently, giving him eight on the season. He's making contact, hitting fly balls and the former Marlins prospect may be breaking out.

David Fry, Cleveland Guardians: A catcher who is playing the outfield because the team desperately needs offense, Fry is hitting .344 with modest power and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. Yes, it may feel weird to replace the No. 1 pick in every draft with a catcher, but Fry averages 3.2 fantasy points over the past four weeks, so who cares how you get the production as long as you get it?

Alec Burleson, St. Louis Cardinals: Burleson has hit in 10 consecutive games and raised his batting average to .309. His has become a high-contact profile with few walks and strikeouts, but Burleson showed power in the minor leagues, too, so this is indeed intriguing. The Cardinals will keep playing him while he hits.

Daulton Varsho, Toronto Blue Jays: Varsho cannot make enough contact to truly break out, which is a shame because there is much to like here. He hits for power against right-handers, he can steal a base and Varsho is hitting so many fly balls this season. Watch him to see if, at 27, the best is yet to come.

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees: Stanton has played nary a game in the outfield this season, but he retains his 2023 OF eligibility and his ability to hit home runs. Stanton has seven home runs over the past three weeks. He is not doing much else, but home runs matter in any fantasy league, and Stanton may surpass 30 of them, like he used to achieve regularly.

Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels: Adell already has 10 home runs and eight stolen bases and, because playing time seems largely guaranteed in this offense, perhaps he makes a run at 25 of each. His points league upside is muted due to troubling plate approach, with lots of strikeouts and the rare walk, and he is streaky. If a good streak comes along soon, pay attention.

Dylan Moore, Seattle Mariners: Moore has surpassed 20 stolen bases in recent seasons, with intriguing bench power along the way, but fantasy managers often overlooked him due to a low batting average. This season, Moore is making more contact. He is eligible at each middle infield position, too. Perhaps trade one of your middle infielders for a top outfielder, add Moore (or the Giants' Thairo Estrada or Rockies' Ezequiel Tovar) and hope this success continues.