Ronald Acuña Jr. had a relatively disappointing showing at the plate in 2022, coming off his season-ending right ACL tear in July 2021, but the dynamic three-time All-Star believes he will be back at full strength leading into 2023. “I’m feeling 100 percent and I’m ready to go back to normal, and I definitely don’t want to play DH anymore,” Acuña told Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday.
Acuña delivered a combined .925 OPS in his first 1,764 major league plate appearances between 2018-2021 before sinking to a .764 OPS in 533 plate appearances last year. He made 27 starts at DH for the Braves in 2022, after logging — or requiring? — only one total DH start across his entire four previous MLB seasons. In general, he’s averaged 38 home runs and 34 stolen bases for every 162 games played as a big leaguer. Last year: 15 homers, 29 steals in 119 games. As he moves further and further away from that knee injury, the reigning NL East champs should become all the more dangerous.
Acuña is going to DH in the Venezuelan Winter League finals, per Toscano, and he has also stated a desire to represent his native country in the Winter Baseball Classic. But the 25-year-old outfielder noted to David O’Brien of The Athletic that the Braves’ medical staff is unlikely to clear him to play in the upcoming WBC because it is more of a time and physical commitment than Winter League. Essentially, they just really want him to stay in camp.
- Mike Clevinger signed a one-year, $12MM contract with the White Sox earlier this winter. Soon after, he received a platelet-rich plasma injection to aid in the healing of a knee injury that hampered him down the stretch with the Padres last season and led to a disappointing overall 4.33 ERA. With his knee on the mend, and his November 2020 Tommy John surgery fully in the rearview, the White Sox believe the 32-year-old right-hander can get back to being his old top-of-the-rotation self. “We broke down some biomechanics stuff after we signed him to kind of show him the differences,” pitching coach Ethan Katz told James Fegan of The Athletic. “Where he was different in all aspects of his delivery, which was probably in correlation to the knee … Now that he is healthy, he is working on it. His bullpens and the videos that I have seen, there’s been no kind of restrictions or anything that’s slowed him down from being able to be aggressive on that back leg.”
- Ryan Rolison, the Rockies’ top selection in the 2018 MLB Draft and perhaps a big rotation piece for their future, is said to be 100 percent recovered from the left shoulder surgery that knocked his pro career off track last season. He did not pitch in MLB-affiliated ball at all in 2022 and ultimately went under the knife in June. “We are better than we were a year ago,” Rockies GM Bill Schmidt said to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post in a recent chat, making note of Rolison’s rebounded health. “We have created some competition for some guys,” Schmidt added. “And, overall, our organizational depth is better.” Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and José Ureña would seem to be locked into the top three rotation spots for Colorado. Rolison could perhaps battle with Austin Gomber and Connor Seabold at the back end. Peter Lambert (elbow) is also expected to be healthy heading into camp and might get another look for MLB starts at some point in 2023.