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Ian Anderson, Ronald Acuna Jr. represent Braves as The Ringer’s 25 best under 25-years-old

We still have some lists and rankings coming down the pipe, as back last Wednesday the guys at The Ringer published their annual Top 25 Under 25 post. The list of 25 players featured a rather obvious choice in Nationals outfielder Juan Soto, as well as guys like Cristian Pache and Mike Soroka as honorable mentions. But a quartet of writers at The Ringer also named Braves righty Ian Anderson and outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. as two members of the club.

Ian Anderson (RHP)

Top 25 under 25 rank: 14th

This write-up comes just as Anderson was removed from his start against the Reds on Sunday – an outing in which the 23-year-old failed to make it out of the third inning, thanks to an uncharacteristic five earned runs and five walks in 2 2/3 (Sean Newcomb certainly didn’t help that line as he immediately allowed a two-run single once he relieved the Braves starter).

Regardless, one poor performance shouldn’t overshadow what Anderson has accomplished during his career so far. The 2021 season was considered a bit of a down year for the former first-round pick, but even so, Anderson was a 2-WAR pitcher for Atlanta last year as he held opposing batters to just a .218 AVG during the regular season. Then, of course, there’s his track record so far in the playoffs, which even at such a young age, is pretty sparkling. Add in his four starts combined in last October’s NLDS, NLCS and World Series, and Anderson has pitched to a stingy 1.26 ERA in eight career postseason outings. And it’s almost as if he turns it up a notch when it matters most, because historically – though, admittedly a small sample-size – the righty’s career K rate in the playoffs (10.1 K/9) is nearly one strikeout per nine higher than in the regular season (9.2 K/9). Anderson’s ability to provide ace-like work when everything’s on the line, coupled with his reputation for being a consistent part of the Braves starting rotation throughout a 162-game season, makes him an obvious choice to be among not just the best under 25, but also the best in the game.

Ronald Acuna Jr. (OF)

Top 25 under 25 rank: 4th

I get it, it’s hard to peg a guy as the best when he’s currently on the injured list, especially when he’s on the IL because of major injury. But I am a bit surprised RAJ isn’t ranked higher on this list. The Ringer has Fernando Tatis Jr. one ahead of Acuna on this list, at no. 3, then Wander Franco and Soto. I can live with the latter of those three being in front of the Braves outfielder (though you could argue that one as well), but Tatis and Franco?… no way. Neither of those two have proven what Acuna has, and for the former, his huge 2021 campaign will probably stand as a career-best for awhile given his already frequent IL stints (and the fact that he too is on the IL). Franco… well… he’s still just 21-years-old and literally was just called up to the majors last season, playing in only 70 games (albeit at a nearly 6-WAR pace).

But either way, I suppose Acuna’s exact ranking within the top 25 isn’t too significant. It’s his numbers that are. The former top prospect has a floor for 4 WAR on an annual basis, and if he can ever get back to playing a full-162 again than you can probably add another 2 or 3 to that number. An NL Rookie of the Year award in 2018, not to mention legit MVP-caliber performances in each of the four seasons he has been in the majors (receiving votes in every single one of those), like Freddie Freeman was for so long, Acuna is right on the cusp of officially becoming the Most Valuable Player in the league. It’s a shame his stats in 2022 will be held back a bit because of the missed time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Acuna is right in the middle of the MVP race for a fifth consecutive season, even after missing a month.

If you’re looking for a sneaky-good place for more baseball analysis, go and check out The Ringer, a site that, among numerous other things, specializes in pop culture, tech, podcasts and obviously sports. In terms of baseball pieces, writers Michael Baumann, Zach Kram and Ben Lindbergh are all definitely worth the read, as most of their long-form write-ups usually offer a much more in-depth look at storylines impacting MLB.

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