Right now, there’s no doubt that Mike Trout is the gold standard for the best player in baseball. But when Trout is no longer the best player in the game, who takes over that title? At the moment, both Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. look like good bets.
Let’s get a jump start on the Tatis vs Acuna debate.
Hit for Average
Technically, Tatis has a higher career batting average than Acuna, although it’s close and Tatis has had far fewer at-bats in the majors.
There was also a drastic drop from .317 in his rookie season to .277 during the shortened 2020 season. It’s also worth noting that Tatis started slowly in 2021 while Acuna was red-hot, batting .341 in April. This is more or less a push, although Acuna may have shown a little more long-term consistency in terms of hitting for average.
Hit for Power
Again, Tatis has a better slugging percentage and OPS than Acuna at this point, but he’s also had half as many at-bats.
Of course, Tatis out-homered Acuna 17 to 14 during the shortened 2020 season, which is actually a sizable difference over 60 games.
On the other hand, Acuna launched 41 home runs in 2019 in just his second season in the majors, which says a lot about his upside. However, both Tatis and Acuna average either a double or triple in roughly 5.5% of their at-bats, making it hard to distinguish what player has the more upside in terms of hitting for power.
This comparison is tough to make because Tatis and Acuna play different positions.
Both are good enough to be in the Gold Glove conversation right now and both could very well win a Gold Glove one day, although the competition will be stiff.
The biggest difference is that Tatis plays a premium defensive position while Acuna has spent most of his career at a corner outfield position, although he’s capable of playing center field. Ultimately, Tatis is more valuable in the long run if he can play average or above-average defense at shortstop, even if Acuna is an elite right fielder.
For the most part, it’s nothing but positives with both Tatis and Acuna when you think about intangibles. Both players have speed and bring plenty of energy to the ballpark with them every day.
Each player has also shown a flair for the dramatic at times. Tatis might have a slight edge when it comes to lineage because his father played in the majors for a long time. But Acuna has a father and grandfather who played in the minors and cousins who played in the big leagues.
If you want to factor money into the equation, Acuna is signed to more of a team-friendly deal than the monster $340 million contract Tatis got.
Tatis vs Acuna: The Verdict
If the contract of each is factored in, Acuna will likely provide a lot more value than Tatis, who has far more money to live up to, even if he’s signed for more years.
But if all things are equal, Tatis has more potential. He has slightly better numbers than Acuna for both average and power and plays a premium position. It’s not by much, but Tatis will be the better player in the long run.