Ronald Acuña Jr. owns any baseball stage he inhabits these days, with his defense, his strong arm, the "crazy speed," Braves manager Brian Snitker said Saturday. "I'd love to be a third-base coach with him running."
And, of course, there is the power. When Acuña slams a home run -- when he knows he has crushed a ball destined to fly over the wall -- he will shed his bat and scream toward teammates in the dugout, "La bestia!"
The beast, in Spanish. A baseball beast, in any language, on any field, in any ballpark, boiling over with passion for the sport.
But if you walked into the Atlanta clubhouse, you would be surprised by the Acuña you see in that setting.
"Quiet as a church mouse," said one staffer. "Not loud at all -- like a shy kid. Almost introverted. Very respectful."
It's the competition that draws out la bestia, it seems, with he and close friend Ozzie Albies nudging each other playfully in the dugout, teasing each other, pushing each other. Acuña has always had fun playing baseball, Snitker said the other day. And somehow, he looks like he's having even more fun this year.
And what's not fun about an OPS over 1.400, or averaging more than a run scored a game -- 18 in the Braves' first 14 games -- while consistently doing damage with his swing? Going into Saturday's game against the Cubs, Acuña had 14 extra-base hits and only nine strikeouts.
"I don't know if I've ever seen anything like it in my career," Snitker said.
On Sunday night, Acuña and the Braves will play the Cubs (7 p.m. ET on ESPN) in the final game of their three-game set.