The Braves' mediocre start hasn't stopped Ronald Acuna Jr. fever from raging.
AJC columnist Mark Bradley, whose pronouncements make me nervous given his track record of being wrong, anointed the buoyant Braves right fielder the best player in baseball, along with the stolid Angeles outfielder Mike Trout.
No Atlanta fans would disagree, after seeing Acuna hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius and beat Gregorius' good throw to first base for an infield hit. That made the sports world sit up in wonder.
In the Braves dismal loss to the Marlins Monday night, Acuna again accomplished an amazing feat, scoring from third on pal Ozzie Albies' pop up to just past second base.
Acuna's infectious spirit reminds old-timers of the young Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente. Like Mays and Clemente, Acuna plays the outfield, hits and runs the bases with flair.
If Acuna played in New York City or Los Angeles, he'd be the national star that baseball so desperately seeks.
He's as fast as Cool Papa Bell, and the young Mickey Mantle. He possesses the power of the late superstar Henry Aaron, who also played right field for the Braves. With the muscular physique and powerful legs of Jackie Robinson, Acuna runs with the same reckless, half-back's abandon.
Watching him beat Gregorius' throw made me anticipate future feats.
Like Robinson, Acuna will make stealing home part of the game.
With his ability to leg out infield hits, he can hit .400, joining Ted Williams and Josh Gibson, the last players to do so.
He'll hit 60 home runs, and steal 60 bases.
He'll switch off the light and make it to bed before it gets dark.
As players land $300 million-plus contracts, Acuna's $100 million deal with the Braves is a steal for the club.
The Braves keep the 21-year-old until he's 28. Then, if Acuna's career keeps soaring, New York or LA will offer him the sun and the moon, and a few planets.
Until then, Braves fans should appreciate seeing a rare talent in his first flowering.