Plus, dead money and a nudge toward reflection.
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Atlanta's Top Prospect is Sent Back to the Minors

Ronald Acuna is a very good player. Ronald Acuna is the second-best prospect in baseball. Ronald Acuna could help the Braves be almost watchable. Ronald Acuna won’t be doing that, however -- at least not to start the season -- following the Braves’ decision to send him to the minors Monday evening. Acuna was noted in Craig Edwards’ March 15 article listing potential victims of service-time manipulation as the second-to-least likely victim, next to Shohei Ohtani. (Edwards’ article goes into a bit more detail about how and why teams manipulate the service time of players, and you can read more about it here.) Service-time manipulation seems to be why Atlanta is pushing Acuna back to a level he already looks to have mastered.

With a 2.8% chance at the playoffs, the Braves aren’t working toward a World Series this season. Perhaps they could cobble together something like a .500 record, but the prospect of one additional year of Acuna is more appealing to the club in the present, Edwards notes. Otherwise, Acuna wouldn’t be on the wrong side of training camp.

The Braves have a roster full of holes. The Nationals, on the other hand, are a contender, and the club’s top prospect, outfielder Victor Robles, still technically has a chance of making the Opening Day roster. Robles probably won’t make it in the end, given the talent ahead of him: Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin, and Howie Kendrick. Acuna doesn’t have about 14 WAR (when healthy) blocking his way. Acuna has a team on which only one player, Freddie Freeman, is projected to have even an average slash line. Ender Inciarte, patrols one-third of the outfield well enough, but there are two other positions that could afford more production.

No one is baseball’s number two prospect without being good. He met promotions through double- and triple-A by deploying increasingly refined tools, posting a .404 wOBA in double-A and a .416 wOBA in triple-A. The Braves won't yet let him test to see if that pattern will hold in the majors.

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Today on FanGraphs: On Caring for One Another

Statisticians can be a bit wary of feelings, but it's possible Meg Rowley's writing can overcome that skepticism. Communities, including our own baseball-centric corner of the universe, are sometimes asked to reflect, whether by circumstance or by an article on Fangraphs. Meg's piece, of course, is the latter.
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Data Visualization of the Day: MLB Teams With the Most Dead Money in 2018
Most things are better alive than dead, including the money on an MLB team's payroll. Craig Edwards looks at which teams are paying the most money to players no longer on their 40-man roster.

Excerpt from "The Most Underrated Base Stealer of the 1980’s and ’90’s" by Ryan Pollack

"The drop between actual and estimated stolen base percentage is regression to the mean in action. Think about the variables involved in a steal attempt. You have not only the player’s speed and acceleration, but also his first step, the pitcher’s motion, the speed of the pitch to the plate, the arm strength and accuracy of the catcher, and the ability of the shortstop or second baseman to catch the ball and apply the tag. Judging a player by his on-field success rate ignores these factors."

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