It is going to be a blast watching these two go head-to-head in the NL East for the next decade or more. It’s already a blast, really. Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. nearly went for 40 home runs and 40 steals as a 21-year-old rookie in 2019. The Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto, who hit .351 with a .685 slugging percentage last year, is drawing comparisons to Ted Williams as he heads into his age-22 season. There is so much more to each star than their ability to crush the ball out of the park, but for the purposes of this article, let’s discuss who will have more homers in 2021.
MLB HR Battle: Ronald Acuña Jr. (-118) vs. Juan Soto (-106)
The advantage here seems to lie with Acuna. Not only does he have a 41-homer season on his ledger — Soto’s career high is 34 — Acuna’s HR rate has been higher than Soto’s in each of their first three seasons in the league; Acuna’s homer rate was 6.9% last year while Soto was at 6.6%. Both men hit the ball on the nose quite consistently, but Acuna has more loft in his swing and puts the ball in the air significantly more often. Soto was on pace for 48 homers over a full 162-game season last year, but you shouldn’t expect him to send nearly one-third of his fly balls out of the park again while he has a ground ball rate north of 50 percent.
You could make an argument that these should be the first two players selected in fantasy baseball drafts this spring. I don’t think there is an argument against Soto being the more skilled hitter; he had more walks than strikeouts last year while leading the majors in slugging. That is certainly Williams-esque. But Acuna goes homer hunting a lot more often than Soto. Some projection systems state that the Braves stud will hit 40-43 homers this year while Soto tops out in those same projections at 39.
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