Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., second baseman Ozzie Albies and first baseman Freddie Freeman have won 2019 National League Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger awards, it was announced Thursday night.
It is the first such honor of their careers. Presented every year since 1980, the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger award is issued to the top offensive producer at each position in each league as voted by major league managers and coaches.
Atlanta was the only team in the majors to have three recipients. The only previous year in which the Braves had three Silver Slugger winners was 2003, when pitcher Mike Hampton, catcher Javy Lopez and outfielder Gary Sheffield were all recognized.
Acuña Jr., 21, hit .280 in 156 games and placed second among National League outfielders in home runs (41) and third in RBIs (101). He also led all National Leaguers, regardless of position, in runs scored (127) and stolen bases (37). Acuña Jr. became only the third player in baseball history to hit 40 home runs in a single season prior to his 22nd birthday, joining Hall-of-Famers Eddie Mathews (47 in 1953) and Mel Ott (42 in 1929).
Acuña Jr. is the youngest Brave to win a Silver Slugger, and he is one of three National Leaguers in history to win a Silver Slugger in his age 21 season or younger. St. Louis star Albert Pujols claimed the honor in 2001 as a 21-year-old, while Los Angeles pitcher Fernando Valenzuela did so in 1981 as a 20-year-old.
“I would like to thank God, my family and my teammates for being named a Silver Slugger winner,” Acuna Jr. said. “It is an honor to be recognized by the managers and coaches across the league.”
Albies, 22, played in a team-high 160 games and batted .295, leading all qualified National League second basemen in batting average and slugging percentage. Albies matched his single-season career high with 24 home runs and drove in a career most 86, totals that each tied for the league lead among players at his position. He also had 189 hits, becoming the fifth player in the Atlanta-era of Braves history (since 1966) to lead the league in that category. Albies is the first second baseman in franchise history to win a Silver Slugger. Albies and Acuña Jr. are the first teammates in major league history age 22 or younger to win Silver Sluggers in the same season.
“We don’t play the game to win individual awards, but it is an honor to win the Silver Slugger,” said Albies. “Thank you to everyone who voted for me, and to my coaches and teammates for their support throughout the season.”
Freeman, the 10-year veteran and four-time All-Star, won his first career Silver Slugger. The 30-year-old hit .295, leading all National League first basemen with 121 RBIs. He became the 13th player in franchise history to drive in at least 120 runs in a season and the first since Andruw Jones drove in 129 in 2006. Freeman also had a single-season career most 38 home runs.
Only three left-handed hitters in Braves history have hit more in a season; Eddie Mathews did so five times, while Darrell Evans and David Justice each did so once. Freeman also led National Leaguers at his position with 176 hits. Freeman is the second Braves first baseman to win a Silver Slugger, joining Fred McGriff in 1993.
“Thank you to the managers and coaches who voted for me to be named a Silver Slugger, and congratulations to Ronald and Ozzie for their accomplishments as well,” Freeman said. “These awards would not be possible without the contributions from all of our teammates and coaches, and I am very honored to be named a recipient.”