With the MLB postseason here and Hispanic Heritage Month underway, ESPN found the timing ideal to tackle one of the bigger debates among one section of baseball's fandom: With so many superstar candidates, which one is most worthy of being labeled the current Face of Latino Baseball?
Our friends at ESPN Deportes and FiveThirtyEight devised a formula -- which is explained here -- using on-field performance, social media popularity, feedback from 30 ESPN analysts and fan votes to get to the answer. The results produced a ballot that stands at four candidates: the Atlanta Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr., from Venezuela; Dominican players Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres; and Puerto Rico's Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians. All are young, charismatic and popular and have enough accomplishments in their short careers to be considered for the honor.
Monday through Thursday this week, we will present the case for one of the four superstars, with our winner to be revealed Friday. We start with Acuña, the Braves' sensational outfielder.
At 22, Acuña already has three major league seasons under his belt and has put together a .281 batting average, 81 homers, 194 RBIs and 61 stolen bases. The 2018 National League Rookie of the Year also appeared in last year's All-Star Game.
He earned a Silver Slugger award in 2019, a season in which he joined Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco and Alfonso Soriano as the only players in history to tally 40 homers and 35 stolen bases.
Acuña, from La Guaira, Venezuela, draws frequent comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. However, arguments can be made that Acuna is already ahead of the Hall of Famer Griffey's pace with a WAR of 11.9 -- the second-highest among our four candidates. Equally impressive are his career .909 OPS and .538 slugging percentage.
Social media popularity
What hurts Acuña's case: He has shared just four Instagram posts in 2020, but those have nevertheless averaged more than 90,000 interactions for each.
Even though he has a low Instagram profile, Acuña has been one of the most searched Latino players since the beginning of the 2019 season. His average Google Trends search index for the period of Apr. 1, 2019 to Sep. 1, 2020, trails only Albert Pujols and Guerrero Jr. among all Latino players, and leads our finalists for the Latino Face of Baseball.
Acuña, who debuted in April 2018, received only three first-place votes from our panel of experts, but he appeared on 27 of the 30 ballots, the most of any player.
"Acuña is already one of the best players in the major leagues," ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas said. "He's more or less like a Venezuelan Mike Trout. Both can hit for power, run, play defense and throw hard at the bases -- a complete package of tools that belongs only to the best in the business."
Special category: Fan vote
Between Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, you, the fans, had a hand in deciding who should be the Latino Face of Baseball through four tightly contested polls.
Acuña dominated the SC Español poll with 39.9% of the vote. He was second among voters in the other three web polls: ESPN Béisbol (29%), ESPN Deportes (26.3%), and ESPN México (21.9).