by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
He entered the year considered a potential breakout candidate and thus far he’s far surpassed those expectations. No we aren’t talking about the Nationals’ Juan Soto, who many expected to grow into one of the elite in the game, but the Braves’ Ronald Acuna. Still just 19-years old (he won’t turn 20 until December 18), Acuna has made quick work of High-A and Double-A:
- High-A (115 AB) – .287 with 3 HR, 19 RBI, 21 R and 14 SB
- Double-A (221 AB) – .326 with 9 HR, 30 RBI, 29 R and 19 SB
Now comes the news that the Braves will continue their aggressive promotion, with Acuna being sent to Triple-A. Suddenly on the precipice of the Majors, seeing him arrive in Atlanta in ’17 isn’t so far-fetched and you have to wonder if he’s going to follow in the footsteps of former Brave great Andruw Jones (who debuted as a 19-year old in 1996).
His 96 K vs. 26 BB over 336 AB would be a bit of a red flag, but considering his age and the levels he’s played at it is an easy one to overlook. It’s even more interesting that he improved his marks as he moved up in level (strikeout rate // SwStr%):
- High-A – 31.7% // 13.2%
- Double-A – 23.0% // 11.3%
Many view the time at Double-A, so it will be interesting to see if he can at least maintain these rates at Triple-A. Thus far the takeaway is extremely promising. Considering the other skills that he brings to the table, if he can continue to evolve and improve the sky truly is the limit. His Double-A manager, Luis Salazar, was quoted on MILB.com as saying:
“It’s a true, really five-tool player. He can do it all. I haven’t seen Andruw Jones [as a youngster], but this kid is going to get better and better. He’s already a lot better hitter than Andruw Jones was at his age. He can run, he can throw, he hits for power. … He does everything.”
He has already shown power (17 doubles, 6 triples and 12 HR), and we’d expect him to continue to add strength and learn how to put more balls in the seats. As MLB.com said prior to the season:
“His raw power is just starting to show up in games and it could be a plus tool when all is said and done, coming from a buggy whip of a swing.”
Then there’s the obvious speed, with 33 SB in 47 attempts. Sure you can say that he needs to improve his efficiency (he went 19-for30 at Double-A), but that’s something that should come with experience.
I know the underlying theme here was his production, when considering his age, and it is very impressive. That said the skills alone are already translating and while the average may regress (he’s posted BABIP of .411 and .385) there’s every reason to believe that he can develop into a .275 hitter (or better) with both power and speed. He’s proven to be the real deal, and with the aggressiveness the Braves have already shown it’s possible we see him before the year is out.
You can argue that he’s already a Top 10 prospect, and a strong showing at Triple-A could bump him into the Top 5 or higher before the year is out.
Preseason Grade – B
Current Grade – A-
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: