MLB Prospect Spotlight: Ronald Acuna
What were you doing at 19-years-old? Still living at home on your parents’ dime? Perhaps waking up at noon, hungover in your college dorm? Working low-end jobs until something of interest finally came along? A little bit of all three?
It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we’ve all been there before, myself included. Although I probably did a little bit too much of that waking up at noon thing. That’s what we are supposed to be doing at that age, right? Partying, finding a career path, picking a school, and more partying. But if you’re Ronald Acuna, not so much.
Venezuelan-born phenom Ronald Acuna has accomplished far more than the average teen. At age 16, he received a $100,000 signing bonus to join the Atlanta Braves organization. He debuted at age 17 in the U.S. for Rookie league teams in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues. In 2016, at age 18, he played for Rome, the Braves’ single-A affiliate. He more than held his own against a league with an average age nearly 4 years his elder, slashing .312/.392/.429 (Batting Average/On Base%/Slugging%).
He capped off his impressive 2016 campaign by being selected as an All-Star in the Australian Baseball League, where he played winter ball. Despite his profound success at this point in his career, nothing would compare to what 2017 would bring. Starting his age 19 season in Advanced Single-A, he would only last for 28 games until it became clear that he needed more of a challenge. At Double-A, and a mere 57 games later, a 19-year-old Acuna would debut in Triple-A, knocking on the door of the Majors.
Almost incomprehensible, Acuna’s numbers actually improved at each level he advanced to. His final season line across 139 minor league games (A+, AA, and AAA): a .325 batting average, .374 on-base %, .522 slugging %, 21 home runs, 82 rbi’s, 44 stolen bases, and 43 walks.
He earned a mid-season All-Star selection for the Southern League, played in the prestigious Futures All-Star game, was a 4 time Player of the Week award winner (MiLB.com), Player of the Month for July (MiLB.com), and Hitter of the Year (MLBPipeline.com). To top off his award-laden season, Acuna won MVP of the Arizona Fall League, a league showcasing many of each organization’s top prospects.He will play the entire 2018 season without legally being able to take a sip of alcohol
On December 18th, Ronald Acuna will turn the ripe age of twenty. He will play the entire 2018 season without legally being able to take a sip of alcohol. He will sit alone atop the Braves top prospect list, and will be a consensus top-10 prospect in all of baseball. The Braves, who are currently in the midst of dealing with the international prospect scandal, may have a choice on their hands.
Do they leave Acuna in the minors for the start of the 2018 season, having shown he has nothing left to prove? Or do they let him make the opening day roster, with hopes of diverting media attention from the scandal, and bringing more fans into new SunTrust Park? Regardless, it won’t be long before Acuna is roaming the outfield in a park near you.