Ronald Acuña, OF
2016 Level: A Rome
4 HR, 14 SB
Acuña was a 2014 international amateur free agent, signing out of Venezuela for a $100,000 signing bonus. After impressing team officials during the instructional league that off-season, the Braves skipped Acuña over the Dominican Summer League and brought him straight stateside and the Gulf Coast League for 2015. Six weeks into his first pro season, Acuña was promoted to Danville, and he put up a combined .269/.380/.438 line over the course of both stops. At this point, Acuña started popping up on national prospect lists as a potential break-out star.
In spring training, Acuña got kudos from no lesser authority than Andruw Jones, who is now a special assistant with the team. Acuña was assigned to class A Rome as the fourth youngest player in A-ball and immediately established himself as a star on the team, hitting .300/.389/.391 through May 9, when a bad slide into second base tore ligaments in his thumb knocking him out of play until late August. He returned just in time to boost the R-Braves into the playoffs, hitting .342/.381/.553 in the final 10 games of the regular season. In the postseason he scored three times and knocked in another three to help Rome win the South Atlantic League championship. Baseball America has named him the #12 prospect in the South Atlantic League. This winter, Acuña has been a starting outfielder for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League.
Acuña is listed as 6’-0” and 180 pounds, but the eye-test has him already filling out past those measurements. If you like tools on a baseball player, Acuña is the prospect for you, already rating above average in hit, power, speed, defense, and arm strength. Acuña has very good bat speed and demonstrates above average pitch recognition for his age. Acuña has shown plus raw power, but hasn’t brought it in-game yet; he should put the ball over the fence consistently as he matures. In the field, Acuña is an excellent route runner, with enough closing speed to man centerfield well, and the arm strength to play right. One concern as he grows bigger is if will be able to stay in center, but he’s been more than capable so far.
When it comes to the complete physical package, nobody in Braves full-season ball compares to Acuña and he possesses perhaps the highest ceiling of any Braves position player (second possibly to Kevin Maitan). While it’s possible that with missing half the 2016 season the Braves elect to keep Acuña in Rome to start the 2017 season, I think they’ll continue to be aggressive with his placement and start him in high-A Florida. With his package of talent and maturity, its possible Acuña will become the latest teenage rapid-mover following in the heels of Ozzie Albies, Rafael Furcal, and Andruw Jones, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he debuts in Atlanta by 2018.
On a personal note, the play of the year I saw in person was Acuña tracking down a deep fly into the right field gap, then spinning and gunning the ball back to first base to double off a runner at first base on a two-hop throw in the playoffs.