Ronald Acuna had two doubles Saturday night for his second multi-hit performance in three games since the Braves promoted the 19-year-old outfielder from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett last week, a move that made him the youngest player in all of Triple-A baseball and arguably one of the best.
Among those in the Braves organization not surprised by Acuna’s immediate impact at the highest minor league level: Chipper Jones. The retired former Braves third baseman has raved about Acuna since the first day that Jones, a Braves special assistant, watched Acuna on a backfield during minor league spring training in 2016 – back when the kid hadn’t played above rookie ball and long before Acuna appeared in any top-prospects list.
Jones compared him at the time to a young Andruw Jones, and 16 months later the future Hall of Famer looks prescient in that praise. Last week Acuna was named the No. 1 prospect in the Braves’ talent-rich minor league system and No. 10 overall by Baseball America in its midseason Top 100, up from No. 62 in the magazine’s preseason list.
“It’s really amazing what he’s done – he’s jumped two levels this year and could conceivably get a cup of coffee (a major-league call-up) in September,” Jones said. “And I certainly see him pushing for a spot in spring training.”
Acuna, who had been the youngest player in the Double-A Southern League before the promotion, went 3-for-5 with a long opposite-field home run in his Gwinnett debut Friday. He was 5-for-14 (.357) with three walks and a .471 OBP in three Triple-A games before Sunday.
After wowing everyone by excelling in major league spring training games when brought over 13 times from minor league camp, Acuna began the season in the high-Single A Florida State league and was promoted to Double-A after 28 games. He hit .326 with a .374 OBP and .895 OPS in 57 games at Double-A with nine homers and 19 stolen bases.
“You could see it in spring training, the level of competition doesn’t faze him,” Jones said. “He’s very confident in his ability to pay the game of baseball, doesn’t matter who’s out there. They throw it over the plate, he whacks it. They hit it, he goes and catches it. The game comes pretty easy to him.”