Acuna struggling since torrid start, could get a day off soon

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The Braves signed top prospect Ronald Acuna, of Venezuela, in 2014.

While Ronald Acuna is a five-tool phenom regarded by most as baseball’s No. 1 prospect, the Braves left fielder’s first weeks in the majors have been a reminder that he’s also just 20 years old and, well, a mere mortal.

All players go through slumps, even the truly elite ones. And with young players, extreme highs and lows are common.

Acuna, the youngest player in the majors, hit .382 (13-for-34) with five doubles, two homers, five RBIs, three walks, eight strikeouts, a .432 OBP and .736 slugging percentage (1.138 OPS) in his first eight games after he was called up from Triple-A on April 25.

In 10 games since then he hit .154 (6-for-39) with one double, one homer, one RBI, four walks, 14 strikeouts, a .250 OBP and .256 slugging percentage (.506 OPS) before Tuesday’s series opener against the Cubs.

“I think this is just a normal maturation for a young player,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, they go through the gamut. You (as a rookie) go through probably thinking too much and getting away from just hitting. This is normal.

“The last couple of days he’s had some good walks, which is a good sign. But like I say, if you think they’re just going to come up here and set this league on fire, it’s probably not going to happen.”

Snitker added, “There’s a learning curve when guys come up. He’ll be fine. I’ve already seen signs of him being aware (of what he needs to do). Like I say, they can get in their own head probably too much, is the biggest thing you try to keep them away from.”

Young players never faced the challenges in the minor leagues that they face in the majors, ranging from the obviously much higher level of competition to the extensive scouting reports that opposing teams and pitchers have at their disposal when facing him. Adjustments are made, even the slightest weakness or tendency is exploited. Then, counter-adjustments must be made by the pitcher.

“Guys are ready for him,” Snitker said. “They have all the video over there and pitching coaches over there are watching all their at-bats and they see everything that they do. I mean, it’s hard for these guys. But on the other hand, they have the video and see what the other guys (opposing pitchers) are doing, things like that also. So it’s kind of a two-way street.”

Snitker said he’s thought about giving Acuna a day off. But he was back in the lineup Tuesday against the Cubs, which would be his 19th consecutive game started since he was called up from Triple-A.

“I thought about it today, then I woke up and I was like, let’s give him another day and see how he is,” Snitker said before batting practice Tuesday. “But at some point that (resting him a day) is a definite possibility, just to let him sit and watch. We’ll see how it goes today. ...

“They get caught in-between (on pitches). It’s something they’ve got to experience. You keep running them out there to experience it, but at some point in time it’s not bad just to sit and watch -- that can do a lot, too. Just let your mind go.”