The season is over for budding superstar Braves outfielder prospect Ronald Acuna. No, he won’t taste the majors in September. But his name won’t exactly be out of the headlines until March.
Acuna was named USA Today’s Minor League Player of the Year on Wednesday. MLB Pipeline anointed him its minor league Hitter of the Year after Acuna posted a season with more than 20 homers and more than 40 steals across Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A.
In 139 games over three levels, he hit .325 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs, and he stole 44 bases. It was just his third season of professional baseball.
Promoted to Gwinnett on July 13, Acuna became the youngest player in Triple-A. He proceeded to lead the International League in hits, runs scored, extra-base hits and total bases. His August was particularly eye-opening. Acuna collected 47 hits, 24 runs and 20 RBIs in route to minor league player of the month. He won Player of the Week for his performance Aug. 14-20, in which he hit three homers with eight RBIs on a six-game road trip.
“I’ll tell you this: He’s produced at every level,” Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill said. “He’s a special kid. At 19, he still has stuff he needs to work on. But he’s a talented kid. I believe he’s going to have success.”
Acuna wasn’t expected to become the crown jewel of the Braves’ rebuild. He was signed for $100,000 out of Venezuela during the Frank Wren regime (2014). A broken thumb kept him out of action from mid-May to mid-August in 2016.
But he exploded onto the scene this go-around. Entering the season as the Braves’ No. 6 prospect, per Baseball America, and unranked in the top 100, Acuna catapulted to the top of the Braves’ system, and maybe the top of everybody’s system. In an era where five-tool players have become rarer, Acuna might be the generational talent the next-era Braves need.
Despite that, he won’t join the major-league club this season, but he’s eagerly awaiting that moment.
“It’s always in my head,” Acuna said through an interpreter. “Every time I did better, it always gets to my head. I’m like, one step away to being (with) the big club. So everything is coming to my head so quickly.”
The AJC has followed Acuna’s rise closely. Here are some highlights from the phenom’s season:
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.