Leadoff: Five observations from Braves spring training

Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies head out with their gear early in spring training.

Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies head out with their gear early in spring training.

Good morning. This is LEADOFF, today’s early look inside Atlanta sports. 

Here are five takeaways from a few days spent at the Braves' spring-training camp:

1. Ronald Acuna, hitting .435 through eight Grapefruit League games, is a fun-to-watch player who looks ready for the big leagues offensively and defensively. But it would make no business sense for the Braves to have him on the roster for the first couple of weeks of the season and potentially accelerate his free-agency eligibility from fall 2024 to fall 2023. That could amount to trading Acuna's full 2024 season for two extra weeks in 2018 – a bad trade. (And even if the Braves and Acuna wind up agreeing to a long-term contract before 2024, the price goes up if he is a year closer to free agency.) So I'd look for him to start the season at Gwinnett and, assuming he again thrives there, make his SunTrust Park debut during the Braves' second homestand.

2. The two most exciting young position players in the Braves' camp are outfielder Acuna and second baseman Ozzie Albies. It's worth noting both were in the Braves' organization before the long rebuild began. And another player who was in the organization pre-rebuild, Johan Camargo, is the leading candidate to be the opening-day third baseman. So the farm system obviously wasn't quite as barren as the Braves said back then.

3. There's no consensus agreement on who is the Braves' top pitching prospect, with most prospect-evaluation sites bunching several of the organization's talented young arms closely together. Baseball America ranks Luiz Gohara as the Braves' top pitching prospect, while MLB.com goes with Kyle Wright and Baseball Prospectus with Kolby Allard. But for now, the one who seems to be drawing the most attention in spring training is Mike Soroka.

4. A $112 million player payroll, which is approximately where I project the Braves' to be on opening day as things currently stand, would have ranked 21st among the 30 MLB teams at the start of last season.

5. Ticket prices posted at Saturday's Braves-Cardinals game at Disney were awfully high for spring training. Lower-level seats were $64, upper-level seats $48, and it cost $25 to sit on the grass berm beyond left field. You can get into SunTrust Park for the Braves' regular-season opener March 29 for less.