Posted on April 25, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Atlanta Braves are bringing up the top prospect in baseball for his big league debut. The Braves will promote 20-year old outfielder Ronald Acuña for Wednesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds. Acuña began the season as the no. 2 overall prospect in baseball. He’s a true five-tool player with almost unlimited potential. Upon his debut, he will immediately become the youngest players in the majors, taking that honor from Atlanta second baseman Ozzie Albies.
The Braves signed Acuña out of Venezuela in 2014 when he was 16 years old. The following summer, he made his professional debut, impressing in Rookie Ball while still a teenager. His star continued to rise, particularly last season, as Acuña finished the year in triple-A after starting out in A-ball. In 54 games at triple-A last year, Acuña hit .344 with an OPS of .940. After that, it was obvious he would make his big league debut at some point in 2018.
During spring training, Acuña made a strong push to make Atlanta’s opening day roster. In 16 spring games, he hit .432 with an OPS 1.247, hitting four home runs and stealing four bases. However, by waiting a few weeks to call him up, the Braves earn an extra year of team control, meaning he won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
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Despite an outstanding spring, Acuña has gotten off to a sluggish start in triple-A this year. Through 17 games, he’s hitting just .232 with 22 strikeouts and an OPS of .625. However, he’s started to get hot over the past 10 days. He has hits in seven of his last eight games, hitting .333 over that span. Calling him up when he starts to get it going offensively has been part of Atlanta’s plan for Acuña all along.
“We’re looking for Ronald to get hot at this point,” explained Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos last week. “I know it’s going to be talked about and so on, but once he starts to perform, unless there’s an immediate need, an injury or we have a lack of performance up here — more development isn’t going to hurt anybody. We’d prefer to call players up when they’re performing at a high level when they’re locked in.”
While he has the talent to play anywhere in the outfield, Acuña figures to step in as Atlanta’s primary left fielder. At the moment, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis are locked into center field and right field, respectively.
To this point, Preston Tucker has garnered most of the at-bats in left field. Tucker made a surprising impact early in the year, already accumulating three home runs and 18 RBIs. However, his performance has dropped off over the past 10 days, making this the ideal time to move him to a bench role and bring up Acuña.
It should be noted that without Acuña, the Braves currently lead the National League in runs scored and are second in team OPS. The Braves have shown signs early in the year of perhaps being able to compete for a playoff spot in 2018. Bringing up Acuña should only help the Braves remain competitive in the NL East and take the next step forward in their rebuilding process.