The Telegraph has learned the Atlanta Braves are promoting top outfield prospect Ronald Acuna to Triple-A. He is scheduled to join the Gwinnett Braves in Charlotte on Thursday.
On Sunday, Acuna impressed in the Future’s Game. Baseball America recently ranked Acuna as baseball’s 10th best prospect. And now, the Braves are challenging the 19-year-old again by sending him to the International League.
Acuna started the 2017 season with High-A Florida. In 28 games, Acuna hit .287 with three home runs, 19 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a .336 on-base percentage. He has done even better with Double-A Mississippi. Entering Wednesday’s game, Acuna batted .318 with a .368 OBP, nine home runs, 30 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 56 games.
His combined numbers (entering Wednesday): .307 batting average, .357 OBP, 12 home runs, 49 RBI and 32 stolen bases in 332 at-bats.
Acuna then had three hits in his first three at-bats Wednesday night as the Mississippi Braves played Jackson.
On Tuesday, Acuna hit a reported 428-foot home run that had an exit velocity of 111 mph. Acuna also opened eyes in Miami at the Future’s Game. Even though he was 0-4 at the plate, Acuna’s exit velocity of his hit balls was impressive. He also made several eye-opening throws from the outfield.
The comparisons with former Braves star Andruw Jones will grow even stronger now that Acuna is moving to Triple-A. In 1996, the 19-year-old Jones started the season in High-A. He hit .313 with 17 home runs and 43 RBI in 66 games. Then he hit .369 in 38 games in Double-A with 12 home runs and 37 RBI.
The Braves then moved Jones to Triple-A. Jones then hit .378 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 12 games. That was all the Braves needed to see, as they moved him up to Atlanta for the rest of the 1996 season.
Like Jones, Acuna is considered a five-tool talent. It certainly seems like Acuna is taking the same track to the big leagues as Jones. The Braves would have to make room for Acuna in Atlanta, as the current outfield includes Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis.
Would the Braves seriously consider trading Markakis, who becomes a free agent after next season, if Acuna does well the next two weeks in Triple-A? Acuna is giving the front office yet another option as this team moves closer to becoming a contending team.
The Braves also promoted Austin Riley from High-A Florida to Double-A Mississippi. Riley hit .252 in his 81 games in the Florida State League, with 12 home runs and 47 RBI.
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