When people think of major league baseball, they think of Mike Trout's electricity, Bryce Harper's hair flowing around the bases, and Clayton Kershaw's mouth-dropping curve. In a matter of time, Atlanta Braves' top prospect Ronald Acuna will be added to the list.
Entering the 2017 season, many people in the baseball world were unfamiliar with the name Ronald Acuna. Five months later, Acuna is a superstar in the making and the Braves feel like they have the winning one-billion dollar lottery ticket.
The 19-year-old phenom from Venezuela was a star throughout three minor league levels this past season. Over the season, Acuna kept on getting better and better and he matured as a hitter. The outfielder's numbers during his short AA stint are way better than his even shorter A+ stint and his AAA numbers are even better than his AA stint.
During his full season in the minor leagues playing for the High A Florida Fire Frogs, the AA Mississippi Braves, and the AAA Gwinnett Braves, Acuna took the minor league player of the year award and ran with it. The outfielder collected just 181 hits, including 60 extra base hits, of which were 21 home runs in 557 at-bats. He stole 44 bases and had an impressive batting line of .325/.374/522. Did I mention that he is just 19-years-old?
Acuna developed patience at the plate during his rise to stardom this season. Throughout the three levels he played in the minor leagues this year, his walk rate rose and his strikeout rate dropped.
From A+ to AA, he struck out less and walked more often, and in AAA, he struck out less but his walk rate slightly dropped. AA pitchers tend to have less control and less pitching demand than AAA pitchers, but overall this shows Acuna's tremendous improvement at the plate though out the season.
Many expect Acuna to be on the Braves' major league roster sometime next summer. The Braves are reportedly likely to attempt to trade outfielders Nick Markakis and Matt Kemp this offseason to open up an outfield position for Acuna.
Acuna is an early 2018 Rookie of the Year candidate. Acuna's powerful bat and dashing speed will help the Braves reach the postseason for years to come.