Okay, this is a lot of hype, but then again, stranger things have happened. Besides, I want to believe, at least at this time of year. It’s spring training and I want to see the Braves do better this year.
“More than 200 players have been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Membership in the hall is a confirmation of baseball greatness, and when teams convene in late winter in warm climes to prepare for the new season, prospects who possess evident talent become subjects of fan enthusiasm, even speculation about how good, indeed how great their careers might be.
“This year the Atlanta Braves have such a prospect. He is a 20-year-old Venezuelan outfielder named Ronald Acuna. And here is a relevant set of facts: On April 4, 2017, Acuna was assigned to the Florida Fire Frogs (one of the team’s single-A affiliates); on May 9, 2017, to the Mississippi Braves (AA); and on July 13, 2017, to the Gwinnett Braves (AAA), where he finished the year. Acuna thus accomplished the rarity of advancing three levels in a single season.
“As for baseball statistics, an abiding fan interest, in 28 games with the Fire Frogs Acuna hit .287; in 57 games with Mississippi, .326; and in 54 games with Gwinnett, .344. Other important statistics—among them on-base percentage, extra-base hits, slugging, and stolen bases tell the same story of a baseball player upwardly bound. And on defense Acuna may be a real phenom. He is a natural right-fielder with a strong arm who can also patrol center field better than most who play the position now, say baseball scouts.
“Historically” means since 1990, and the Braves have had several No. 1 prospects who became top players (if not Hall of Famers). They include Andruw Jones, who was Baseball America’s top prospect for the consecutive years 1996-97, and had a great career (thanks to his defensive abilities). And Chipper Jones, Baseball America’s No. 1 in 1991 and the game’s second-best switch-hitter ever (behind only Mickey Mantle), who played mostly third base. Jones will enter the Hall of Fame this summer.
“Someone who has watched Acuna play and will see more of him this spring is Jones, who told Mark Bowman of MLB.com that he doesn’t “say much to Ronald” because “he does nothing I would change.”
“It appears that the Braves have a prospect ready to play every day at a high level. And if he plays at least most of the schedule, that would represent a remarkable achievement for prospect Acuna, who soon could add another name to the lengthening list of the game’s exceptional young players—among them Aaron Judge of the Yankees, Mike Trout of the Angels, Bryce Harper of the Nationals, Kris Bryant of the Cubs, and Corey Seager of the Dodgers.
“The new season cannot arrive too soon, and certainly not in Atlanta.”