There might not have been a bigger break out prospect in 2017 than Ronald Acuna, and the 19 year old Atlanta Braves outfielder has continued his impressive season in Arizona this fall. He came into Friday hitting .333 in 36 ABs with one homer and three doubles to go along with his six walks, and didn’t slow down against the Salt River Rafters.
In his first at bat, Acuna hit a towering home run that reached light tower heights before banging off the batter’s eye 410 feet from home plate. His second trip to the plate reads as a fielder’s choice in the box score, but in reality may have been even more impressive than the home run.
He turned on the 0-1 pitch and hit a screaming liner to third baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle had to reach up and to his glove side to snag the liner, but when he brought his hand down there was no ball, and no glove.
Yes, Acuna literally knocked his glove right off. Mountcastle was able to pick up the ball and step on third for the out, but not before his face expressed the confusion as to what had just happened.
Talking with Mountcastle after the game about the play he gave a chuckle and said that ball was “smoked”. I asked him about his thoughts when he looked down and didn’t have his glove on and the first thing through his mind was trying to figure out where the ball was.
In his third trip to the plate Acuna showed he could handle pitches down in the zone, fouling one off before showing excellent balance and driving the ball into the right center gap for an easy double.
However, Acuna was not content with the easy double, putting his head down and trying for three. The tag from Mountcastle had Acuna tagged out at third on a play that was way closer to a triple than one would expect.
Continuing his hot day, Acuna went ahead and drove a liner over the wall just right of the batter’s eye and onto the grass. In his final at bat, he finally hit into a traditional out, but I had him at 4.15 from home to first.
After the game Acuna said, through his interpreter, he has hit multiple home runs in a game four or five times, but doing it against this level of competition was felt pretty good.
In the field, Acuna played left, which is the toughest spot in a Peoria afternoon as it leaves the fielder staring directly at the sun. He did not let that impact him though, as he fought the sun just fine and handled fly balls his direction with relative ease. He did take too wide a route on a foul ball he might have had a chance at but couldn’t quite run it down.
Overall, it was clear the most talented player on a field full of really impressive prospects was Acuna, and that was with a lineup that saw Michael Chavis hitting behind him, followed by Josh Naylor (who delivered the game winning home run in the 8th) and fellow Braves prospect Alex Jackson.