The speculation is over. The long-awaited day for Atlanta Braves fans is finally here. Ronald Acuña, Jr. is coming to The Show.
In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Mark Bowman broke the Internet:
Source confirms Acuna has been informed he's being called up for the Braves. The plan is for him to join the team tomorrow.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 25, 2018
The arrival of Acuña, Jr. is one of the more highly-anticipated callups of late, and certainly this season. Acuña, Jr., of course, was eligible to be called up on April 13, but the Braves held off, citing they were waiting for his bat to get hot. With the Braves on the road in Chicago, Twitter had rumors of his imminent arrival on April 16 to make his debut at home against the Phillies. When that didn’t happen the speculation kind of just went away.
This isn’t a scouting report. I have simply written too many of those on Acuña, Jr. over the past season and a half, first seeing him as part of the 2016 South Atlantic League Champion Rome Braves. If you want a refresher, you can go HERE or HERE. Let’s just get down to it and talk about what you can expect from the Braves 20-year-old wunderkind.
Acuña, Jr. followed the same pattern to start the 2018 MiLB season in Gwinnett as he often does. He started slowly. That’s what he did last season, making people curious if perhaps he was rushed to High-A after an injury cut out three months of his 2016 full-season debut. He quickly righted the ship, and then was arguably the best prospect at High-A... and Double-A... and then again at Triple-A.
That’s what he did in his first big league Spring Training in February, He started 0-for-7 and then 1-for-9 before erupting to finish amongst the leaders of the Grapefruit League, slashing .432/.519/.727 with a 1.247 OPS, four home runs and just four strikeouts in March after striking out four times in four February games.
That’s what he did this season. Acuña, Jr. He was hitting .139 with 14 strikeouts on April 16. I was on hand April 17 to watch him. That was the day he began to turn it around. He cracked a leadoff double and later his first home run of 2018. I saw no ill-effects or steps backwards, and since, he has looked more like baseball’s top prospect.
Acuña, Jr. has gone 11-for-33 (a .333 batting average) since being passed over for that April 16 call-up. He blasted his first home run and stole his first four bases of the season... three of which came in the same game. While he has been striking out, he just went three straight games without striking out once.
The verdict? Acuña, Jr. is just fine.
It’s safe to assume the same in the big leagues. Acuña, Jr. will have his ups and downs like any rookie does. His swing gets a little big when he goes for it at times, but other than that, he comes with few flaws. Acuña, Jr. will strike out, probably more this rookie season than he will in his career. But as he as shown at every step of the ladder, he has a knack of figuring it out, making adjustments, and excelling.
Our own John Sickels named Acuña, Jr. No. 1 overall in his preseason Top 175. He either landed one or two in every outlet, and he has all of the tools and skill to live up to the lofty expectations. He combines a blend of speed, power, hitting, and baseball smarts that is in rare air. When you add that he is actually a solid outfielder with excellent range and a perfect arm for any position, he is that much more alluring.
The Yankees called up a Top 10 prospect in Gleyber Torres a few days ago as well. With the bright lights all on him, he has struggled to get going, needing six at bats to get his first hit. The same could happen to Acuña, Jr., but there is little reason, based on his track record and natural ability, to believe that will last long.
Of course, he could blast three home runs tonight and lock up the NL Rookie of the Year.