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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Is Ronald Acuña Baseball’s Next Top Prospect?

The Braves have been extremely aggressive with him as we’ve seen him go from rookie ball to AAA in just 206 games. As the competition has gotten stiffer he has become more impressive as he’s gone from a 31% K% in A+ ball with a .191 ISO to an 18.8% K%, 12.1% BB% and .228 ISO in AAA. Through 24 games in AAA the 19 year old is hitting .348/.434/.576 (1.010 OPS) which, if he qualified (2.7PA/game), would put him tops in the International League.

I’m not a Braves fan or a prospect hound. Still, it’s hard to look at his minor league numbers and his age/trajectory and not think Mike Trout. Not to say he’s Trout, but to say Acuna is a remarkable prospect and I’m curious what everyone thinks of him.

Cowboy Popup Posted: August 09, 2017 at 07:54 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: #1 prospect, braves, mike trout jr., milb

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   1. bfan Posted: August 10, 2017 at 10:07 AM (#5510401)
You keep expecting him to have at least a short period of failure as they keep advancing him, and it has not happened. The Braves were aggressive in moving him to high A; aggressive in them moving him to AA; and then aggressive in moving him to AAA. At age 19, no one would have batted an eye if he would have struggled in his first 100 ABs in AAA, but he has not.
   2. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: August 10, 2017 at 02:51 PM (#5510680)
Ronald Acuna, League OPS, 2017
High A: .814 OPS
AA: .895 OPS
AAA: .991 OPS

I know there are league and park factors at work here, but, that still seems remarkable to me. Might as well bring him up and see if he can put up a 1.100 OPS in the majors. :-)
   3. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 10, 2017 at 04:28 PM (#5510770)
It's not just his OPS either. His K-rate (31.7%, 23, 19.8) has gone down as he's advanced from A to AAA and his walk rate has gone up (6.3%, 7.4, 10.7). His ISO is up slightly too. Turns 20 in December. Sheesh.

I get that the Braves have 40-man roster concerns, but it will be a disservice to the game if they don't bring him up in September. I mean, just eat the Markakis contract, which will never return anything of value, and bring this kid up.

More pragmatically, if the Braves think they are capable of making a playoff run in 2018 (I have no idea what they think or if they are), then it would make sense to bring him up and get him acclimated to the bigs before next year.
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 10, 2017 at 05:41 PM (#5510839)
More pragmatically, if the Braves think they are capable of making a playoff run in 2018 (I have no idea what they think or if they are), then it would make sense to bring him up and get him acclimated to the bigs before next year.

I wonder about that. The kid has so few high level minor league at bats that he might benefit more from playing every day in the minors than getting the typical reduced role of a September call-up. Unless the Braves would play him every day, and could deal with the 40-man roster issues, everybody might be better off leaving him at AAA. They'll have all of Spring Training to work on his 2018 role.
   5. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 10, 2017 at 05:46 PM (#5510844)
The kid has so few high level minor league at bats that he might benefit more from playing every day in the minors than getting the typical reduced role of a September call-up. Unless the Braves would play him every day, and could deal with the 40-man roster issues, everybody might be better off leaving him at AAA. They'll have all of Spring Training to work on his 2018 role.

The point about his lack of ABs is a good one. But I don't think he would need to have a reduced role when he comes up, neither starting corner OFer needs to play everyday. Let Matt Kemp take it easy in September, his knees could use the break. Or just outright bench Nick Markakis because he's not a good player.

Come September, a significant portion of the high end talent in AAA is up in the Majors anyway. I'm not sure playing against AAA scrubs for a couple of weeks and then ending his season early helps him much considering what he has already accomplished at that level.
   6. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: August 10, 2017 at 07:04 PM (#5510877)
But you guys are ignoring the 40 man. Despite having a few open slots, the Braves have like 5 minor leaguers that will need to be placed on the 40 man roster this off-season and only a few guys coming off of it. It's already going to be tight, and adding Acuna now will only make it tighter, especially since what I've seen of Brian Snitker leads me to believe that absent a direct order from the GM's office he's going to stick with Markakis and Kemp as often as possible barring injury to either.
   7. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 10, 2017 at 07:25 PM (#5510899)
Isn't Matt Kemp always injured?
   8. madvillain Posted: August 10, 2017 at 07:36 PM (#5510906)
But you guys are ignoring the 40 man. Despite having a few open slots, the Braves have like 5 minor leaguers that will need to be placed on the 40 man roster this off-season and only a few guys coming off of it. It's already going to be tight, and adding Acuna now will only make it tighter, especially since what I've seen of Brian Snitker leads me to believe that absent a direct order from the GM's office he's going to stick with Markakis and Kemp as often as possible barring injury to either.


Why in the world would you bring this kid up this year? Just let him finish on a huge high note, go to the AFL, hopefully dominate, and give him a chance to break with the big club in spring. Losing a 40 man spot, starting his arb clock and possibly killing his confidence for what, to get him "acclimated" to MLB? He has plenty of time to get acclimated (if that's even a thing worth doing) next year.
   9. Greg Pope Posted: August 10, 2017 at 07:46 PM (#5510911)
give him a chance to break with the big club in spring.

I think you mean "give him a chance to go to the minors in the spring and come up 12 days into the season".
   10. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 10, 2017 at 08:14 PM (#5510935)
But you guys are ignoring the 40 man. Despite having a few open slots, the Braves have like 5 minor leaguers that will need to be placed on the 40 man roster this off-season and only a few guys coming off of it.

This isn't nearly as pressing as you seem to think. That slot will have to be opened up for Acuna in short order as it is, so not much is accomplished by keeping some marginal 40-man candidate through the winter just to say you did it.
   11. Rickey! will gladly sacrifice your janitor Posted: August 10, 2017 at 08:19 PM (#5510939)
The team is abysmal right now, and I don't know that Acuna will benefit from MLB action more than he will from a few more games in AAA. Even if we don't consider the 40-man crunch (there are players there that you can "lose" to Rule V and not hate yourself the next morning), I am leaning toward "let him season a little in the high minors for god's sake" personally.
   12. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 10, 2017 at 08:46 PM (#5510962)
Why in the world would you bring this kid up this year?

To see how he does as a 19 year old in the Majors because he is obliterating AAA.

You certainly make a lot of good points as to why the Braves shouldn't do it.
   13. Howie Menckel Posted: August 10, 2017 at 09:26 PM (#5510992)
I sold my soul this year, surrendering Acuna basically for a half-season of a lame duck Bryce Harper. looks like I get my pennant (so far), and the other guy may get more than one if he plays his cards right.
#flagsflyforever
   14. DFA Posted: August 12, 2017 at 02:40 AM (#5511804)
In 2011, Trout hit 220 in 40 games with the Angels, at age 19. I wonder how that experience impacted his career trajectory.
   15. BDC Posted: August 12, 2017 at 08:48 AM (#5511809)
I guess, just in the abstract and not knowing much about the roster considerations etc., my principle would be, bring him up if he clearly projects to be better than the guys you have. As Cowboy says, Nick Markakis is not a good overall player, but he's still a mediocre major-league hitter. Good chance that in his first month of play Acuña wouldn't be as good as Markakis. I don't think you should use the major-league lineup, even in September of a sub-.500 year, to develop a star prospect.

Maybe that's romantic, but I think some attention to starting the best lineup helps morale for the team and for fans.

Now, if injuries and declines get you to a point where you're using some AAAA guy or some much lesser prospect who's a few years older, I see no point in keeping the superstar-potential guy down any longer.
   16. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 12, 2017 at 09:16 AM (#5511816)
Good chance that in his first month of play Acuña wouldn't be as good as Markakis. 

Streamer (the only system on Fangraphs that projects both) has Markakis at a 93 wRC+ and Acuna at an 89 wRC+. An argument could be made that defense and baserunning would probably put Acuna at even or better in terms of projection.

Not that it should matter much to the Braves. I want to see him up because it's cool when teenagers make it to the Majors. But I think Braves fans here have presented a convincing list of reasons for why the team shouldn't call him up. Ah well...
   17. BDC Posted: August 12, 2017 at 09:33 AM (#5511818)
I do see where Markakis hit .310 in April and .210 so far in August. If Markakis plans to hit .110 in September, Acuña should maybe get a chance :)
   18. dlf Posted: August 12, 2017 at 09:39 AM (#5511819)
I was at the Gwinnett game last night. Acuna took an o-fer. He showed a strong arm on a shallow fly with a runner on third. There was one fly to RF that he played conservatively which he *might* have been able to get with a full out effort. Obviously that is all itsy-bitsy sample size meaning zero. So my biggest take-away was how small he looks. He is listed at 6' 180# in the program, but appeared both shorter and lighter. On the other hand, I may be just a touch heavier than I was at 19.

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