Braves top prospect could be HOF worthy
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — If Ronald Acuna Jr. keeps this up, Chipper Jones might not be the only Braves player to be honored in Cooperstown this summer.
While this obviously isn’t true, Acuna has already drawn a potential Hall of Fame projection from Ralph Garr, the beloved former Atlanta outfielder who played with Hank Aaron and then spent a few decades serving as a scout within the organization. He has spent this week with the Braves serving as a guest instructor.
“If I put [the 20-year-old] Aaron and Acuna side by side, I think they would do the same thing,” Garr said. “Unless he gets injured or something, I think he has a chance to be in the Hall of Fame. I really do. But you can’t put them ahead of the game. You’ve got to let them grow.”
As Acuna has spent the past month experiencing his first big league camp, he has routinely turned heads and arguably exceeded the expectations set as he established himself as one of the game’s elite prospects last year. The 20-year-old phenom added to his growing legend when he drilled another impressive home run during Thursday’s 8-1 win over the Tigers at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex.
“I was actually looking down and spitting today when he hit that ball, and it was like that scene from ‘Moneyball’ when [Billy Beane’s character] was inside the weight room and all of a sudden he heard it and looked up and knew,” Atlanta pitcher Mike Foltynewicz said.
“[Today] you could see the ball and you saw the kids running on the berm to get the ball, and you’re just thinking, ‘Good for him.'”
Acuna’s two-run homer off Tigers right-hander Mike Fierswas a no-doubter off the bat that landed halfway up the left-field berm. The five-tool outfielder, who is ranked as baseball’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has homered three times while going 14-for-25 (.560) dating back to his final two at-bats during a Feb. 28 game against the Mets.
“He’s a special player,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “There’s no doubt about it. You can see that when you watch him. He’s just doing what comes natural. He’s not trying to be great. He’s just doing his thing.”
Though Acuna has provided every indication he is ready to make the leap to the Majors, Atlanta will still likely secure an extra year of contractual control by waiting until at least April 13 to provide him his much-anticipated big league debut.
As a scout, Garr saw Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. as high school stars. He also closely monitored the progress that Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones made as they made their way through the Braves’ system as highly touted prospects.
Once Acuna arrives on the scene, he has the potential to make an immediate impact and gain status among the game’s elite.
“I put him in the same class as the [Mike] Trouts and the [Bryce] Harpers,” Garr said. “They’re special people. Some people are just gifted. God just seemed to bless people with special talents, and they’re able to stand a little above the norm. But you never know what’s going to happen, and you can’t say until he has the chance to do it. He has 20 years or so to see how well he does.”
View Ronald Acuna