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Braves' Acuna, Fried take AFL Player of Week awards

MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After rocketing through Atlanta's system during the regular season, Braves prospects Ronald Acuna and Max Fried haven't slowed down in the Arizona Fall League. The pair swept the AFL's week 3 awards as the league's Hitter and Pitcher of the Week.

At just 19, Acuna was named MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year after a breakout season that saw him hit .325/.374/.522 across three levels and play in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Fried, Atlanta's No. 9 prospect, made his big league in August after starting the season at Double-A.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- After rocketing through Atlanta's system during the regular season, Braves prospects Ronald Acuna and Max Fried haven't slowed down in the Arizona Fall League. The pair swept the AFL's week 3 awards as the league's Hitter and Pitcher of the Week.

At just 19, Acuna was named MLB Pipeline's Hitter of the Year after a breakout season that saw him hit .325/.374/.522 across three levels and play in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Fried, Atlanta's No. 9 prospect, made his big league in August after starting the season at Double-A.

Acuna hit .475 (10-for-21) with three doubles, three home runs, six RBIs and 12 runs last week. Fried, 23, went 2-0 in a week in which he gave up just five hits and one run in 11 innings while striking out 12, giving him a league-leading 23 in 19 innings.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: Pretty sweet swing.Here's that homer from @Braves top prospect Ronald Acuna, a solo 💣 in the first inning. Gameday: https://t.co/b2ADxpIsMi pic.twitter.com/1IC3GB0uwo

Through Javelinas pitching coach Yoel Monzon, the Braves' No. 1 prospect credited his work ethic for the year he's had. And he credits his father, Ronald Acuna Sr., who played eight years in the Minors, for that work ethic.

"[He taught me] to work hard every day, concentrate on what you want, follow your dreams and then just stay in your lane and you'll be able to succeed and get what you like in life."

Acuna said his family's history with the game helped him make the transition from Venezuela to the United States with ease. He was inspired to succeed because he "always saw dad playing." He also said that on the field, the team speaks one language.

"The language the first year was a little bit tough with the English," Acuna said. "But every day we speak the same language baseball-wise, so it has been really easy on the field. That's something [I've] been adjusting little by little."

Fried credited his Javelinas defense, including another Braves prospect in particular, with his AFL success.

"It's really fortunate to have a lot of good teammates behind me to be able to make plays because it's not, obviously, all on me," Fried said. "I've been working really well with my catcher, Alex Jackson. We're really on the same page.

"I'm just trying to go out there, do my best every time and fortunately for me, I'm doing pretty well. But it's definitely a big thanks to all the guys behind me."

Video: Max Fried discusses playing in the Fall League

Fried said confidence has helped him start off strong this season. Coming off a solid end to his year, he wanted to "build off that and just let it ride into this Fall League."

That, plus his mentality of "not taking a pitch off and giving it my all" has done well for the former first-round pick.

Fried, who was dealt by the Padres to the Braves in 2014, made his Major League debut in early August and pitched in nine big league games. The callup was something Fried wasn't anticipating, he said, as he was struggling in the Minors before that. Once he got there, however, he was focused on getting the most out of his opportunity.

"It was definitely very surreal. I wasn't expecting it at all," Fried said. "I was struggling quite a bit in Double-A and got an unexpected call to the big leagues, and from there, just tried to run with it, just give everything I had every single time I went out there."

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: Max Fried (@Braves) continues to be insanely good in the AFL5 IP1 R2 H2 BB7 K3 G: 13 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 4 BB, 18 Khttps://t.co/3rOVOo3yTk pic.twitter.com/w1z3EhYnD0

While Fried reached the big leagues this year, Acuna is eagerly anticipating the achievement of that goal himself. But for now, he's focused on getting better while he's in Arizona for the Fall League.

"He's been learning a lot here since he's been here," Monzon explained after Acuna was asked about his experience here. "This is a really good experience for him and all he wants from here is to be able to prove the talent that he has and be able for everyone to see him … and in the future be able to perform on the higher level, which is his dream."

Omar Soussi is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.