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Braves taking time with Acuna's path to bigs

Atlanta GM on top prospect: 'More development isn't going to hurt anybody'
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has closely monitored Ronald Acuna Jr.'s results and the reports he gets from staff members on a daily basis. Thus far, he has not seen enough to get the sense the highly touted prospect is ready to make the jump to the Major League level.

"We're looking for Ronald to just get hot at this point," Anthopoulos said. "More development isn't going to hurt anybody. We prefer to call players up when they're playing at a high level, and when they're locked in."

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ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos has closely monitored Ronald Acuna Jr.'s results and the reports he gets from staff members on a daily basis. Thus far, he has not seen enough to get the sense the highly touted prospect is ready to make the jump to the Major League level.

"We're looking for Ronald to just get hot at this point," Anthopoulos said. "More development isn't going to hurt anybody. We prefer to call players up when they're playing at a high level, and when they're locked in."

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Acuna highlighted his second multi-hit game of the season when he hit his first homer for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday night. But he went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts during Wednesday afternoon's win over Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

"I've been told he'll expand [the strike zone] and chase," Anthopoulos said. "The swing-and-miss has been there and the strikeout total has been higher than we would like."

Through his first 11 games with Gwinnett, Acuna has hit .182 (8-for-44) with two extra-base hits and 17 strikeouts. He stands as the game's second-best prospect and the Braves' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline and there is no doubt he has the potential to be one of the best young players baseball has seen within the past couple decades.

But thus far, the 20-year-old outfielder has not provided clear indication he is ready for the challenge he will face when brought to the Major League level.

"The numbers may not look great, but we can get reports he is hitting the ball hard or that his at-bats and takes are good," Anthopoulos said. "We haven't gotten those reports that his swing is good. This is one of those cases where [the numbers and reports] coincide. We still love him and still think he's going to be an outstanding player. He's not locked in right now and the numbers are certainly going to back that up."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves

Acuna cracks first homer of season in Minors

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As Braves fans continue to anticipate Ronald Acuna Jr.'s arrival, the young outfielder enhanced their excitement by homering during the fifth inning of Triple-A Gwinnett's game against Scranton-Wilkes Barre on Tuesday night at Coolray Field.

Acuna displayed his power potential as he drilled left-hander Josh Rogers' delivery over the left-field wall. The two-run shot was Acuna's second hit of the game, and landed an estimated 395 feet away. He was credited with a first-inning single when his attempt to stretch it to a double was erased because he couldn't keep his foot on second base as the tag was being applied.

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ATLANTA -- As Braves fans continue to anticipate Ronald Acuna Jr.'s arrival, the young outfielder enhanced their excitement by homering during the fifth inning of Triple-A Gwinnett's game against Scranton-Wilkes Barre on Tuesday night at Coolray Field.

Acuna displayed his power potential as he drilled left-hander Josh Rogers' delivery over the left-field wall. The two-run shot was Acuna's second hit of the game, and landed an estimated 395 feet away. He was credited with a first-inning single when his attempt to stretch it to a double was erased because he couldn't keep his foot on second base as the tag was being applied.

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Tweet from @GoStripers: See that high supporting wall in left? Yeah, Acu��a Jr. almost cleared that. #StripersSZN pic.twitter.com/QWu5pqEARC

When the season began, it was believed Acuna would have joined Atlanta's lineup either this past weekend or on Monday when the Braves' homestand began. But Atlanta has had to keep a patient approach with the 20-year-old outfielder, who entered Tuesday hitting .139 (5-for-36) with one extra-base hit and 14 strikeouts.

MLB Pipeline ranks Acuna as the game's second-best prospect behind Angels' rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani.

Gwinnett concludes a homestand on Wednesday. If Acuna starts to heat up, there's a chance the Braves could promote him before the end of this week.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves

Snitker: Talented Acuna 'trying too hard'

Outfielder struggling to establish routine, has played just eight games in 19 days
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker would have liked to have already gained the opportunity to put Ronald Acuna Jr. in his lineup on a daily basis. But Snitker recognizes the need to allow the top prospect to first work his way through an early slump, which might be a product of trying to do too much.

"I think the biggest thing with him is he's just trying too hard," Snitker said. "He's pressing. He'll be fine. We had these guys ready to play and then they were down for nine days. Then they get bad weather and had games cancelled. They haven't had any routine at all."

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ATLANTA -- Braves manager Brian Snitker would have liked to have already gained the opportunity to put Ronald Acuna Jr. in his lineup on a daily basis. But Snitker recognizes the need to allow the top prospect to first work his way through an early slump, which might be a product of trying to do too much.

"I think the biggest thing with him is he's just trying too hard," Snitker said. "He's pressing. He'll be fine. We had these guys ready to play and then they were down for nine days. Then they get bad weather and had games cancelled. They haven't had any routine at all."

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Acuna entered Monday night hitting .152 (5-for-33) with one extra-base hit and 12 strikeouts. But it's not just the results that are delaying his arrival. It's the fact that he has produced these stats while playing just eight games over the course of the past 19 days. The scarcity of action came as a result of Gwinnett's season opener occurring nine days after the last actual Spring Training game was played.

Video: Jim Callis compares Acuna to 2011 Mike Trout

Over the past year, Acuna has surged after encountering a slow start. If he were to get hot over the next few days, there is certainly a chance he could debut before the Braves' homestand concludes on Sunday.

"He's human," Snitker said. "He wants to do well. He's a young kid who is very talented. He's not the only one down there who is feeling that way. I don't think there is anything to worry about."

When this season started, the Braves were certainly open to the idea of allowing Acuna to debut either during this past weekend's series at Wrigley Field or during Monday night's home game against the Phillies. But his much-anticipated arrival has been delayed as the 20-year-old outfielder has gotten off to another slow start.

There was certainly a benefit to Acuna remaining at the Minor League level through at least Friday. By keeping him off their roster through that date, the Braves gained an extra year of contract control.

Video: DET@ATL: Anthopoulos discusses sending down Acuna Jr.

But given the fact there is no desire to keep Acuna down long enough to avoid him gaining an extra arbitration-eligible season by qualifying for Super Two status, there is not any real reason for the Braves to keep Acuna in the Minors, other than to provide him a chance to make all the preparations necessary to increase the odds he'll encounter immediate success once he reaches the Majors.

Camargo's dilemma
When a reporter mentioned Johan Camargo entered Monday with a home run in three of his past four games for Gwinnett, Snitker said, "That's good, I don't know if there [are any other hits other than] the homers."

Camargo entered Monday having gone 4-for-27 through his first seven Minor League rehab games. His slow start could also be a product of what was an even longer layoff. Before playing for Class A Advanced Florida on April 5, the versatile infielder had not played in a game since he strained his right oblique muscle on March 13.

"He's just getting some repetitions and game at-bats on a daily basis," Snitker said. "Physically, he's fine. Again, we're not forced to rush him up here right now. We'll likely reassess that as the week goes."

With Ryan Flaherty providing daily value at third base, the Braves do not currently have a definitive need to activate Camargo from the disabled list. But maybe just as importantly, a tough decision will need to be made once he is activated. The two most likely roster casualties are Lane Adams and Charlie Culberson, who are both out of Minor League options.

Once Acuna and Camargo are both deemed ready to join Atlanta's roster, the Braves may need to make those tough decisions regarding both Adams and Culberson. But for now, the team will at least wait to see if the landscape changes before it's time to add Acuna and Camargo to the 25-man roster. 

Flowers nearing a return 
When catcher Tyler Flowers strained his left oblique muscle during his second-inning plate appearance on Opening Day, there was some concern he might be sidelined through the first couple weeks of May. But Flowers has made good progress and might begin a Minor League rehab assignment by the end of this week. This at least sets up the possibility he could be activated during the Braves' next road trip, which runs from April 23-May 3.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves

Acuna unlikely to be called until play improves

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Though the Braves recognize that Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the best prospects baseball has seen over the past decade, they are not going to provide him any special privileges nor ignore signs that he could benefit from a little more time at the Minor League level.

When the season began, there was reason to project Acuna would make his much-anticipated Major League debut either during the just-completed series against the Cubs or on Monday, when the Braves begin a seven-game homestand.

CHICAGO -- Though the Braves recognize that Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the best prospects baseball has seen over the past decade, they are not going to provide him any special privileges nor ignore signs that he could benefit from a little more time at the Minor League level.

When the season began, there was reason to project Acuna would make his much-anticipated Major League debut either during the just-completed series against the Cubs or on Monday, when the Braves begin a seven-game homestand.

The Braves were open to these possibilities, until Acuna struggled at Triple-A Gwinnett. The 20-year-old outfielder went 1-for-4 and stuck out two more times during Saturday night's loss to Rochester. He entered Sunday hitting .152 (5-for-33) with one extra-base hit and 12 strikeouts.

MLB Pipeline regards Acuna to be the game's best prospect after Angels rookie phenom Shohei Ohtani, who has solidified his status as the favorite to be named the American League Rookie of the Year.

If Acuna were to get hot over the next few days, there is a chance the Braves could bring him to the Majors before this next homestand ends on Sunday. But there are no current plans regarding the young outfielder, who has gone 3-for-18 with seven strikeouts since recording his only multi-hit game of the year, on Tuesday.

Acuna's slow start could be influenced by the down time Minor Leaguers had between the end of this year's Spring Training and the start of their respective seasons. This was a product of Major League teams starting a week earlier this year.

Nine days elapsed Acuna's final preseason appearence -- in the March 27 Braves Future Stars Game at SunTrust Park -- and Gwinnett's season opener. In the interim, the young outfielder faced live pitching from teammates during simulated games and live batting practice sessions.

But slow starts are not anything new to Acuna, who started this year's Grapefruit League season 1-for-11, and then proceeded to hit .432 (19-for-44) with four homers and a 1.246 OPS. Acuna hit .209 with a .610 OPS through his first 11 games of last season with Class A Advanced Florida and then batted .335 with a .920 OPS over the remainder of that season, including 57 games with Double-A Mississippi and 54 games for Gwinnett.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves

Gohara to begin leisurely rehab assignment

Prospect to make first of at least 4 Minors starts Tuesday; Anibal allowing Braves to be patient
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Luiz Gohara is set to make the first of what will likely be at least four Minor League rehab starts. But with Anibal Sanchez proving thus far to be an adequate replacement, the Braves can currently plan to take a patient approach with Gohara.

Though he has made just five Major League starts, it would not have been ridiculous to peg Gohara as one of the key rotation pieces at the start of Spring Training. But the big left-hander has remained in relative obscurity as he has spent the past two months dealing with injuries suffered in camp.

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CHICAGO -- Luiz Gohara is set to make the first of what will likely be at least four Minor League rehab starts. But with Anibal Sanchez proving thus far to be an adequate replacement, the Braves can currently plan to take a patient approach with Gohara.

Though he has made just five Major League starts, it would not have been ridiculous to peg Gohara as one of the key rotation pieces at the start of Spring Training. But the big left-hander has remained in relative obscurity as he has spent the past two months dealing with injuries suffered in camp.

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Gohara was limited by a strained left oblique muscle during the first two weeks of camp. Then, two days before he was scheduled to make his first Grapefruit League start, he sustained a left ankle sprain that caused him to spend the remainder of camp rehabbing on the Minor League side of the team's Spring Training facility.

Fully recovered, Gohara is set to come back into focus when he begins his Minor League rehab assignment on Tuesday night for Triple-A Gwinnett. The southpaw will now essentially follow the same progression he would during Spring Training. He could be deemed ready once he reaches the point where he's completed five innings at least once and increased his pitch count to 90-plus.

"He's right on schedule to take him through the end of the month and into May," Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Gohara proved to be one of the game's hardest-throwing left-handed starting pitchers as he completed at least six innings in four of the five starts made after he debuted in September. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the game's 49th-best prospect and the 4th-best left-handed pitching prospect.

Sanchez signed a Minor League deal with the Braves near the end of Spring Training and earned the chance to fill the rotation spot that had been earmarked for Gohara. The veteran righty limited the Rockies to two runs over five innings as he made his first start last weekend. He then followed that impressive effort by tossing six scoreless innings against the Cubs on Friday.

Video: ATL@CHC: Sanchez fans six over six shutout frames

Inciarte sits: Snitker said he opted to leave Ender Inciarte and Preston Tucker out of Saturday's lineup because he wanted to take advantage of the chance to start Peter Bourjos and Lane Adams against Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana.

But regardless of the primary reason for this decision, it was one that might give Inciarte a beneficial mental rest.

Inciarte has hit .179 and produced a .242 on-base percentage while manning the leadoff spot for the first 13 games of the season. The Gold Glove outfielder capably hit left-handed pitchers over the past season and a half. But he has gone 1-for-12 with two walks in 14 plate appearances against them this season.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Luiz Gohara

Slow start could delay Acuna's arrival

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- There's still reason to believe Ronald Acuna could possibly make his much-anticipated Major League debut within the next week. But his slow start in the Minors has made it less likely he'll be in the Braves' lineup during this weekend's series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Going back to March 19, when Acuna gained verification he would begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, there has been reason to focus on Saturday, which is the earliest date the Braves could bring the much-hyped top prospect to the Majors and secure an extra year of contractual control.

CHICAGO -- There's still reason to believe Ronald Acuna could possibly make his much-anticipated Major League debut within the next week. But his slow start in the Minors has made it less likely he'll be in the Braves' lineup during this weekend's series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Going back to March 19, when Acuna gained verification he would begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, there has been reason to focus on Saturday, which is the earliest date the Braves could bring the much-hyped top prospect to the Majors and secure an extra year of contractual control.

While the Braves have been open to the possibility of Acuna debuting as early as Saturday, they have also had to maintain patience as the 20-year-old outfielder has gone 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts and two walks through his first 21 plate appearances for Gwinnett.

If Acuna were to get hot over the next few days, the Braves might promote him on Monday, when the Phillies come to SunTrust Park for the start of a seven-game homestand. This would certainly please those Atlanta fans who would like to say they were present for the phenom's Major League debut.

But for now, the Braves are simply keeping an open mind and making daily evaluations of Acuna, who ranks second to the Angels' Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list.

Acuna's slow start could be influenced by the down time Minor Leaguers had between the end of this year's Spring Training and the start of their respective seasons. This was a product of Major League teams starting a week earlier this year and Minor League teams staying on point to include Labor Day within their respective seasons.

Nine days separated Acuna playing in the March 27 Braves Future Stars Game at SunTrust and Gwinnett's season opener. The live pitching the young outfielder saw within this span was supplied by teammates during simulated games or live batting-practice sessions.

Slow starts are not anything new to Acuna, who started this year's Grapefruit League season 1-for-11 and then proceeded to hit .432 (19-for-44) with four homers and a 1.247 OPS.

Acuna hit .209 with a .610 OPS through his first 11 games of last season with Class A Advanced Florida and then batted .335 with a .920 OPS over the remainder of a season that included 57 games with Double-A Mississippi and 54 games for Gwinnett.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves

Gohara (ankle) healed, set to throw side session

Rookie left-hander was expected to be Atlanta's No. 5 starter
Special to MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Brian Snitker provided an update on Luiz Gohara's recovery from a left ankle sprain Monday, telling reporters Gohara will throw a three-inning side session Tuesday.

Gohara, a rookie who was expected to be Atlanta's No. 5 starter, suffered the injury right before what would have been his first Grapefruit League start. Snitker said Gohara's sprain has healed, and the team is now putting him through his own mock Spring Training.

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WASHINGTON -- Braves manager Brian Snitker provided an update on Luiz Gohara's recovery from a left ankle sprain Monday, telling reporters Gohara will throw a three-inning side session Tuesday.

Gohara, a rookie who was expected to be Atlanta's No. 5 starter, suffered the injury right before what would have been his first Grapefruit League start. Snitker said Gohara's sprain has healed, and the team is now putting him through his own mock Spring Training.

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"He's in the building-up stage, really. His ankle's good, everything's fine. It's just about getting him built up and going through the process," Snitker said, adding that he expects Gohara to return to the 25-man roster around late April/early May.

With Gohara sidelined, the Braves signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez late in Spring Training. In his first start of the season this past Saturday, Sanchez surrendered two runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings of work against the Rockies. He didn't factor into the decision of Atlanta's 3-2 loss.

Gohara, the No. 4 left-handed pitching prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline, can reach triple-digits on his fastball, which he pairs with a slider that often elicits swings and misses.

Joshua Needelman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington, D.C. and covered the Braves on Monday.

Atlanta Braves, Luiz Gohara

Acuna's season begins with Gwinnett opener

Sanchez slated to make 1st start Saturday; Braves not rushing Camargo back from rehab
MLB.com

DENVER -- Ronald Acuna Jr. might make his much-anticipated Major League debut as early as next weekend, but the highly touted outfielder's first debut of the season occurred Friday night, when he and his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates opened the season with a 3-1 road win against Norfolk.

Extending his trend of being a slow starter, Acuna went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Gwinnett starting pitcher Mike Soroka allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings.

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DENVER -- Ronald Acuna Jr. might make his much-anticipated Major League debut as early as next weekend, but the highly touted outfielder's first debut of the season occurred Friday night, when he and his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates opened the season with a 3-1 road win against Norfolk.

Extending his trend of being a slow starter, Acuna went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Gwinnett starting pitcher Mike Soroka allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings.

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Acuna ranks only behind the Angels' Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The 20-year-old outfielder drew comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and other former elite prospects as he hit .432, tallied four homers and produced a 1.247 OPS over 52 plate appearances during this year's Grapefruit League season.

While Acuna might have been ready to begin the year at the big league level, the Braves followed through with the expected decision to have him open with Gwinnett. If the young outfielder is promoted any time after April 13, the team can secure an extra year of contractual control.

• Starting spots for Braves' Top 30 prospects

If Acuna makes his big league debut on April 14, he might end up playing just seven games for Gwinnett. But there's always the possibility the team could opt to push his debut to a later date. The Braves open a homestand against the Phillies on April 16.

Video: ATL@HOU: Acuna collects three singles vs. Astros

Fans can follow all of the Braves' prospects and farm teams on a daily basis with MLB.com's Minor League Tracker.

Sanchez set to start
Braves manager Brian Snitker said Anibal Sanchez will start Saturday night's game against the Rockies. Sanchez will be filling the rotation spot that had been originally earmarked for Luiz Gohara, who is still a few weeks away from returning from the left ankle sprain he sustained during Spring Training.

With Sanchez slotted for Saturday, each of the Braves' starting pitchers will make their next turn with an extra day of rest. Snitker said he will try to give each of his starters an extra day of rest whenever possible over the course of the season.

Video: ATL@HOU: Sanchez strikes out Gonzalez in Braves debut

Sanchez signed a Minor League deal after being released by the Twins during Spring Training. The veteran right-hander impressed enough for the team to release Scott Kazmir and his $16 million contract. Sanchez made his Braves debut when he tossed three scoreless innings of relief during Monday's loss to the Nationals.

Gohara was slated to pitch two innings in an extended spring training game on Friday. The big lefty could officially begin his Minor League rehab assignment next week, and he'll likely make at least four starts before being removed from the disabled list.

No need to rush
The Braves have decided Johan Camargo will extend his Minor League rehab assignment through at least the remainder of this weekend. Camargo went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and played the entirety of Class A Advanced Florida's season opener on Thursday night.

"The reports I got were that he looked fine defensively, but looked a little rusty offensively, which is to be expected because he's been off a month" Snitker said. "He's healthy. So if something were to happen and we had to bring him back, I don't think we'd have any reservations. Right now, I don't think there is a pressing need to rush him back."

Video: ATL@PIT: Camargo plates Acuna Jr. on an RBI double

Camargo is slated to play shortstop on Friday and serve as the designated hitter for Florida in Saturday's game. There is a chance he could be added to Atlanta's roster before Monday's series opener at Nationals Park.

With Ryan Flaherty proving to be a quality fill-in at third base, the Braves have less reason to rush Camargo, whose activity was limited over the two weeks that followed him exiting a March 13 Spring Training game with discomfort near his right oblique muscle.

Suzuki returns
Kurt Suzuki was in the lineup for Friday's scheduled game against the Rockies. The veteran catcher has not played since he exited a March 30 loss to the Phillies with a right hand contusion sustained on hit-by-pitch on a Nick Pivetta fastball.

Suzuki will serve as the Braves' primary catcher while Tyler Flowers remains sidelined for at least a few more weeks with the left oblique muscle strain he sustained on Opening Day. Carlos Perez will serve as Suzuki's backup.

Chris Stewart opened the season as Atlanta's third catcher, but after Perez was acquired from the Angels last weekend, the Braves opted to designate Stewart for assignment. Stewart was outrighted to Gwinnett and he has accepted the assignment.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Johan Camargo, Ronald Acuna Jr., Anibal Sanchez, Kurt Suzuki

Where Braves' Top 30 prospects are starting season

MLB.com

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Braves' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Ronald Acuna (MLB No. 2), OF -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
2. Kyle Wright (MLB No. 30), RHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
3. Mike Soroka (MLB No. 31), RHP -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
4. Luiz Gohara (MLB No. 49), LHP -- Atlanta Braves (MLB) -- DL
5. Ian Anderson (MLB No. 51), RHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
6. Kolby Allard (MLB No. 58), LHP -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
7. Max Fried (MLB No. 83), LHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
8. Austin Riley (MLB No. 97), 3B -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
9. Cristian Pache, OF -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
10. Joey Wentz, LHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
11. Touki Toussaint, RHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
12. Kyle Muller, LHP -- Rome Braves (A)
13. Bryse Wilson, RHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
14. Alex Jackson, C -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
15. A.J. Minter, LHP -- Atlanta Braves (MLB)
16. Dustin Peterson, OF -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
17. Patrick Weigel, RHP -- Out for season
18. William Contreras, C -- Extended spring training
19. Drew Waters, OF -- Rome Braves (A)
20. Derian Cruz, SS -- Rome Braves (A)
21. Travis Demeritte, 2B -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
22. Isranel Wilson, OF -- Rome Braves (A)
23. Tucker Davidson, LHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
24. Brett Cumberland, C -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
25. Anfernee Seymour, OF -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
26. Freddy Tarnok, RHP -- Rome Braves (A)
27. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
28. Thomas Burrows, LHP -- Rome Braves (A)
29. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP -- Rome Braves (A)
30. Drew Lugbauer, C -- Rome Braves (A)

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Braves' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Ronald Acuna (MLB No. 2), OF -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
2. Kyle Wright (MLB No. 30), RHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
3. Mike Soroka (MLB No. 31), RHP -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
4. Luiz Gohara (MLB No. 49), LHP -- Atlanta Braves (MLB) -- DL
5. Ian Anderson (MLB No. 51), RHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
6. Kolby Allard (MLB No. 58), LHP -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
7. Max Fried (MLB No. 83), LHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
8. Austin Riley (MLB No. 97), 3B -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
9. Cristian Pache, OF -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
10. Joey Wentz, LHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
11. Touki Toussaint, RHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
12. Kyle Muller, LHP -- Rome Braves (A)
13. Bryse Wilson, RHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
14. Alex Jackson, C -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
15. A.J. Minter, LHP -- Atlanta Braves (MLB)
16. Dustin Peterson, OF -- Gwinnett Stripers (AAA)
17. Patrick Weigel, RHP -- Out for season
18. William Contreras, C -- Extended spring training
19. Drew Waters, OF -- Rome Braves (A)
20. Derian Cruz, SS -- Rome Braves (A)
21. Travis Demeritte, 2B -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
22. Isranel Wilson, OF -- Rome Braves (A)
23. Tucker Davidson, LHP -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
24. Brett Cumberland, C -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
25. Anfernee Seymour, OF -- Florida Fire Frogs (A Adv)
26. Freddy Tarnok, RHP -- Rome Braves (A)
27. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP -- Mississippi Braves (AA)
28. Thomas Burrows, LHP -- Rome Braves (A)
29. Jasseel De La Cruz, RHP -- Rome Braves (A)
30. Drew Lugbauer, C -- Rome Braves (A)

Braves prospect coverage | Braves Top 30 prospects stats

Where baseball's top prospects are starting the 2018 season

Team to watch
The Rome Braves have the most Top 30 prospects, with eight, followed closely by Double-A Mississippi and the High A Florida Fire Frogs, with seven apiece. But the place to be might be Gwinnett. While the Stripers have just four Top 30 prospects on their roster, three of them are among the top six. That, of course, starts with top prospect Acuna, so head there early to see him before his inevitable callup to Atlanta.

Teams on MiLB.TV
Gwinnett Stripers
Mississippi Braves
Rome Braves

New faces
The Braves' Top 30 Prospects list doesn't include any players who were not with the organization last year.

On the shelf
Gohara was expected to compete for a big league rotation spot, but a left ankle sprain suffered in early March set him back. He should be ready to go in early May.

Weigel had fast-tracked his way to Triple-A in 2017 when he blew out his right elbow in June and needed Tommy John surgery. There's hope he might get back for the end of the '18 season, but it's likely to be '19 before the real Weigel returns.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Atlanta Braves

Pache homers twice in Braves' exhibition finale

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Ten-time Gold Glove Award winner Andruw Jones says Cristian Pache is already the best defensive outfielder in the Braves organization. Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox described the 19-year-old center fielder as one of the most dynamic defensive players he has ever seen in the outfield.

The fans who watched the Braves' 5-4 win over the Braves Futures Stars at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night might have been misled to believe Pache's greatest asset is his power potential. Batting leadoff for the Futures Stars, the talented young outfielder homered twice off Braves starter Sean Newcomb.

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ATLANTA -- Ten-time Gold Glove Award winner Andruw Jones says Cristian Pache is already the best defensive outfielder in the Braves organization. Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox described the 19-year-old center fielder as one of the most dynamic defensive players he has ever seen in the outfield.

The fans who watched the Braves' 5-4 win over the Braves Futures Stars at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night might have been misled to believe Pache's greatest asset is his power potential. Batting leadoff for the Futures Stars, the talented young outfielder homered twice off Braves starter Sean Newcomb.

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Hitting a pair of homers off a Major Leaguer in a big league stadium would be an incredible experience for any prospect who has never played above the Class A level. For Pache, the accomplishment proved to be both exhilarating and unfamiliar. He has never homered over 689 at-bats through his first two professional seasons.

Video: Top Prospects: Cristian Pache, OF, Braves

"I'm very happy, this is definitely one of the best games I've ever had," Pache said through an interpreter. "To have two home runs in one game, that's never happened to me before. I'm just glad it happened."

Making his final preparations to enter the season as Atlanta's fourth starter, Newcomb allowed six hits and issued a pair of walks over 4 2/3 innings. All three runs he allowed were accounted for by Pache, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning and added a solo shot in the fifth.

"Today was a little different," Newcomb said. "It was just a little lack of intensity going out against a bunch of guys I know, and there wasn't too much in the crowd. But I feel good about everything overall, especially the fastball. That's what I live off of. It's feeling good, so that makes me feel good."

Roster battle
Before the Braves acquired Ryan Flaherty this week, Rio Ruiz had stood as the favorite to serve as the primary third baseman until Johan Camargo returns from the disabled list next week. But Ruiz no longer appears to be a lock to be placed on the Opening Day roster, which will likely be announced Wednesday.

Flaherty has served as the starting third baseman in both of the exhibition games that have been played since he joined the Braves on Monday. He could find himself back in that same role for Thursday afternoon's Opening Day matchup against Philadelphia's Aaron Nola.

Video: NYY@ATL: Braves' broadcast on Flaherty acquisition

Camargo could be activated from the disabled list before the Braves open a three-game road series against the Rockies on April 6. The Braves could opt to have Flaherty and Charlie Culberson share third-base duties through the season's first six games. If the team goes this route, there is a chance Ruiz will begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Ruiz rebounded from the early struggles he had during this year's Grapefruit League season, but he went 0-for-10 with five strikeouts over his final four games of the exhibition season.

If Ruiz is not placed on the Opening Day roster, switch-hitter Danny Santana or Lane Adams could fill the final roster spot reserved for a position player. Both players are out of options, but Santana could start the season with Gwinnett because he signed a Minor League contract.

Soaking it in
When Mike Soroka took the mound to start for the Braves Future Stars, he had Ronald Acuna Jr. in left field, Dustin Peterson in right field and Austin Riley at third base. There is at least a possibility that each of these players could be in the same Atlanta lineup at some point this year.

"We came out before [batting practice] and I got to be with some of my buddies I've been with the past three years in the Braves organization," Soroka said. "There's obviously an understanding we all have the talent to do that, but it's about keeping the process real and making sure we take everything pitch by pitch and compete."

Video: Top Prospects: Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves

Soroka allowed consecutive singles to Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies to begin the bottom of the first. He then induced a Freddie Freeman groundout before concluding his one-inning stint with consecutive strikeouts of Kurt Suzuki and Culberson. Inciarte scored on a wild pitch to account for the only run allowed by Soroka, who could join Atlanta's rotation within the first half of the regular season.

Acuna's lone hit in three at-bats was a third-inning single that came off the bat at 115.1 mph, per Statcast™. Riley added a double in the top of the third, and Peterson highlighted the bottom of the third with a diving catch of Freeman's sharp liner.

Up next 
Julio Teheran will take the mound when the Braves open the regular season Thursday against the Phillies at SunTrust Park at 4:10 p.m. ET. Teheran will become the first pitcher in Atlanta history to make five consecutive Opening Day starts.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Cristian Pache

Acuna denies Braves have offered extension

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- The Braves have done their due diligence by discussing the possibility of a contract that would extend through Ronald Acuna Jr.'s arbitration-eligible seasons. But the young phenom said there is no validity to a report that he recently turned down a $30 million offer.

"To be honest, I'm not sure where that came from," Acuna said through an interpreter. "As of now, I haven't received a contract. Nobody has talked to me about it. There was no contract that was turned down, or anything like that."

ATLANTA -- The Braves have done their due diligence by discussing the possibility of a contract that would extend through Ronald Acuna Jr.'s arbitration-eligible seasons. But the young phenom said there is no validity to a report that he recently turned down a $30 million offer.

"To be honest, I'm not sure where that came from," Acuna said through an interpreter. "As of now, I haven't received a contract. Nobody has talked to me about it. There was no contract that was turned down, or anything like that."

Acuna's family expressed interest in gaining the financial security that would accompany such a long-term deal. But a source said informal discussions have not yet led to a formal offer being made by the team.

Acuna denied the report just before being part of the Bobby Cox-managed Braves Futures Stars team that lost to the Braves, 5-4, at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night. Cox laughed when he was asked why he had chosen to place the prized prospect in the second spot of his lineup.

"We couldn't hit him one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, so …" Cox said. "He can hit anywhere. It doesn't matter where he hits in the lineup. He's a dynamic five-tool guy. He needs a little more seasoning at Triple-A, and get him off to a good start. Hopefully he gets up here pretty soon."

Video: ATL@HOU: Acuna collects three singles vs. Astros

Provided an opportunity to play against the team he could be a part of within the next few weeks, Acuna went 1-for-3. He struck out looking in the first inning, then recorded a third-inning single that came off the bat at 115.1 mph, per Statcast™. That was higher than any exit velocity recorded by a Braves player last season.

Acuna ranks second on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list. The 20-year-old outfielder may make his Major League debut as soon as April 14, which is the earliest date the Braves can add him to their roster and secure an extra season of contract control.

If Acuna debuts after April 13 and is never optioned back to the Minors, he would not be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. He will likely debut early enough this season to become classified as a Super Two arbitration-eligible player after the '20 season.

When a team offers a contract extension to a player with less than three years of service time, it gains cost certainty through the arbitration-eligible years. Many similar offers extend beyond the date when the player could first enter the free-agent market or include options for those seasons. Thus, this is a way to extend the contractual control tenure.

By buying out the arbitration-eligible seasons and extending the contract beyond 2024, the Braves would eliminate the benefit of keeping Acuna off the big league roster through April 13.

The Phillies went this route on Sunday, when Scott Kingery, one of their top prospects, agreed to a six-year, $24 million deal. Kingery had also been targeted to join Philadelphia's roster at some point after April 13. But he will now likely make his big league debut during this week's opening series against the Braves at SunTrust Park.

Players with less than three years of service time who agree to a contract extension gain financial security to protect against injury or other unforeseen developments that could adversely affect future earnings. But a player with Acuna's tremendous talent could also end up leaving a significant amount of money on the table through his arbitration-eligible seasons.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

Inbox: Why is Acuna starting 2018 in Minors?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Will the Braves regret sending down Ronald Acuna Jr. if they miss the Wild Card/playoffs by one game that he could (possibly) have swung in their favor at the beginning of the season?
-- @vanakatherock

Just like the Braves weren't going to mention service time as a variable in their decision to start Acuna in the Minors, they aren't going to publicly say their planning process is based on the belief that they are more than a player or two from becoming a legit postseason contender this year.

Will the Braves regret sending down Ronald Acuna Jr. if they miss the Wild Card/playoffs by one game that he could (possibly) have swung in their favor at the beginning of the season?
-- @vanakatherock

Just like the Braves weren't going to mention service time as a variable in their decision to start Acuna in the Minors, they aren't going to publicly say their planning process is based on the belief that they are more than a player or two from becoming a legit postseason contender this year.

With that being said, I understand the stance Brandon McCarthy took on Twitter when he said few expected the Twins and D-backs to be playoff teams at this point last year. And I appreciate the stance of those fans who want their team to field the best team possible throughout the entirety of a 162-game season.

But Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos' responsibility is to evaluate how current decisions will affect the organization on a long-term basis.

The Braves can secure an extra year of contractual control if they promote Acuna -- the No. 2 prospect in baseball -- after April 13. Thus, they could be without the 20-year-old phenom for just 8 percent (13 games) of the season, during which his presence alone likely wouldn't be enough to lead to a playoff berth.

In exchange, they could gain a full season of Acuna when he is closer to his prime and when the team might still be reaping the benefits of the current farm system, which ranks as one of the game's best.

Video: ATL@PHI: Acuna crushes a two-run homer to left

If the Braves exceed expectations and find themselves being criticized for this decision in September, they'll have to deal with what would certainly be a good problem to have, when you consider where the team has been over the past few years. There are no guarantees for any team in any season. But if you evaluate the probabilities, it certainly makes sense to predict a full year of Acuna on the field in 2024 will trump the value of him being available for 13 additional games right now, when the team is still in the midst of its rebuild.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

Regarding Anthopoulos' comments, it appears Mike Soroka was at least discussed as an option out of Spring Training. How serious might those discussions have been and is he someone who could be called up before the All-Star break?
-- @HillyardATL

Given that Soroka was reassigned to Minor League camp on March 9, I wouldn't say he was ever considered a serious candidate for the Opening Day roster. But that doesn't mean the internal discussions weren't quite similar to the ones I've had with scouts, who believe he was the best Braves pitcher they saw this spring.

Video: ATL@HOU: Soroka strikes out Garcia

Beyond not wanting to start Soroka's service-time clock or bring him to the Majors without having experienced the Triple-A level, the Braves need to use these first few months to determine exactly what they have with the starting pitching assets already at the Major League level.

This brings us to the next question.

Is this the year we finally trade Julio Teheran?
-- @jalexan7

Soroka, Kyle Wright and Kolby Allard stand as a formidable wave of starting pitchers who could all come to next year's Spring Training positioned to grab a rotation spot. Ian Anderson and Joey Wentz won't be far behind. So, this season will serve as a weeding out process for Atlanta's starting pitchers.

If the Braves are going to be legit playoff contenders in 2019, they need at least a couple of members of this quartet -- Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara and Soroka -- to move ahead of Teheran in the rotation hierarchy.

Video: TOR@ATL: Teheran strikes out five in scoreless outing

Teheran has made strides with his changeup, and more importantly, he has regained confidence in his slider, which has always been his top pitch. But given his inconsistent history and the club's rising young arms, it certainly would be wise to attempt to sell if Teheran rebounds this season.

If Nick Markakis gets traded this year, who is most likely to take his spot?
-- @Ruth1642

Let's wait to see how Dustin Peterson fares with Triple-A Gwinnett, but he's provided indications he is even better and stronger than he was before he suffered the left hamate fracture that marred his 2017 season.

Video: ATL@DET: Peterson clubs a two-run homer to center

If Peterson isn't ready, the Braves could turn to Preston Tucker. Tucker has more power potential and is left-handed, but he could provide the same kind of value Matt Diaz did during his days with the Braves.

If Tucker's power potential translates into extended Major League success, he might be deemed an everyday option for a playoff-caliber team. The capability is there, but for now I consider him a fourth outfielder, whose overall value is diminished by his defense.

Assuming Tucker gets the Opening Day nod in left field, what will the Braves bench look like?
-- @KingWilliam_4

Assuming Tucker gets the start with Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola on the mound -- and the Braves going with an extra bench player while carrying just four starting pitchers -- I think they'll go with an infielder to account for the uncertainty regarding Johan Camargo's back. This opens the door for Rio Ruiz to possibly open the season on Atlanta's roster.

My projected bench is: Kurt Suzuki, Charlie Culberson, Danny Santana, Lane Adams and Ruiz.

Video: ATL@PHI: Ruiz lines a two-run home run to right

Though the numbers have improved, Adams hasn't regained the swing that helped him find unexpected success last year. But because he's on the 40-man roster, I'll give him the nod over non-roster invitee Ezequiel Carrera, whose bid is weakened by Santana also needing a spot cleared on the 40-man.

Carrera provides what the Braves already have in Tucker. He might be the better player, but he doesn't have the same offensive or defensive versatility as Santana, whose ability to play the infield could aid his cause while Camargo is out.

Aside from Wright, which Braves prospect has the best chance to move through the Minor Leagues quickly like Acuna did last year?
--@SeanJ8

Remember, Anthopoulos said he likely wouldn't have accelerated Acuna through the system as quickly as the previous regime did last year. So, I wouldn't expect to see Cristian Pache rise from Class A Advanced Florida to Triple-A Gwinnett this summer. But now that he's physically matured and gained the capability to develop his power, the young outfielder could quickly raise his stock.

Video: ATL@NYM: Pache lines an RBI single to left field

Let's not put Pache on Acuna's elite level, but when Andruw Jones endorses him as the organization's best defensive outfielder right now, there's reason to keep an eye on this 19-year-old center fielder.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.