Ronald Acuna Jr., one of baseball's most exciting prospects, is headed to the big leagues. The 20-year-old outfielder -- who ranks second only to Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- will join the Braves in Cincinnati for their Wednesday night game against the
Ronald Acuna Jr., one of baseball's most exciting prospects, is headed to the big leagues. The 20-year-old outfielder -- who ranks second only to Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- will join the Braves in Cincinnati for their Wednesday night game against the Reds.
Here are five things you need to know about the Venezuelan prospect as he makes his much-anticipated debut:
1. Family ties
Baseball runs deep in Acuna's family. His grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, played in the Minors, and his father, Ronald Acuna Sr., was a Mets prospect who stole 30-plus bases in three seasons. Blanco, a right-handed pitcher, posted a 4.58 ERA in six Minor League seasons, while Acuna Sr. hit .282 over eight years. Acuna is the nephew of Jose Escobar, who reached the big leagues with the Indians in 1991, and his cousins include Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, former Angels and Blue Jays pitcher Kelvim Escobar, former big league hurler Edwin Escobar and Jose Campos, who reached the Majors in 2016 and is currently in the Angels farm system. And his younger brother Luisangel Acuna, who just missed MLB Pipeline's Top 30 International Prospects list, will be eligible to sign with a Major League club when the international signing period begins July 2.
2. Modest bonus
Acuna has come a long way since he was an unheralded Venezuelan prospect signing with the Braves at age 16 in 2014. He signed for just $100,000, low by today's standards, but he enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence. By comparison, his brother is expected to net a bonus in the $350,000 to $500,000 range.
3. Rapid ascent
Acuna was unranked as recently as the 2017 preseason Top 100 Prospects lists, but he debuted at No. 8 in the midseason re-rank as he enjoyed a fast rise through the Braves' farm system. He began the '17 season with Class A Advanced Florida, earned a promotion to Double-A Mississippi after 28 games and then ended the year with Triple-A Gwinnett. Acuna was named Pipeline Hitter of the Year -- batting .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers, 82 RBIs and 44 stolen bases in 139 games across all three levels -- in '17, and he began the '18 season as baseball's No. 2 prospect behind Ohtani.
4. Crazy tools
Acuna is the only prospect in baseball with grades of 60 or higher across all five tools -- hitting (60), power (65), running (70), arm (60), fielding (60) -- and one of only two hitters with an overall 70 grade along with the Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He also had the hardest-hit ball and the three hardest outfield throws in last year's Futures Game, and his 115.1-mph base hit in last month's Braves vs. Braves Future Stars exhibition was harder than any batted ball by a Braves player in 2017.
5. Baby Braves
At 20 years and 128 days old, Acuna will be the youngest player to appear in a Major League game this season, surpassing teammate Ozzie Albies, who is currently the only other player born in 1997 (Jan. 7). After the Braves' young duo is the Yankees' Gleyber Torres (Dec. 13, '96), the Red Sox's Rafael Devers (Oct. 24, '96) and the Cardinals' Jordan Hicks (Sept. 6, '96).
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.