Acuna unlikely to be called until play improves

April 15th, 2018

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 , 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.