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Acuna feeds off family, flourishes in Fall League

MLB.com @wboor

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Mesa Solar Sox and Peoria Javelinas take the field in Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game, no player will draw more attention than Atlanta Braves 19-year-old outfield phenom Ronald Acuna.

Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on MLB Network & MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When the Mesa Solar Sox and Peoria Javelinas take the field in Saturday's Arizona Fall League championship game, no player will draw more attention than Atlanta Braves 19-year-old outfield phenom Ronald Acuna.

Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on MLB Network & MLB.com

Acuna's rise to prospect stardom -- he signed for just $100,000 as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2014 -- was rapid and somewhat unexpected, but perhaps the spotlight should have shone on him a bit sooner.

:: 2017 Arizona Fall League championship game coverage ::

Not only is Acuna a potential five-tool superstar, but he comes from a baseball family -- something that often gets players noticed a bit earlier, especially toward the beginning of their careers.

Acuna's father, Ron Acuna Sr., and his grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, both played in the Minor Leagues, and several of his other family members play baseball, too.

"I have many cousins playing organized baseball," the Braves' No. 1 prospect said. "... they [served] as my motivation when I was a kid and saw them play."

While his cousins served as motivation, his father and grandfather provided him with good baseball genetics.

Blanco, a right-hander, posted a 4.58 ERA across six Minor League seasons, while Acuna Sr. hit .282 over eight Minor League seasons.

"I was told he was a good ballplayer," Acuna said of his grandfather. "He threw hard, 99 to 100 miles per hour, and was on a 40-man roster."

Perhaps one of those people telling Acuna about the ballplayers in his family is Luis Salazar, who managed Acuna with the Double-A Mississippi Braves this season and is currently manging him with the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas.

"I played with his grandfather, he was one of the top prospects for the Houston Astros," Salazar said of Blanco, whom he played with in the Venezuelan Baseball League as a member of the La Guaira Sharks in 1974-75.

But that's not Salazar's only connection to the Acuna family -- he also managed Acuna Sr. in the winter leagues.

Of course, neither Acuna's grandfather or father had the type of career that many expect Acuna to have.

Baseball's No. 5 overall prospect slashed .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 stolen bases over 139 games across three levels this season. He then went on to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to rake, hitting .325 and leading the league with seven homers in 23 games.

"I'm very proud of him, like I said earlier, and happy," Acuna Sr. said. "I'm hoping he stays healthy and [does] what everyone says he can do."

As for what everyone says Acuna can do -- many expect him to be baseball's next big phenom and although he's still a teenager, everything he's done thus far points straight to stardom.

"He can go from Double-A to the big leagues," Salazar said. "He's ready to go to the big leagues next season and this kid, he's going to be in the big show for a long, long time."

William Boor is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

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