LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Chipper Jones grew up as a Major Leaguer with Andruw Jones and saw plenty of a young Vladimir Guerrero when the Braves shared a Spring Training complex with the Expos in the 1990s. But he's not sure he's ever seen anybody as impressive as Ronald
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Chipper Jones grew up as a Major Leaguer with Andruw Jones and saw plenty of a young Vladimir Guerrero when the Braves shared a Spring Training complex with the Expos in the 1990s. But he's not sure he's ever seen anybody as impressive as Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves' 20-year-old five-tool outfielder who may be just a couple of months away from his Major League debut.
"He's way ahead of me [as a prospect]," Chipper said. "I'd have to lump him in with Andruw just because he graduated three [Minor] levels in one year. He's as good a prospect as I've seen."
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Chipper and Andruw were present as Acuna experienced his first full-squad workout with his Braves teammates on Monday afternoon at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.
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Jeff Francoeur and Jason Heyward created a lot of hype, but there's legitimate reason to describe Acuna as being the best prospect the Braves have produced since the aforementioned Jones boys, who will spend the next couple weeks in camp filling their roles as special assistants.
"[Acuna] is a better athlete than everybody else," Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. "You'll just have to wait and see. It's pretty hard to explain. When you watch him, you can just tell there is a difference. Whether you know a lot about baseball or know nothing, you can see that guy is doing something right."
Nearly all of the pitchers once again held the upper hand as hitters were reintroduced to the speed of the game while taking live batting practice on Monday. Freddie Freeman exited one of his rounds against Julio Teheran and could only chuckle having fouled back three of the four pitches at which he swung.
But Acuna didn't have much trouble as he showed his capability to drive the ball to all fields while taking swings against left-handed reliever Sam Freeman.
"[Acuna's] bat stays in the zone for a long time," Chipper said. "He's going to make consistent contact. He's not quite what Andruw was in the outfield, but he's not far off. I think he's going more for damage from foul pole to foul pole than Andruw did."
Andruw will forever be remembered for bursting on the Major League scene during the latter portion of the 1996 season and homering in his first two at-bats of that year's World Series. Acuna didn't realize his bid to reach the Majors as a teenager and because of service-time circumstances he may have to spend the first couple of weeks of this season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
But once Acuna arrives and becomes a mainstay in Atlanta's lineup, it will be easy to see why Chipper and so many others have been incredibly impressed by his tremendous skills.
"I don't say much to Ronald," Chipper said. "You don't have to say much to Ronald. As far as me watching him in the cage, he does nothing I would change. The ball explodes off his bat. He's got a great bat path. His bat is in the zone a long time. You can't teach that. It's God given. Whoever taught him very well. If it's not broke, I'm not looking to try to fix anything."