ATLANTA -- All eyes were on Ronald Acuna as he interacted with some of his future teammates in the Braves' clubhouse and toured his future office with Atlanta's other top Minor League performers, who were honored at SunTrust Park on Friday night.Before their series opener against the Mets, the Braves
ATLANTA -- All eyes were on Ronald Acuna as he interacted with some of his future teammates in the Braves' clubhouse and toured his future office with Atlanta's other top Minor League performers, who were honored at SunTrust Park on Friday night.
Before their series opener against the Mets, the Braves recognized their Pitcher and Player of the Year from each Minor League affiliate. Double-A Mississippi's Mike Soroka was recognized as the organization's Pitcher of the Year, and to nobody's surprise, Acuna was named the organization's Player of the Year.
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"[Acuna] was pretty special to watch," Soroka said. "You could have told me he was hitting .400 when he was at Mississippi and I would have said, I thought he was hitting .450. Everything he hit, he hit hard. If he struggled, it was for a game or two, and then the game after that he was 3-for-4 again. To see a guy like that, you can only hope he'll keep doing it, and I think he will."
On his way to earning multiple distinguished postseason awards, including being named MLBPipeline.com's offensive prospect of the year, Acuna produced eye-popping numbers that within the Braves' organization were only rivaled by what Andruw Jones produced in 1996.
Acuna batted .325, tallied 21 home runs, recorded 44 stolen bases and compiled an .896 OPS over the 612 plate appearances he made for Class A Advanced Florida, Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett combined. The 19-year-old Venezuela native improved his OPS at each level and truly proved himself at Gwinnett, where he hit .344 with a .940 OPS over 54 games.
Though the Braves certainly recognized Acuna is ready for the Major League level, they opted not to promote him when big league rosters expanded in September. By not starting his service clock now, the club enhances the odds of controlling him for an extra full season. But the decision was also heavily influenced by the fact he does not have to be placed on the 40-man roster this year to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.
"To be honest, I'm not sure what the reasoning was," Acuna said through an interpreter. "But I'm just going to try to come in more prepared after the offseason and the goal remains the same, to reach the big leagues."
Though there is a chance the Braves will choose to delay the start of Acuna's service clock at the start of next year, he is expected to become a mainstay in their outfield during the early portion of the season.
"That's my goal, to come in at the start of Spring Training to win a starting job," Acuna said. "I want to play every single day in the big leagues."
This year's organizational Players of the Year were: Ozzie Albies (Gwinnett), Acuna (Mississippi), Alex Jackson (Florida), Cristian Pache (Rome), William Contreras (Danville), Jeffrey Ramos (Gulf Coast League), Juan Carlos Negret (Dominican Summer League).
The Pitchers of the Year were: Lucas Sims (Gwinnett), Soroka (Mississippi), Touki Toussaint (Florida), Bryse Wilson (Rome), Odalvi Javier (Danville), Miguel Jerez (Gulf Coast League), Gabriel Noguera (Dominican Summer League).
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.