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Slow start could delay Acuna's arrival

MLB.com @mlbbowman

CHICAGO -- There's still reason to believe Ronald Acuna could possibly make his much-anticipated Major League debut within the next week. But his slow start in the Minors has made it less likely he'll be in the Braves' lineup during this weekend's series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Going back to March 19, when Acuna gained verification he would begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, there has been reason to focus on Saturday, which is the earliest date the Braves could bring the much-hyped top prospect to the Majors and secure an extra year of contractual control.

CHICAGO -- There's still reason to believe Ronald Acuna could possibly make his much-anticipated Major League debut within the next week. But his slow start in the Minors has made it less likely he'll be in the Braves' lineup during this weekend's series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Going back to March 19, when Acuna gained verification he would begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett, there has been reason to focus on Saturday, which is the earliest date the Braves could bring the much-hyped top prospect to the Majors and secure an extra year of contractual control.

While the Braves have been open to the possibility of Acuna debuting as early as Saturday, they have also had to maintain patience as the 20-year-old outfielder has gone 2-for-19 with eight strikeouts and two walks through his first 21 plate appearances for Gwinnett.

If Acuna were to get hot over the next few days, the Braves might promote him on Monday, when the Phillies come to SunTrust Park for the start of a seven-game homestand. This would certainly please those Atlanta fans who would like to say they were present for the phenom's Major League debut.

But for now, the Braves are simply keeping an open mind and making daily evaluations of Acuna, who ranks second to the Angels' Shohei Ohtani on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list.

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 and Minor League teams staying on point to include Labor Day within their respective seasons.

Nine days separated Acuna playing in the March 27 Braves Future Stars Game at SunTrust and Gwinnett's season opener. The live pitching the young outfielder saw within this span was supplied by teammates during simulated games or live batting-practice sessions.

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 1.247 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 a season that included 57 games with Double-A Mississippi and 54 games for Gwinnett.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves