SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The prospect’s last name echoed throughout Salt River Fields as he lined up for his chance at the timed 60-yard run, and everyone in attendance immediately looked up.
“Next up, jersey No. 43,” the PA announcer said. “Acuña, Bryan.”
Moments later, Ronald Jr.’s youngest brother and Ronald Sr.’s third son was off to the races in front of scouts and chasing down his own big league dream. The teen with the famous last name was not alone.
Acuña, the young brother of Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., is among the 116 participants at Major League Baseball’s Trainer Partnership International Showcase this week at the Spring Training home of the D-backs and Rockies. Rafael Cruz, the younger brother of Pittsburgh No. 3-ranked prospect Oneil Cruz, and shortstop Anderson Machado Jr., the son of former Reds, Rockies and Phillies infielder Anderson Machado, are also among the participants.
Bryan Acuña, who is 14 and won’t be eligible to sign until 2021, is attempting to become fourth member in his immediate family to sign with an MLB team, following in the footsteps of Ronald Sr., who signed with the Mets in 1997, Ronald Jr., who signed with the Braves in 2015, and Luisangel Acuña, who signed with the Rangers last year.
“We are so excited and happy to be here and have this opportunity,” said Ronald Sr., who is serving as a coach for the prospects from Venezuela this week. “My other two sons are already professionals. My third son wants to follow the same life. I’m here to support my son and help all of these boys with their dreams.”
The Trainer Partnership Program was created last summer as part of MLB’s overall efforts in Latin America and has held events for prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela since the program began. Among its many initiatives, the program includes a focus on prospect education regarding health and the safe development of players, including the avoidance of PED use.
In all, there are more than 1,024 prospects from the Dominican Republic and 656 prospects from Venezuela participating in the program. There are currently 49 trainers from the Dominican Republic and 31 trainers from Venezuela participating in the program, and the number keeps growing.
“We’re excited for these players to showcase their talents in front of our senior club executives. And likewise, we’re excited for our clubs to see the growth of the Trainer Partnership Program since it began just over a year ago," said Morgan Sword, senior vice president of league economics and operations for Major League Baseball. “What started as a pilot program of 25 trainers now includes more than 75 trainers across Latin America. We appreciate the continued commitment of our partner trainers, who are committed to developing the game’s future stars safely and responsibly.”
This week’s Trainer Partnership Program showcase, which features prospects eligible to sign during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 periods, features players from Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama and Venezuela. The event began Tuesday afternoon with the 60-yard run, infield and outfield drills in front of more than 100 scouts. The prospects, which are separated into four teams, will play in eight games during the next two days.
“These guys are the future ball players of Latin America,” said Chen, who pitched parts of 17 seasons in the big leagues. “Major League Baseball has been working very hard to work with the trainers and young players to give them the exposure they need. Being here in Arizona is a great opportunity to be seen by teams, and I’m here to help them showcase their talents and do my part to help guide them.”
These are some of the players to watch this week in Scottsdale.
Brayan Moray, SS, Dominican Republic, 2020
Frank Pena, OF, Dominican Republic, 2020
Rafael Cruz, SS, Dominican Republic, 2020
Bryan Bautista, RHP, Dominican Republic, 2020
Jordany Oliver, SS, Dominican Republic, 2021
Louis Pierre, OF, Dominican Republic, 2021
Jonathan Mejia, SS, Dominican Republic, 2021
Yordarlin Pena, OF, Dominican Republic, 2021
Erick Hernandez, OF, Dominican Republic, 2021
Keiner Leon RHP, Venezuela, 2020
Erick Rodriguez RHP, Venezuela, 2020
Carlos Altuve C, Venezuela, 2021
Javier Moreno C, Venezuela, 2020
Albert Carpio SS, Venezuela, 2021
Gueile Borrome SS, Venezuela, 2021
Xavier Perez OF, Venezuela, 2021
Alonso Carrera OF, Venezuela, 2021
Michell Chirinos OF, Venezuela, 2020
Yorfran Medina OF, Venezuela, 2021
Bryan Acuña, SS, Venezuela, 2021