Acuña shows off his tools in the Fall League

October 9th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ronald Acuña Jr. dazzled the Arizona Fall League with his all-around brilliance in 2017, leading the developmental circuit in homers and winning the MVP award at age 19. Five years later, Acuña is a three-time All-Star and his younger brother is showcasing his own electric tools in the AFL.

A shortstop in the Rangers system, Luisangel Acuña may not have his brother's superstar upside but there's little he can't do on the diamond. He has an explosive right-handed swing, at least solid speed and defensive ability at shortstop, plus-arm strength and keen instincts.

Signed for $425,000 out of Venezuela in 2018, Acuña batted .277/.369/.426 with 11 homers and 40 steals in 91 games between High-A and Double-A this season at age 20. He missed a month after straining his hamstring on Opening Day, so he joined the Surprise Saguaros to make up for lost at-bats and to polish game.

Acuña's hitting ability and quickness were evident Saturday as he rallied his club to a 6-3 win over the Salt River Rafters. He erased a 3-2 deficit by smoking a two-run double with an exit velocity of 106 mph off a curveball from right-hander Troy Watson (Blue Jays) in the top of the eighth inning. He later advanced to third base and aggressively raced home for another run when a wild pitch scooted a short distance away from catcher Cooper Hummel (Diamondbacks).

Acuña said his brother gave him some advice before he headed to the AFL, where he has gone 6-for-17 (.353) with two homers and a steal in four games during the first week.

"I always talk to my brother," said Acuña via Carlos Cardoza, a Saguaros coach who also managed him at High-A Hickory this season. "He said this is a good league. He told me to go in there and do good work, it's a competitive league."

The Rafters fell to 0-6 despite the efforts of left-hander Joey Wentz (Tigers), who started and delivered four perfect innings. He struck out three while working with a 91-94 mph fastball, mixing in three effective secondary pitches (curveball, cutter, changeup) and throwing 28 of 37 pitches for strikes.

Salt River outfielder Jordan Walker (Cardinals), the AFL's top-rated prospect (No. 6 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100), tagged right-hander Quinn Priester (Pirates), the league's highest-rated pitching prospect (No. 44 on the Top 100), for a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Walker hammered a belt-high 85-mph slider for a 423-foot shot with an exit velocity of 103 mph.

Walker's homer was the only blemish on the day for Priester, who pounded the strike zone while striking out five in as many innings. He averaged 94 mph with his fastball and 85 mph with his slider while providing 42 strikes in 61 pitches.