Allow me to take you back in time a bit to the year 2016, specifically just after the 2016 draft that saw the Braves execute a frankly brilliant draft strategy that saw them draft Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, and Kyle Muller. It was an exciting time for us as we made our midseason prospect rankings that year. Fun fact: that was one of the first assignments that our own Matt Powers worked on for us (I stole him from the comments sections during the draft....I am still in awe of how much he knows about later round guys).
It was also exciting because all of us had come to the same risky conclusion about a player that we had all fallen in love with, but had also played around 30 games in full season ball and had missed extensive time with injury. Once we looked at all of our personal rankings, it became apparent that we were all sold despite the inexperience and injury. The sound of the ball off of his bat, how he adjusted his hands during his swing, and how he ran the bases and covered ground in the outfield...this guy was different and it jumped out at us. This is a part of what we wrote about one Ronald Acuna who was 18 at the time when we ranked him the 6th best prospect in the Braves farm system back in June 2016.
To be blunt, the only reason he is ranked this low is because a few of us just want to see him do his thing for a bit longer and see how he recovers from his injury...he was ranked as a high as second by at least one Talking Chop writer. In short, in Acuna, you are looking at one of the best position prospects in the Braves system and if he comes back (presumably towards the end of July or beginning of August) and performs as well as he did pre-injury, he will be among the best prospects in baseball.
We know the story since then....Acuna did come back with a vengeance from his injury, dominated winter ball, and then went on a tear in 2017 that saw him rocket up prospect rankings throughout the industry.
Today, Baseball America released its most recent iteration of its Top 100 prospects list. Baseball America has long been one of the gold standards of prospect evaluation (long before it was cool and information about the draft, international markets, and minor league baseball was easy to come by), so when they rank players...well, lots of folks listen. At the top of the list, as you have probably guessed by now, is the Braves own Ronald Acuna.
We will go into the other Braves on BA’s Top 100 soon, but it is hard to argue with naming Acuna the top prospect in baseball given what he did on the field in 2017. Across three levels of the minors (reaching Triple-A at the age of 19) and including his time in the Arizona Fall League, Acuna posted a .325/.379/.538 line with 28 home runs, 98 RBIs, 46 stolen bases, 110 runs scored, and 7 outfield assists. Amongst current MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects with no MLB time, he ranked first in hits, home runs, stolen bases, and runs scored. All that plus being a stronger defender in center field...well, that will definitely get the attention of those in baseball as well as its fans.
It wasn’t just production on his stat line that got him to the top of the list as Acuna checks almost every box you can check for a position prospect as he grades, at least, above-average to plus for every tool that is used to evaluate position prospects. He is not perfect or without risk (still needs to cut down the strikeouts and pick his spots better on the basepaths), but he is the total package of potential with room to grow even better. The top 10 prospects in 2018 is one of the stronger ones we have seen in recent years....and Acuna has earned a spot all the way at the top.