July 2, 2014: Acuna signed with the Braves for $100,000, via scout Polando Petit. Not only did Atlanta skip Acuna over the Dominican Summer League, they promoted him in August 2015 to the Rookie-level Appalachian League, where he continued to hit.
Ronald's bonus was not very large. Nearly 200 other international players signed for more during that signing period. The Braves themselves signed six players for larger bonuses.
In fact, when Acuna woke up the morning of July 2, 2014, the first day of the signing period, he planned to sign with another team, for even less money.
“I was going to sign with the Royals,” Acuna said. “But that same day, the Braves called and offered me more money. So, I decided to sign with the Braves.”
Ronald began playing the game at the age of 3 and has wanted to play professionally for as long as he can remember. Unlike many young Latin American players, he advanced rapidly to the U.S. and had little difficulty adjusting.
“A lot of people helped me (adjust to the U.S.),” Acuna said through a translator in April 2016, “and I was doing what I always wanted to do. It’s been fun and I feel good.”
After the 2016 season, Acuna made up for lost time over the winter in the Australian Baseball League, where he earned all-star honors while hitting .375/.446/.556 in 20 games.
Ronald has an advanced feel for the game. He's quite athletic also—a nice combination. “I think with Ronald we’re seeing the combination of an increase in experience and physical maturity coming together to produce some impressive results,” Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt he has all the tools to develop into an impact player at higher levels in this game.”
In 2016, Baseball America rated Acuna as the 26th-best prospect in the Braves' organization. They moved Ronald all the way up to 6th-best prospect in the offseason before 2017 spring training. And in the winter before 2018 spring camps opened, BA had Acuna as the #1 prospect in the Braves' organization.
In 2017, Acuna represented the Braves at the All-Star Futures game. As he has flown through the Braves' farm system, Ronald Acuna has shown he has all the tools to become a Major Leaguer. At the 2017 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, the 19-year-old continued to prove just how well-rounded he is with his arm strength in the outfield and solid contact at the plate.
In a 7-6 victory for the U.S. team, Acuna showed off his arm from right field with two rockets that clocked in at 95.2 and 96.7 mph, according to Statcast, further backing the idea that he might become a big league outfielder in the near future.
"[Those throws are] something that I do all natural," Acuna said through an interpreter. "I don't try to do too much. [My arm strength] is just something natural."
2017 season: 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.
In 2017, Ron was Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year.
Acuna's great season had people talking.
“I had an opportunity with Ken Griffey Jr., with Alex Rodriguez, and now Acuna," said Gwittett hitting coach John Moses, a former Mariner. "I mean you can throw him into that lot of guys, for me, at 19 years old. He’s only going to get better. The guys are special when they come around like this.”
Braves Assistant Farm Director Jon Schuerholz: “Watching him play, you can see it. This is what he was meant to do from the time he was put on this earth. He was meant to play baseball.”
In 2017, Acuna was named the Braves Prospect of the Year by MLB Pipeline.com.
In 2017, Acuna was invited to play in the AFL Fall Stars Game.
FAMILY OF BALL PLAYERS
Acuna's father, Ron Acuna Sr., and his grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, both played in the Minor Leagues. And several of his other family members play baseball, too.
Ron was an outfielder for 3 different organizations: The Mets system from 1999-2004, Blue Jays in 2005 and the Brewers in 2006.
His grandfather, Rosmaldo (Romo) Blanco was a pitcher in the Astros' farm system.
Nov 18, 2017: When the Mesa Solar Sox and Peoria Javelinas take the field in the Arizona Fall League championship game, no player will draw more attention than Atlanta Braves 19-year-old outfield phenom Ronald Acuna. Acuna's rise to prospect stardom was rapid and somewhat unexpected, but perhaps the spotlight should have shone on him a bit sooner.
Not only is Acuna a potential five-tool superstar, but he comes from a baseball family -- something that often gets players noticed a bit earlier, especially toward the beginning of their careers.
"I have many cousins playing organized baseball," Ron said. "... they [served] as my motivation when I was a kid and saw them play."
While his cousins served as motivation, his father and grandfather provided him with good baseball genetics. Blanco, a righthander, posted a 4.58 ERA across six Minor League seasons. Acuna Sr. hit .282 over eight Minor League seasons. "I was told he was a good ballplayer," Acuna said of his grandfather. "He threw hard, 99 to 100 miles per hour, and was on a 40-man roster."
Perhaps one of those people telling Acuna about the ballplayers in his family is Luis Salazar, who managed Acuna with the Double-A Mississippi Braves this season and is currently managing him with the Arizona Fall League's Peoria Javelinas.
"I played with his grandfather, he was one of the top prospects for the Houston Astros," Salazar said of Blanco, whom he played with in the Venezuelan Baseball League as a member of the La Guaira Sharks in 1974-75. But that's not Salazar's only connection to the Acuna family -- he also managed Acuna Sr. in the winter leagues.
Of course, neither Acuna's grandfather or father had the type of career that many expect Acuna to have. Baseball's No. 5 overall prospect slashed .325/.374/.522 with 21 homers and 44 stolen bases over 139 games across three levels this season. He then went on the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to rake, hitting .325 and leading the league with seven homers in 23 games.
"I'm very proud of him, like I said earlier, and happy," Acuna Sr. said. "I'm hoping he stays healthy and [does] what everyone says he can do."
As for what everyone says Acuna can do -- many expect him to be baseball's next big phenom and although he's still a teenager, everything he's done thus far points straight to stardom. "He can go from Double-A to the big leagues," Salazar said. "He's ready to go to the big leagues next season and this kid, he's going to be in the big show for a long, long time." (W Boor - MLB.com - Nov 17, 2017)
In 2017, Acuna was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League after he hit .325/.414/.639 and led the league with seven homers in 23 games for the Peoria Javelinas.
"Ronald's a special player," Braves manager Brian Snitker said in Spring Training 2018. "There's no doubt about it. You can see that when you watch him. He's just doing what comes natural. He's not trying to be great. He's just doing his thing."
"I put him in the same class as the [Mike] Trouts and the [Bryce] Harpers," Ralph Garr, Braves guest instructor said. "They're special people. Some people are just gifted. God just seemed to bless people with special talents, and they're able to stand a little above the norm. But you never know what's going to happen, and you can't say until he has the chance to do it. He has 20 years or so to see how well he does." (Bowman - mlb.com - 3/15/18)
MLB debut (April 25, 2018) : Baseball’s top positional prospect, Ronald Acuña Jr., finally made his long-awaited major league debut, after he’d struggled through weeks of service time with the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate. The sole, obvious purpose of this delay was so that the Braves could add an extra year of contract control during the arbitration process. During a back-and-forth game with the cellar-dwelling Reds, Acuña put most of his big-league-ready skills on display.
The line on its own looked unremarkable—1-for-5 with a pair of strikeouts—but it’s what came in the margins that flashed his potential. In his first two at-bats, Acuña swung at the first pitches he saw, but both were mammoth outs in close proximity to the wall.
Once Acuña landed a poke up the middle for his first big-league hit in the eighth inning, it was a perfect time to showcase his game-changing speed. He clocked in at 30.3 feet/second sprint speed per Statcast, which is in Billy Hamilton territory.
The search for the next great international prospect takes scouts to all corners of Latin America -- from the highways in bustling cities like Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to winding dirt roads in small fishing villages like La Sabana, Venezuela.The path takes them through places like Mexico, Central America, and backroads across the Caribbean. There, they watch teenage prospects in tryouts, test them in private workouts and, if the scouts are lucky, they get to pit the teens against other top prospects in games.
And while each team has their own method and strategy, scouting 15-year-olds and projecting them as Major Leaguers several years in advance is an inexact science. Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., the top prospect in baseball, was about 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds soaking wet when the international scouts came calling in Venezuela. He was athletic and had the family baseball pedigree, but there were doubts about his future. And those reservations helped keep 29 teams from signing him when he became eligible on July 2, 2014.
Acuna Jr. is one of the most dynamic players in the game, and he's on track to be the best player in a family full of big leaguers. It's impossible to know how great Acuna will be, but it's already certain that he has the opposing international scouting directors who missed him shaking their heads every time he steps on the field.
"I had him on a platter and ready to sign, but I started getting picky," one National League executive said. "He was athletic and he had tools, but I thought his swing was too long. I made a mistake, but that's how it is. You get a couple of looks at a kid and you have to make a decision. I have learned from that experience, though."
Acuna Jr.'s size discouraged some scouts, but there are numerous reasons why so many teams could have overlooked him. Maybe he didn't throw, hit or run well during a workout with a team because he was tired or he simply had a bad day. Maybe an area scout didn't "pound the table" hard enough to sign him or the local scouts didn't see him perform well in games.
There's also a lot of second-guessing that comes with investing thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars into 16-year-old prospects. So it's not uncommon for decision-makers to have some doubt, especially when each team has a limited amount of money to spend on the international market. And particularly if a player lacks an obvious "wow" factor.
Ronald Acuna Jr.'s big league cousins are Kelvim Escobar, Alcides Escobar, José Escobar, Edwin Escobar and Vicente Campos. Angel Escobar, was the first player from La Sabana to play in the Major Leagues, when he suited up for the Giants in 1988. Another brother, Oscar, played in the Minors with the Blue Jays and Pirates. His brother Miguel Escobar is not only Ronald Acuna Sr.'s cousin, he's also his godfather.
Petit once scouted Acuna Sr., but the outfielder signed with the Mets for $15,000 before he could close the deal. Years later, Petit asked for a second opinion on an interesting, but undersized, infielder. But that prospect, Jose Altuve, soon signed with the Astros for $15,000. Petit's own misses reinforced a valuable lesson in international scouting. (Jesse Sanchez- MLB.com-June 30, 2018)
November 2018 : Acuna represented MLB in the All-Star Tour in Japan.
September 22, 2018 : Acuna's first-inning stolen base made him just the fourth player to record at least 25 homers and 15 stolen bases in his age-20 season or younger.
Alex Rodriguez, Orlando Cepeda and Trout are the only other players in this distinguished club. Trout is the most recent player to accomplish the feat in his rookie season. (Mark Bowman- MLB.com)
Acuna's favorite player growing up was Miguel Cabrera. When Acuna was younger, he watched Miguel Cabrera play in Venezuela and compared it to "seeing the president." He liked the way Miggy played with ease.
The two met when they played against one another in Spring Training (2018). Cabrera gave the outfielder a lot of advice -- telling him to stay humble, work hard and listen to those around him.
October 2018: Acuña Jr. was voted Sporting News' 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, as selected by a panel of 192 NL players. SN has given out Rookie of the Year awards since 1946.
October 30, 2018: Acuna was named Baseball Digest's National League Rookie of the Year.
Nov. 12, 2018: Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves won the Jackie Robinson NL Rookie of the Year Award, beating out Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals and Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Acuna, 20, slashed .293/.366/.552 in 111 games (487 plate appearances), with 26 home runs, 64 RBI, a 144 OPS+, .388 wOBA, and 143 wRC+ for the NL East champion Braves.The 20-year-old Soto hit .292/.406/.517 with 22 homers, 70 RBI, a .392 wOBA, 146 wRC+, and 142 OPS+ in 116 games for the Nats.
Jan. 28, 2019: As the 2018 season drew to a close, teams jockeyed for spots in the postseason, players made their final cases for end-of-year awards and -- most importantly -- Topps opened fan voting to select which player would have the honor of being the No. 1 baseball card in their 2019 set.
Nineteen players were on the ballot, including recent winners (Aaron Judge, Kris Bryant and Mike Trout), established superstars (Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper) and rising stars (Juan Soto, Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr.). After leading the Braves to an NL East title and winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award, Acuña emerged victorious. (Cut4-MLB.com)
June 27, 2019: Outfield NL- Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves (1st ASG start): The Braves phenom has followed up his NL Rookie of the Year performance in 2018 with his first career All-Star nod. Acuña rounds out an NL outfield full of young superstars -- Yelich is the oldest at 27, Bellinger is 23 and Acuña is just 21. They're all first-time starters, too. In fact, Acuña will become the first player to start an All-Star Game at age 21 or younger since Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2013. Acuna also participated in the Home Run Derby.
- April 2, 2019: Ronald announced his eight-year, $100 million contract extension, which includes a $17 million option and $10 million buyout for both the 2027 and '28 seasons. If the young outfielder lives up to expectations, the $124 million he would receive over the next 10 years will be viewed as a team-friendly deal.