KISSIMMEE, Fla. — If the Ronald Acuña hype weren’t loud enough, the Braves phenom received what may be the ultimate seal of approval from newly-elected Hall of Famer Chipper Jones.
“He’s as good a prospect as I’ve seen,” the former Atlanta third baseman said after Monday’s first full-squad workout of the spring.
Jones — who was back in uniform serving as a special assistant to baseball operations — didn’t stop there in applauding Baseball America‘s Minor League Player of the Year, or setting the stage for what the 20-year-old Acuña could ultimately mean to the Braves organization.
“The bat stays through the zone a long time. He’s going to make consistent contact,” Jones said. “He’s not quite what Andruw (Jones) was in the outfield … but he’s not far off. I think he’s going to hit more from foul pole to foul pole with damage than Andruw did.
“I’m excited. You’ve got your one cornerstone guy in Freddie (Freeman) and it’s going to be interesting if he can continue to develop and be the second guy.”
Acuña, who hit .325/.374/.522 with 31 doubles, eight triples and 21 home runs and stole 44 bases across three levels in 2017 as a teenager, may not break camp with the Braves.
While there’s the contractual benefits of keeping him down in the minors for even a few weeks to maintain another year of club control. But from the standpoint of talent and approach, here’s nothing from Jones would alter with this phenom.
“As far as me watching him in the cage, he does nothing that I would change,” Jones said. “The ball explodes off his bat, he’s got great bat-path, the bats in the zone along time … you can’t teach that. That’s God-given. Whoever taught him that taught him well. If it ain’t broke, I’m not looking to fix anything that’s not broken.”
Jones recalled seeing Acuña hit for the first time during his stint in Triple-A Gwinnett last season, a solid the outfielder hit off a pitcher who had MLB experience under his belt.
“That was my first at-bat I’d ever seen him and I was sold,” Jones said. “The ball just has that sound (off his bat). I can sit here and I don’t have to watch BP. I can listen to BP and I can tell you who the hitter is and when he makes contact up there at the plate, you know.”