Braves promote star OF prospect Ronald Acuna to Triple-A Gwinnett

Mar 12, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Ronald Acuna (89) slides home to score a run as New York Yankees catcher Austin Romine (27) attempted to tag him out during the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Acuna keeps climbing.

The Atlanta Braves promoted the 19-year-old outfield prospect to Triple-A Gwinnett days after he slashed .313/.361/.506 with nine home runs for Double-A Mississippi as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. Now, the five-tool Venezuelan product will be the youngest player in the International League – and just one step away from making his major-league debut.

Acuna’s climb up prospect rankings industry-wide — he is ranked 9th-best overall by ESPN and 11th-best by Baseball Prospectus in their latest midseason rankings — coincides with his impressive showings against various levels of competition over the past year, from the minor-league ranks to the Australian League this winter to spring training.

He joined Mississippi teammate and fellow teenager Mike Soroka in the Futures Game this past Sunday.

Between High-A and Double-A this season, Acuna has hit 12 home runs and stolen 33 bases in 85 games played. He looks poised to follow in the footsteps of past and present Braves homegrown standouts Andruw Jones, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman who made their MLB debuts before turning 21.

The promotion underscores the Braves’ aggressiveness with top prospects this season but also raises the question: Is Acuna close to breaking into the major-league roster? The Braves are locked into their current outfield of Nick Markakis, Matt Kemp and All-Star center fielder Ender Inciarte through next season, but the rapid ascension of Acuna could push the Braves to free up a spot sooner rather than later.

With Acuna and infield prospect Ozzie Albies, now the second-youngest player in the International League, Atlanta’s youth movement is right around the corner.