While Braves Nation stews and awaits more news on Ronald Acuna’s injured arm, here’s something to cheer them up: Cristian Pache. Acuna – recklessly drilled by Miami’s Jose Urena on Wednesday night – is the current big thing in Atlanta; Pache, now playing center field and leading off for the Mississippi Braves, might be the Next Big Thing. The 19-year-old Pache, rated the Braves’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, is batting .327 in 12 games for the Double-A M-Braves. He drew a bases-loaded walk in the 10th inning on Wednesday to give the team a 3-2 win over Chattanooga at Trustmark Park. He has yet to homer or steal a base but those will come. Pache is 6 feet 2, 185 pounds with plus speed (32 stolen bases in A-ball in 2017) and developing power (eight homers in A-ball this season). Some consider the Dominican Republic native the best defensive center fielder in the minors. The Braves’ prospect chart is dominated by an armada of arms that seems to get most of the hype, but there are some position players of note. In addition to Pache, there’s former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley at Triple-A Gwinnett and outfielder Drew Waters and catcher William Contreras at Class A Florida. All in all, it’s a good time to be a Braves fan.
Ronald Acuna didn’t waste much time producing a wow moment for the Mississippi Braves. First at-bat. First pitch. Boom. Home run. Acuna was named Baseball America’s minor league player of the year today, capping a season that saw the 19-year-old Venezuela native dominate at three levels of pro ball. He started at high-A Florida and finished at Triple-A Gwinnett, batting .325 with 21 homers and 82 RBIs combined. In his Double-A debut on May 9, he went 3-for-4 with that jaw-dropping homer and three RBIs. He played only 56 more games for the M-Braves, moving up after batting .326 with nine homers, 30 RBIs and 19 steals. He goes 6 feet, 180 pounds and can play center or right field. Atlanta will have to make room for him in its outfield in 2018. … This is the fourth time a Jackson area Double-A player (JADAP) has earned BA’s minor league POY award. Gregg Jefferies won it twice, in 1986 and ’87, after spending part of both of those seasons with the Jackson Mets. Former M-Braves star Jason Heyward, who blew through Pearl much like Acuna did, took the honor in 2009.
New level, no problem for Atlanta prospects Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley went 2-for-4 in his Double-A debut with the Mississippi Braves on Thursday night, while Acuna, promoted from the M-Braves to Triple-A Gwinnett, homered and added two more hits for the G-Braves. Riley, a first-round supplemental pick in 2015, is rated the No. 11 prospect in Atlanta’s system by Baseball America and No. 12 by MLB Pipeline. The 20-year-old played third base and batted third for the M-Braves in a 2-0 win at Pensacola. He was batting .252 with 12 homers at high Class A Florida after belting 20 bombs at low-A Rome in 2016. Travis Demeritte, also regarded as a prospect, moved back to second base from third in Thursday’s game for the M-Braves; Demeritte has 11 homers but is hitting just .211. (The M-Braves’ next home game is July 19.) In Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, the 19-year-old Acuna, BA’s No. 10 overall prospect, played right field and batted leadoff in the G-Braves’ 13-4 victory. After fanning in his first at-bat, he went yard in his second. He scored three times and drove in two runs. Acuna, who began this season with the high-A Florida club, hit .326 with nine homers – including a shot over the Trustmark Park batter’s eye on Tuesday – 30 RBIs and 19 steals in 57 games for the M-Braves. He played in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. The Braves may be considering adding Acuna to the big league roster if they are still in the playoff hunt in the season’s final weeks. He could be a difference-maker.
Time for a new challenge — already — for Ronald Acuna, one of the top prospects in Atlanta’s loaded minor league system. The 19-year-old Venezuelan is expected to debut for the Double-A Mississippi Braves tonight at Trustmark Park. A 6-foot, 180-pound center fielder, Acuna was batting .287 with three homers, 19 RBIs, five triples and 14 steals through 28 games at high Class A Florida. He played at low A Rome in 2016, batting .311 with four homers and 14 steals in 40 games. He is a consensus top 10 prospect in Atlanta’s system and is rated No. 92 overall by MLB Pipeline. Acuna’s “ceiling is as high as anyone’s in the (Braves) system,” MLB Pipeline writes.