Acuna blasts off in stellar G-Braves debut

Atlanta's No. 7 prospect goes deep, reaches base four times

Ronald Acuna is hitting .317 with 13 home runs and 51 RBIs over 86 games across three levels this season. (Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights)

By Alex Kraft / MiLB.com | July 13, 2017 9:20 PM ET

Watching Ronald Acuna play, Triple-A Gwinnett coach John Moses can't help but think of another famously precocious outfielder.

"I just get the feeling when the pitcher is about ready to release the ball, it's almost like he can tell exactly where the ball is going to go. He has that instinct, a lot like when I was over with [Ken] Griffey Jr.," said Moses, who served as a first-base and outfield coach with Seattle from 1998 to 2003. "He was the same way with it, especially when he was younger. He could recognize the pitch right out of the pitcher's hand."

Atlanta's No. 7 prospect started to live up to the lofty comparison in his Triple-A debut. Acuna collected three hits, including a home run, scored three times and plated two runs in the Gwinnett's 13-4 thumping of Charlotte at BB&T Ballpark.

Penciled in at the top of the order, Acuna seemed to battle nerves and a difficult glare from the late-evening sun as he fanned on four pitches in his first at-bat against Knights starter Tyler Danish. The native of Venezuela adjusted when he came to the plate against Danish in the third, hammering a 1-0 pitch over the right-field wall for his first International League home run. The solo shot was his 13th dinger of the year.

Video: Gwinnett's Acuna hits first Triple-A homer

The 6-foot, 180-pound outfielder laced an RBI single to center in the fifth. After walking in the sixth, he singled to left in the seventh to cap his 13th game of the season with at least three hits. He lined out to first in the ninth, and Moses liked what he saw overall from his new charge.

"I was real proud of him the way he handled himself," the hitting coach said. "He came in and was aggressive at the plate and got some good pitches from his second at-bat on."

Ranked as MLB.com's No. 86 overall prospect, Acuna compiled a .326/.374/.520 slash line in 57 games with Double-A Mississippi after batting .287/.336/.478 in 28 games with Class A Advanced Florida to start the season. At the time of his promotion to Triple-A, the 2014 international signee sat second in the Southern League batting race -- one point behind Jacksonville's Braxton Lee -- and third in OPS (.895) and stolen bases (19).


Gameday box score


The 19-year-old's rapid rise has not come as much of a surprise to Moses.

"We were all hoping he was going to get off to the start that he did and carry himself on to Double-A, and now he's in Triple-A," he said. "Who knows how long he's going to be here? If he keeps hitting the ball the way he's hitting, I see a bright future."

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While Acuna remains an unfinished product -- defense, in particular, will be a point of emphasis with the G-Braves -- the teen has provided a stellar first impression.

"He's 19 years old and what we've seen right now has been very impressive," Moses said.

Sean Kazmar made personal history as well, finishing 3-for-6 with a career-high six RBIs. The 32-year-old infielder plated Acuna with a bases-loaded double in the sixth and a three-run homer in the seventh.

"Sean is just a great player," Moses said. "This guy can do it all. He knows how to play the game. He helps the younger kids and what a great guy to have in the clubhouse. Any time somebody of his stature does well, you love it."

Video: G-Braves' Kazmar hits three-run shot

Atlanta's 17th-ranked prospect Dustin Peterson went 3-for-4 with a solo blast.

Gwinnett starter Matt Wisler (5-5) earned his fourth win in five starts. The right-hander surrendered two runs on six hits and two walks with eight punchouts over seven innings.

Danish (2-8) allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out seven over five frames.

MLB.com's No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada finished 2-for-3 and drove in a run for the Knights.

Alex Kraft is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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