It had not been the greatest of starts for Ronald Acuña Jr., the highest-ranked prospect currently playing in the Minor Leagues, but he showed Tuesday that the tide might be turning.Atlanta's top prospect bashed his first homer of the season and added a single and a walk as Triple-A Gwinnett
It had not been the greatest of starts for Ronald Acuña Jr., the highest-ranked prospect currently playing in the Minor Leagues, but he showed Tuesday that the tide might be turning.
Atlanta's top prospect bashed his first homer of the season and added a single and a walk as Triple-A Gwinnett took down the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, 8-3, at Coolray Field. Acuna's two-run shot off southpaw Josh Rogers also marked his first RBIs of the year.
MLB.com's second-ranked prospect had just five hits -- only one for extra bases, a double -- in his first 36 at-bats this season.
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Acuna made a bid for the Opening Day roster after batting .325 with seven homers, 22 runs and 16 RBIs in 23 games in the Arizona Fall League, earning MVP honors in the process. He followed that with a monstrous spring in which he went 19-for-44 (.432) with four homers and 11 RBIs in the Grapefruit League.
"I think the biggest thing with him is he's just trying too hard," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker told MLB.com. "He's pressing. He'll be fine. We had these guys ready to play and then they were down for nine days. Then they get bad weather and had games canceled. They haven't had any routine at all."
His early-season struggles have given the Braves a reason to keep him in the Minors, but he may not be down for long. Keeping Acuna off the Major League roster beyond last Friday gave Atlanta an extra full season of contract control before the 20-year-old would be arbitration eligible.
"He's human," Snitker said. "He wants to do well. He's a young kid who is very talented. He's not the only one down there who is feeling that way. I don't think there is anything to worry about."
The native of Venezuela led off the game with a line-drive single that he tried to stretch into a double but was cut down at second by RailRiders left fielder Zack Zehner.
After a flyout to right in the third, Acuna followed a bunt single by Chris Stewart in the fifth with the long ball on the second offering from Rogers. The 36-year-old Stewart finished 4-for-4 with a double, a pair of RBIs and two runs scored in front of Acuna in the No. 9 spot.
Acuna was not able to pitch in during the Stripers' four-run sixth, striking out for the 15th time this season against righty reliever Cale Coshow. In the eighth, he drew a six-pitch walk off veteran lefty Oliver Pérez before scoring on a double by Johan Camargo.
Mike Soroka allowed three earned runs on six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over five innings for Gwinnett. The Braves' third-ranked prospect sports a 2.87 ERA in three starts spanning 15 2/3 innings.
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4.