By Joe Frisaro
Some players are born with the ability to hit. Others may be gifted with game-changing speed or power.
Atlanta Braves’ outfield sensation, Ronald Acuna Jr., was blessed with the ability to do it all.
Experts often toss around the term, “five-tool player.” But how many truly are? Many fall well short of that lofty title.
Not Acuna. The 23-year-old is the complete package, and the scary part is his career is just getting started.
A native of La Guaira, Venezuela, Acuna is a protégé, destined for greatness at an early age. Acuna’s father, Ronald Sr., and grandfather, Romualdo Blanco, both played Minor League ball. His father represented Venezuela in the 2011 Pan Am Games.
Acuna made his MLB debut on April 25, 2018, at the age of 20-years, 128-days. He went on to become the National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, posting a .293 batting average with 26 home runs and 64 RBIs. He swiped 16 bases in the process.
In 2019, he was an All-Star and paced the league in stolen bases (37). Acuna also has been a Silver Slugger the past two years.
The baseball bloodlines run deep in the Acuna family. His younger brother, Luisangel, is in the Texas Rangers’ farm system. His uncle, Jose Escobar, played for the Cleveland Indians in 1991, and he has a number of cousins who have played pro ball.
Thus far, his career is filled with “firsts,” mostly connected to his still comparatively young age.
When the Braves promoted him to the big leagues in 2018, he was the youngest active player in the league. His first big league hit came that same night, off Kevin Shackelford of the Cincinnati Reds.
In the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Acuna became the youngest player in MLB history to hit a postseason grand slam. The blast off Walker Buehler came with Acuna at 20-years, 293-days old.
Signed as an international free agent by the Braves in 2014, Acuna really started opening eyes in 2016, playing for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League. In 2017, he played all nine innings for the World Team in the Futures Game.
That offseason, Acuna tore up the Arizona Fall League, hitting .325 with seven home runs for the Peoria Javelinas. He was named MVP of the AFL.
In the Minor Leagues, Acuna wore No. 24 in honor of Venezuelan superstar, Miguel Cabrera.
Sporting No. 13 now, Acuna is carving his own path to greatness.
Joe Frisaro enters his 20th season covering Major League Baseball. The past 19, he was the Miami Marlins site reporter for MLB.com (2002-2020). Frisaro has 38 years of professional sports writing experience. His latest venture is his baseball/social media web site: www.ManOnSecondBaseball.com. Follow Joe on Twitter @ManOn2nd and @JoeFrisaro