Braves: Acuña plays a big role in recruiting international prospects

Braves: Ronald Acuña All Star Selection 2022

While the Braves boast one of the weakest farm systems in baseball, it shouldn’t last long. Atlanta is as good as any club at acquiring and developing talent. Hell, Michael Harris and Spencer Strider were never top prospects on any rankings. Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Kyle Wright, AJ Minter, and others were all groomed by the Braves and are making significant impacts at the major league level.

Moreover, the organization isn’t just excellent at developing talent; the Braves are world-renowned because of international stars like Acuna. The team’s director of Latin American scouting Jonathan Cruz told The Athletic that Braves scouts can go to Venezuela and immediately have a prospects’ interest because of Ronald Acuna Jr.

“He does have a great impact on that, and I think it’s easier for Venezuelan players to identify themselves with us,” said Cruz, via The Athletic. “And because we understand the Venezuelan player so well, we’ve just had a better process here the last couple of years.

He went even further to say that international prospects see themselves as Atlanta Braves because of the Venezuelan superstar.

“But, yeah, when it comes to negotiating with these kids, they see themselves as Braves because they love Acuña.”

This immediately showed up in the 2023 class of international free agent signings. Venezuelan Luis Guanipa is the star of the class, receiving a $2.5 million bonus.

Guanipa is a highly touted prospect with an impressive combination of speed and power. He’s only 17, so we won’t see him for a few years, if we do at all. Many of these signings are considered lottery tickets, but Guanipa is among the most highly touted of them all. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about Luis Guanipa — their 10th-ranked prospect:

There are few players in this class who can match Guanipa’s combination of power and speed. He has a strong, compact frame with explosive athleticism, which is evident in the way he moves in center field with plus-plus speed, albeit with a below-average arm. That explosiveness also shows up at the plate, as Guanipa generates impressive bat speed combined with significant strength gains over the last two years that has led to plus raw power. Guanipa often trains at the professional stadium in Margarita, and he shows the ability to hit balls out of the park to all fields. While his swing once had a bigger hitch to it, he has toned that down, showing more fluidity and better balance in the box.

Moreover, the Braves signed two other Venezuelan prospects. Carlos Monteverde received the Braves next largest bonus at $600K, and Jeremy Reyes signed for $240K. In last year’s international free agent cycle, the Braves gave Venezuelan shortstop Diego Benítez a $2.5 million bonus and Venezuelan outfielder Douglas Glod $1.3 million.

It’s amazing what Ronald Acuna does for the Braves organization, on and off the field.

“He’s [Luis Guanipa] ecstatic,” Cruz said. “I think Acuña has a lot of impact on not just our players, but every player in Venezuela. He has that effect. I think he’s the face of Venezuelan baseball right now. Acuña sells.”

Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire

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