Meet the 20-year-old future star who beat out Shohei Ohtani as MLB's top prospect

Big League Stew
Braves prospect Ronald Acuna was named the No. 1 prospect in MLB this season by Baseball America. (Getty Images)
Braves prospect Ronald Acuna was named the No. 1 prospect in MLB this season by Baseball America. (Getty Images)

Baseball America has named its top Major League Baseball prospect for the 2018 season and — somewhat surprisingly — it’s not Shohei Ohtani, the most hyped newcomer of the offseason.

Ohtani, the 23-year-old from Japan who can play both ways as a pitcher and hitter, actually finished at No. 2 on Baseball America’s list. He chose to sign with the Los Angeles Angels in December and will undoubtedly be one of the biggest names to watch in 2018, but he’s not the top prospect in the game, according to Baseball America.

So who dethroned him? It’s speedy Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, a 20-year-old who hit .344 in 54 Triple-A games last season. If you already knew Acuna’s name, then you’re an astute baseball fan (or fantasy baseball player already looking for the next great youngster). Acuna was signed by the Braves when he was a 16-year-old in Venezuela.

To reach No. 1, Acuna jumped up from No. 67 last year at this time and No. 10 on the midseason list. That’s because of a fantastic 2017 season in which he moved from Single-A to Triple-A and compiled a .325/.374/.522 slash line across three levels. He also stole 44 bases, hit 21 homers and drove in 82 runs. Acuna hasn’t made his MLB debut yet, but that can’t be too far off.

Here is Baseball America’s full Top 10 list. If you want to go deeper, head here for the Top 100.

1. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
2. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/DH, Los Angeles Angels
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
4. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox
5. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
6. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
7. Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
8. Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
9. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
10. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

A few notes:
• There are three second-generation stars in Vlad Jr., Bichette and Tatis Jr.

• The Blue Jays have two players in the Top 10, the White Sox are the next team to have two, as pitcher Michael Kopech ranked No. 11.

• Baseball America has Gleyber Torres listed as a shortstop, but the Yankees’ coveted prospect could have a chance to make the big-league team as either a second baseman or third baseman as well. Torres missed half of the 2017 season because he needed Tommy John surgery (yes, position players need it sometimes too), otherwise he’d probably rank higher on the list. He’s expected to be ready for spring training.

 

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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