- David O'Brien The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Braves prospects Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, Alex Jackson and Max Fried all were among the 23 named to the Arizona Fall League’s Top Prospects Team as selected by AFL managers and coaches.
The Braves and Yankees dominated the team with four selections apiece, the two organizations accounting for more than one-third of the top prospects from the annual prospect-laden fall league that includes talent from all 30 major league franchises.
Acuna, one of the youngest players in the league – he turns 20 until Dec. 18 – was named MVP after leading the AFL in home runs (seven), extra-base hits (12), runs (22) and total bases (53) and batting .325 (27-for-83) with a .414 OBP and the league’s second-best slugging percentage (.639) and OPS (1.053).
A dynamic five-tool outfielder, Acuna was earlier named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and will likely be ranked first or second among all prospects entering the 2018 season.
Acuna is expected to compete for a spot on the Braves’ opening-day roster, unless the team decides to keep him in Triple-A for part of April to assure another year of contractual control before free agency.
Riley, a 20-year-old third basemen from Southaven, Miss., led the AFL with a .657 slugging percentage and had three homers in his final nine games to finish second to Acuna with six homers. He tied for the extra-base hits lead with 12 and hit .300 with a .364 OBP despite 21 strikeouts in 70 at-bats.
Riley also hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, homer) in one AFL game.
Jackson, completing a successful first season back at his old catching position, hit .263 with five doubles, five homers, 16 RBIs and a .513 slugging percentage in 20 games in the fall league. He’ll turn 22 on Christmas Day.
A former Mariners first-round draft pick, Jackson came to the Braves in a November 2016 trade for minor league pitchers Rob Whalen and Max Povse. Jackson had struggled for 2 ½ seasons as a converted outfielder with Mariners rookie-league and Single-A affiliates, but the move back behind the plate and a fresh start with a new organization helped him restore his prospect status in 2017.
Fried, the only one of the Braves AFL prospects with major league experience, led the fall league with 32 strikeouts in 26 innings and went 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA in six starts. He also ranked first among starters with a .163 opponents’ average, was second in fewest baserunners allowed per nine innings (7.96) and allowed one or no runs in five of six starts.
The Braves’ prospects played for the Peoria Javelinas, who won the AFL championship.