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Top 25 Mets Prospects for 2024: Luisangel Acuña (3)

Next on our list is an infielder.

Amazin Avenue Prospect List

Name: Luisangel Acuña
Position: INF
Born: 3/12/2002
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Trade (July 30, 2023: Traded by the Texas Rangers to the New York Mets for Max Scherzer and cash)
2023 Stats: 121 G, 510 AB, .294/.359/.410, 150 H, 28 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 52 BB, 106 K, 57/67 SB, .351 BABIP (Double-A)

When the 2018-2019 international rookie signing period began on July 2, 2018, the Texas Rangers gave Jose Rodriguez, a 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher, a $2 million dollar signing bonus, the highest they gave that year. Following his bonus, they gave out roughly similar bonuses to a handful of infielders, $425,000 to Venezuelan Luisangel Acuña and $385,000 and $300,000 Dominican infielders John Mejia, and Junior Paniagua, respectively.

Acuña’s brother, Ronald Jr., was considered one of the best prospects in baseball, if not the best. Just prior to his brother signing a contract, he made his Major League debut with the Braves and was hitting .265/.326/.453 with 5 home runs, 2 stolen bases, and 10 walks to 37 strikeouts in 29 games with the Braves as the ink was drying. Atlanta signed the eventual 2018 National League Rookie of the Year and 2023 National League Most Valuable Player for just $100,000, owing to concerns about his size- 5’10”, 160-pounds- and a lack of standout, carrying tools at the time. While the natural inflation of salaries and bonuses thanks to the of profitability of baseball and the vast sums of cash teams were generating certainly had an impact on Luisangel Acuña receiving roughly four times as much as his older brother, the Acuña name clearly carried some weight.

When Ronald Jr. signed, it seemingly did not. Their father, Ronald Acuña Sr., was a farmhand primarily for the Mets, and for a single season apiece, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit a cumulative .282/.330/.364 over 8 seasons in the late-90s and early-2000s, progressing as high as Double-A. His progression as a baseball player did not inspire scouts and evaluators to believe Ronald Jr. was headed for greatness. Despite being smaller and less dynamic than his older brother, Luisangel benefited from his success.

The Rangers assigned Acuña to their Dominican Summer League team in 2019 and the 17-year-old appeared in 51 games and hit an impressive .342/.438/.455 in 51 games, with 11 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 17 stolen bases in 23 attempts, and 34 walks to 26 strikeouts. He missed the 2020 season because of the cancellation of the minor league season, but scouts and evaluators came away impressed watching him during the 2020 instructional league at the end of the year. When minor league baseball returned in 2021, Acuña was assigned to the Down East Wood Ducks, Texas’ Low-A affiliate in the Low-A East. Appearing in 111 games, he hit .266/.345/.404 with 15 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, 44 stolen bases in 55 attempts, and 49 walks to 110 strikeouts.

In 2022, the 20-year-old began his season with the Hickory Crawdads, the Rangers’ High-A affiliate in the South Atlantic League. An injury caused him to miss roughly the first month of the season, but when he returned to the field, he hit like a man on a mission. From the beginning of May until the end of July, he appeared in 53 games and hit .319/.418/.485 with 10 doubles, 8 home runs, 28 stolen bases in 34 attempts, and 34 walks to 60 strikeouts. At the beginning of August, he was promoted to Double-A Frisco ended his season there, hitting .224/.302/.349 in 37 games with 6 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs, 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts, and 17 walks to 36 strikeouts. After the season, he did yeoman’s work in the Arizona Fall League and stood out to scouts and evaluators as one of the best all-around players in the league. All in all, the infielder hit .271/.363/.416 in 95 games, with 17 doubles, 2 triples, 11 home runs, 41 stolen bases in 50 attempts, and 53 walks to 99 strikeouts, solidifying himself not only as one of the better prospects in the Texas Rangers farm system, but one of the best in it.

While the infielder struggled a bit upon his promotion to Double-A Frisco in 2022, that was not the case in 2023. He began the year with the RoughRiders and through 84 games hit .315/.377/.453 with 25 doubles, 2 triples, 7 home runs, 42 steals in 47 attempts, and 37 walks to 76 strikeouts. On July 30, the Mets traded Max Scherzer to the Rangers along with $35 million in cash and received Acuña in return. He was assigned to Double-A Binghamton and appeared in 37 games for the Rumble Ponies, hitting .243/.317/.304 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 15 stolen bases in 20 attempts, and 15 walks to 30 strikeouts. He had an injury scare at the end of the season, getting hit by a pitch in the head by Somerset Patriots right-hander Zach Messinger in mid-September, but left the game on his own power and even played in a handful of games to end the season. All in all, Acuña appeared in 121 games for both Double-A teams and hit a cumulative .294/.359/.410 with 28 doubles, 2 triples, 9 home runs, 57 stolen bases in 67 attempts, and 52 walks to 106 strikeouts.

At the plate, Acuña stands square, holding his hands high and angling his bat up almost perpendicular to the ground. He uses a moderate leg kick and has a swing very reminiscent of his brother’s. Unlike Ronald Jr., who hit .337/.416/.596 in 2023 with 41 home runs, 73 stolen bases, and 80 walks to 84 strikeouts, Luisangel’s game seems more closely related to their cousin, Alcides Escobar, who hit .258/.295/.345 with 45 home runs, 178 stolen bases, and 253 walks to 864 strikeouts over the course of his 13-year career. He hits the ball hard and has more raw power than his 5’8” frame would suggest, but he saps most of this potential power by hitting the ball on the ground and/or shooting the ball to the opposite field too often. He has enough hand-eye coordination to result in solid bat-to-ball skills but needs to improve his swing decisions to improve his overall offensive output; while spraying the ball around the field and relying on his speed to leg out hits against minor league defenses has worked thus far, against better competition in the majors, this modus operandi is unlikely to work. He also can get a little aggressive and unnecessarily expand the zone, especially against breaking balls, resulting in unnecessary strikeouts or poor contact.

Speed is Luisangel’s carrying tool. He is a plus runner who was successful on 57 of 67 stolen base attempts in 2023 and has at least 40 stolen bases to his credit in each of his three full seasons. For his career, he is 158 for 194, an 81% success rate, and stateside, he is 141 for 171, an 82% success rate. In addition to it helping him on the basepaths, Acuña is an excellent defender as a result. He is rangy, has clean actions, and a solid arm at both shortstop and second base. Most scouts and evaluators find his reaction times and first step a bit slow for shortstop, finding him a better defensive player at second, but he is far from a liability. He Texas Rangers experimented with him in center field for a handful of games in 2023, but the experiment did not last long. Based on his strengths, Acuña certainly has the tools to play center, but given his lack of experience, his read of the ball off the bat and the routes he takes would be extremely raw at the point in his career and would need to be worked on.