Luisangel Acuña: Small Is the New Mighty
Prospect Spotlight: Luisangel Acuña
Position: SS (2B/CF)
Rangers Organization Ranking: 6 (BA)
Scouting Grades*: Hit: 55/Power: 50/Speed: 55/Fielding: 60/Arm: 60
Future Value**: 55
By now, you have almost certainly heard of Frisco shortstop Luisangel Acuña. Perhaps, you know him by another name, Jose. One thing that we all know, however, is his relation to current Braves superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. While we think of Luisangel as being the less-heralded, younger sibling, the Venezuelan was actually signed to a bonus four times larger than that of his brother. Acuña is currently listed as a Rangers’ top-10 prospect across all publications, and while that potential is not unexpected, his recent ascent is eerily familiar.
Ronald Acuña Jr. put up a respectable .818 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) through 201 at-bats as a 17 year old in rookie ball. He followed that up with an equally good .821 OPS over 154 at-bats between rookie and Low-A at age 18. What happened next is what put Ronald on the path to stardom. At the age of 19, across three levels (A+, AA, AAA) and 600+ at bats, Ronald posted a very strong .896 OPS with 21 homers. Against players years his senior, Junior was knocking on the door of the Majors. Next season, at 20, Ronald spent a month or so in AAA before getting the call and remaining a stalwart in the Braves’ lineup ever since.
Luisangel Acuña also began his career as a 17 year old in rookie ball. While scouts determined he lacked the star potential – and size (Ronald is 6’, 200lbs, where Luisangel is roughly 5’8”, 185lbs) – they praised his swing, speed, arm, and defense. Luisangel put up an .896 OPS over 202 at bats in the Dominican Summer League. This is where things change a bit, but only for a short period of time. His impressive debut gave credibility to his bat, but also raised some questions about his potential defensive fit. His instincts were solid, his arm was great, but his glove was hit or miss, with a little too much miss. Compounding these questions was the fact that he had not made it to the states yet, field quality was variable, and he wouldn’t see competitive baseball for almost 20 months.
Luisangel had established himself as a player to watch, but without games to play, there was a lot of uncertainty. His age-18 year was wiped out, a very important year of development for a young kid who had never played in the states as a professional. In 2021, his age 19 season saw him come to the states, skip rookie ball, and post a moderately successful .749 OPS over 400+ at bats for the DEWDs in Kinston. Acuña was over 2 years younger than the average Low-A player, and held his own. He showed a bit of power with 12 home runs, and the speed was in full display, swiping 44 bags over 55 attempts. More importantly, to some, he answered the questions about his long-term position with an excellent year defensively, earning the Rangers’ organization defensive player of the year honors.
As Luisangel entered his 3rd development year, acknowledging the year lost due to the COVID pandemic, as a 20 year old, he still found himself at High-A with the DEWDs. Ronald made the leap from nice prospect to potential stud in his 3rd year, and Luisangel, so far, has done the same. Through 240+ at-bats across High-A Down East and AA Frisco, Luisangel has put up an .884 OPS, very similar to the number posted by Ronald in his 3rd year of development. He has 9 home runs, 29 stolen bases out of 35 attempts, and is flirting with the coveted .300/.400/.500 slash line. If the season ends the way it’s gone so far, we could be looking at another potential MLB Top-100 prospect for the Rangers. In addition to his offensive profile, he has the ability to stay at SS, or play any number of positions on defense, including CF.
Luisangel Acuña is not his brother. He is smaller, not as highly regarded, and doesn’t have a decidedly clear path to Arlington, as Corey Seager and Marcus Semien currently hold the middle infield positions. What he does have, however, is a plus arm and glove in addition to the athleticism and speed to play the outfield. Despite his size, many scouts believe that his power rates as average, which in and of itself is quite a testament to his deceptive strength. Luisangel has the potential for 20 homers year in and year out, 20+ steals, and a good rate of getting on base. He is still a year and a half away, and that’s on the assumption that things continue going just as well as they have been up to this point.
Of all of the things that excite me about Luisangel, my favorite is the way he plays the game. He plays with exuberance, he gets the most out of his frame, and he has swagger. He wears solid yellow gear at the plate. The “Acuña Jr.” that graces his elbow guard is certainly earned when you see his stance and swing, as it is a carbon copy of his brother’s. Luisangel is going to make a name for himself to no longer just be Ronald’s younger brother. I believe, for whatever that’s worth, that he has the potential to be something just a little more familiar.
*Scouting grades are on the 20-80 scale. 50 is considered Average, 55 is Above-Average, and 60 is Plus.
**Future Value grade is on the 20-80 scale. 55 is considered an Above-Average Regular, equating to between 2.5 and 3.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) per year.