If you haven’t heard of the name Ronald Acuna yet, get ready. The 19-year old Venezuelan outfielder was just named Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America after hitting .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs and 44 steals across three levels of minor league ball for the Braves this year. He is the prototypical five-tool player, blending speed, power, hitting ability, range, and arm all in one player. And he isn’t even old enough to legally drink yet.
The Royals’ farm system has taken a beating in recent years due to graduations, trades, and poor drafts. But just imagine if they had Acuna headlining the farm system. It almost happened!
Acuna wasn’t a top prospect coming out of Venezuela, but the Royals were one of the teams that saw something in him. And he nearly signed with him. As Baseball America reports:
In fact, when Acuna woke up the morning of July 2, 2014, the first day of the signing period, he planned to sign with another team, for even less money.
“I was going to sign with the Royals," Acuna said. “But that same day, the Braves called and offered me more money. So, I decided to sign with the Braves."
The Braves offered $100,000, a lot for a prospect, but certainly nowhere near what the top prospects get. As Baseball America reports, 200 players received bonuses larger than Acuna’s that year. Acuna doesn’t say if he gave the Royals a chance to counter-offer.
A lot of prospect in Latin America are “lottery tickets” - super high upside, but very little certainty as to whether they will reach that upside. The Royals have signed stars like Yordano Ventura and Salvador Perez for very low bonuses, while they gave $3 million to Elier Hernandez, a prospect whose future remains very much in doubt.
While you can’t really blame the Royals for not offering more - no one knew the kid would be this good - it does hurt knowing that Acuna could have been in a Royals uniform.