The 2016 season was an eventful one for the Rome Braves. Playing in the South Atlantic League, the Single-A affiliate for the Atlanta Braves boasted tons of talent on the roster. Rome would go on to capture the 2016 SAL Championship on the strength of a dominant rotation all season long.
A number of the players from that 2016 squad have long since been promoted. Some are currently with the big-league club in Atlanta while others wait on the cusp of an MLB debut. Here are some of the most notable names from Rome’s 2016 club.
Where are They Now – 2016 Rome Braves
OF Ronald Acuña Jr.
2016 stats: .311/.387/.432, four home runs, 18 RBI, 46 hits, 27 runs, 14 steals
By now most baseball fans are well aware of the name Ronald Acuña Jr. But before his meteoric rise and impressive rookie campaign, Acuña was crushing in Rome. Rome was Acuña’s second stop of 2016 after spending two games in the Gulf Coast League. While his numbers with Rome did not necessarily jump off the page, he quickly demonstrated that his potential and athletic ability was for real. His power was just beginning to show through alongside an impressive approach, elite speed, and great defense.
Acuña would use his 2016 season as a springboard to a 2017 campaign that saw him rise from Advanced-A to Triple-A in one year. He followed that up with his MLB debut in 2018, going on to win the Rookie of the Year Award. He also became the youngest player ever to hit a grand slam in the postseason. Acuña slashed .293/.366/.552 with 26 home runs, 26 doubles, and 78 runs scored, proving he is a mainstay in Atlanta’s lineup for years to come.
3B Austin Riley
2016 stats: .271/.324/.479, 20 home runs, 39 doubles, 68 runs, 134 hits, 237 total bases
The 2016 campaign turned out to be an early defining career moment for Austin Riley. Teams were split on whether or not Riley should be drafted as a hitter or a pitcher, but the Braves viewed him as a potential slugger when they drafted him in 2015. After a forgettable first half in 2016, Riley turned things around in the second half as the anchor of Rome’s offense. He led the team in hits, home runs, doubles, RBI, and total bases while finishing third in runs and third in slugging percentage.
Riley’s progression through Atlanta’s system has been much steadier, though an injury slowed him in 2018. He still managed to slash .282/.346/.464 with 12 home runs and 17 doubles at Triple-A Gwinnett. With the one-year signing of Josh Donaldson, it appears likely Riley will spend more time in the minors throughout 2019. However, do not be surprised if Atlanta tries his glove in left field this spring in an effort to find room for him as soon as possible.
2016 stats: .274/.387/.381, six home runs, nine triples, 15 doubles, 131 hits, 95 runs, 37 steals
Ray-Patrick Didder spent all of 2016 at Rome while serving as an intriguing prospect due to his speed. He served as the leadoff man and table-setter for Rome’s offense, leading the team in runs and steals while finishing second in hits. His 95 runs in 2016 remain the most for a Rome player since Jason Heyward scored 88 in 2008. The lack of power was certainly an issue, but his solid glove work and tantalizing speed were enough to keep an eye on.
Unfortunately, Didder has not made much progress through the system in the two seasons since Rome’s championship. His numbers took a step back while playing at Advanced-A Florida in 2017 and again at the start of 2018. However, his numbers rebounded a bit following a mid-season promotion to Double-A Mississippi. Didder has also changed positions to shortstop, effectively increasing his versatility. He will likely never become a starter in MLB, but his speed with positional versatility could pave the way for a bench role in the future. Proving his Double-A numbers from 2018 was no fluke should be a primary goal for Didder headed into 2019.
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