Edwin Encarnacion joins the 40-homer club

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For the third straight season the Blue Jays have a 40-homer hitter, as Edwin Encarnacion went deep last night for the 40th time after Jose Bautista reached that mark in both 2010 and 2011.

Encarnacion has always had a ton of offensive upside, especially in terms of power potential, so much so that the Reds and Blue Jays lived with his mostly awful defense for seven years waiting for him to have a breakout season. And yet prior to this year he was a lifetime .260 hitter with a .789 OPS and career-high of 26 homers in 2008.

Now he has 40 homers in 138 games, along with a .279 batting average and .946 OPS that ranks third in the American League. And his defense is no longer an issue, because Toronto has used Encarnacion at first base and designated hitter.

Josh Hamilton leads baseball with 41 homers this season and at least a few other hitters from a group that includes Ryan Braun, Adam Dunn, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Giancarlo Stanton figure to crack 40 homers by the end of the season. For now, though, Encarnacion is just the fifth right-handed hitter to reach 40 homers during the past six seasons, joining Bautista (twice), Albert Pujols (twice), Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Reynolds.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.