Luisangel Acuña of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies celebratesafter a win over the...

Luisangel Acuña of the Binghamton Rumble Ponies celebratesafter a win over the Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, N.J., on Tuesday. Credit: Ed Murray

At the top of the lineup and in rightfield, Atlanta boasts a bona fide five-tool star, a franchise pillar, the sort of talent a club can — and did — build around: Ronald Acuna Jr.

Acuna is a leading NL MVP candidate and a major reason Atlanta has the best record in the majors. He went 0-for-4 on Friday night as Atlanta beat the Mets, 7-0, in the opener of a four-games-in-three-days series at Citi Field, but his numbers entering the night were video game-like: 1.007 OPS, 26 homers, 53 steals, 70 RBIs, 101 runs scored.

But for the Mets’ top prospect, Acuna is something else entirely: a role model — and a brother.

Turning a division rivalry into a potential sibling rivalry is among the ripple effects of the Mets’ trade-deadline teardown. They received Luisangel Acuna — their new top minor-leaguer, according to updated rankings from Baseball America and MLB Pipeline — from the Texas Rangers for ace Max Scherzer.

“I want to get to that level, the one that my brother’s at. Just because everything that he does is super-impressive,” Luisangel Acuna said through an interpreter this week in Bridgewater, New Jersey, where Double-A Binghamton was playing. “I look up to my brother. I’ve obviously learned a lot from him, him being a superstar in the game. I consider him being a part of my career because he’s always been there for me.”

Luisangel is four years younger (21 to 25), plays a different position (middle infield) and is not quite as highly regarded as a prospect (in part because Ronald set the bar so high). But the family resemblance, to be sure, is there — in their faces, in their yellow accessories when batting, in their proclivity for stealing bases and ability to hit the ball hard.

If Luisangel becomes the caliber of player who loosely approaches what Ronald is for Atlanta, that would register as a win for the Mets.


The elder’s advice?

“To continue working hard, to continue doing whatever I need to do,” Luisangel said. “He always tells me, ‘We’ll see each other in the big leagues.’ ”

Ronald Acuna Jr. declined interview requests about his brother before Friday’s game. But based on Luisangel’s insights, they seem to be close.

They talk constantly, he said, including a daily debrief on their most recent on-field action before transitioning to Call of Duty, a video game in which Ronald is more skilled. In the offseasons, they train together in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. And although they have never played at the same level — growing up, their age difference made it impossible — they have pushed one another to be better, especially now.

Ronald Acuna Jr. of Atlanta looks on before a game against...

Ronald Acuna Jr. of Atlanta looks on before a game against the Mets at Citi Field on Friday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Shortly before Luisangel got traded, they made a bet: The brother who finishes the season with more stolen bases will win $5,000 from the other. Before their games Friday, Luisangel had 46, trailing by seven.

“I started learning how to steal bases from watching my brother,” he said.

Binghamton manager Reid Brignac said: “It’s a great thing to have an older brother that you can call and talk to when things get tough. And this game is going to get tough for everybody at some point.”

With a famous last name, though, come certain expectations.

They are part of a huge baseball family with several cousins — including former longtime Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar — who made it to the majors. Their father, Ronald Acuna, was a Mets minor-leaguer from 1999-2004.

Luisangel said he doesn’t let that put pressure on him.

“No, it’s just motivating,” he said. “I’ve seen that a lot on social media, where people want to say, ‘You’re better than your brother’ or ‘Your brother’s better than you.’ Those are things I don’t control and I just continue to go out there, play my game and do what I do.”

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