Braves: Should Atlanta trust Cristian Pache to start on Opening Day?

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In a very slow and somewhat boring MLB offseason so far, Marcell Ozuna remains a question mark — as well as the DH in the National League. Atlanta has yet to bring back Adam Duvall after non-tendering him earlier this year. Nick Markakis is also a free-agent, and Charlie Culberson just signed with the Texas Rangers. I’d consider bringing back Markakis on another one-year deal, but he’s no longer an everyday player at this point in his career. 

On top of that, the Braves also have to figure out what to do with Ender Inciarte. Brian Snitker said earlier this month that he will have to earn a roster spot with his spring training performance, and while it may seem hopeless now, I’ve discussed trying to get out from his ugly contract.  Michael Brantley and others have been floated, but what about in-house options? Drew Waters probably still needs some seasoning in AAA. Ronald Acuña Jr. is penciled in obviously — he’s a franchise player. Other than that, we’re down to… Abraham Almonte & Cristian Pache as the only other outfielders on the 40-man roster.

Pache had a pretty good postseason after getting the nod over Inciarte for the NLCS roster, and he smashed a home run in a forgettable NLCS game against the Dodgers. Pache has been Atlanta’s #1 prospect for a while now, and he’s oozing with five-tool potential. I still think it’s imperative to bring Adam Duvall back and add an impact bat, but the Braves have options. Looking at left field, that void could be filled by Michael Brantley, Yasiel Puig, or Marcell Ozuna. 

Atlanta could also make a move for a slugging third basemen and have Austin Riley play the outfield. Regardless, I think Pache should be penciled in as the everyday center-fielder. His defense is too valuable, and his bat is already miles ahead of Inciarte. If the DH is in play, it becomes an even easier choice. The Braves could have all their power bats get cuts almost every day without sacrificing anything on defense. I don’t think the DH will be in the National League for 2021, but Pache appears ready either way. 

Hopefully, Atlanta’s lineup will feature Ozuna in LF, Pache in CF, and Acuña Jr. in RF with Drew Waters and possibly the universal DH on the horizon. Waters replacing Ozuna in LF with Marcell being the team’s DH would give Atlanta the best YOUNG outfield in the majors. Pache will have to earn it in spring training, but the starting center-field job should be his to lose heading into the 2021 season. 

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