Not every Braves’ outfield prospect is going to be the next Ronald Acuña, but Christian Pache continues to show signs that he could be the next superstar in the Braves outfield. The 20-year old burst up prospect lists due to his unbelievable range and the cannon for an arm attached to him. Now, his bat is beginning to catch up, and the resemblances between him and Acuña are becoming too unique to ignore.
Even though he hit a respectable .281 as an 18-year old with the Rome Braves, power was the main thing the organization wanted him to focus on. Before the start of last season, Pache had not yet hit a single professional home run. In 2018, Pache hit nine home runs, and it’s becoming obvious that was only the tip of the iceberg. According to all accounts, Pache is much bigger and stronger than he was last year, and his electrifying spring in which he has two homers and four doubles in 24 ABs attests to that.
In a quote from the Athletic (subscription required to view), Manager Brian Snitker says,
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger, more experienced. He’s doing what we hoped he would, which is to get better. … He hadn’t hit a homer till last year. The year before, he didn’t even have a lot of doubles. But physical maturity, strength and all, allowed for the potential for the power to develop.”
Pache’s bat this spring training has turned not only the heads of the Braves’ organization but the entire baseball community when evaluating the budding star. He’s slashing .458/.500/.875 with a 1.364 OPS to go along with his astonishing ability to gallop like a gazelle when tracking down flyballs. It is no longer if – Pache will be the starting center fielder for the Braves in the future – it is when.
When could we see him in Atlanta?
As breathtaking as Pache’s spring training has been, one has to remember it is a microscopic sample size. He only has 24 at-bats compared to the 500, or so, he will see this upcoming season. Baseball comes in streaks, that’s why there are a lot more rookie flameouts than there are Mike Trouts or Freddie Freemans.
It is natural to get excited; Pache’s defense is already regarded by many as the best in the entire organization, his contact bat has always been there, and now he is growing into his body, and the power is becoming increasingly evident. But there does need to be a sense of tempered expectations, especially for those hoping to see Pache in the majors as early as this season.
Pache was only 19-years old last year and has yet to complete 30 games in AA Mississippi. He spent the majority of 2018 in A+ ball with the Florida Fire Frogs where he slashed .285/.311/.433 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 93 games. When he finally did arrive in Mississippi, he slashed a significantly worse .260/.294/.337 in 29 games. Neither of those lines is the sign of a busting prospect, but they also don’t resemble a player ready for the MLB, and the Braves don’t need him to be. At least, not yet.
The Braves currently have their full starting outfield back from last year. They also continue to carry Adam Duvall who they hope can have a bounce-back campaign. Even if multiple players were to struggle or go down, Johan Camargo and Austin Riley could potentially fill the void at the corner outfield positions, and Acuña can always move to center field.
Pache will likely begin the year in AA where he left off a year ago, and it is going to take a Ronald Acuña-like campaign for him to shoot up to the majors in 2019. The Braves are in win-now mode, so if Pache reminds the organization that this spring training was no fluke, he could find himself in Atlanta towards the end of the year. But realistic expectations should be for Pache to build off his 2018 campaign – in which he hit his first professional homer – and prep for a spot on the 2020 Opening Day roster.
Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire