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Cristian Pache is ready to stand out, even in the Atlanta Braves crowded outfield

An unbelievable talent defensively.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

The top prospect spot in baseball goes to Wander Franco. He is a clear No. 1 above all the rest. After him are a number of talented names including Gavin Lux, MacKenzie Gore, and Jo Adell. But largely, the top 20 prospects have two types of players that stand out above the rest: pitchers and outfielders. Among these elite names is the Atlanta Braves top prospect, Cristian Pache.

Pache signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He spent two seasons at rookie ball and Low-A, batting between .280 and .333 with a good range of runs, RBI, and stolen bases. In 2018 he progressed up to Double-A, and then last season he spent 26 games with the Triple-A Gwinnett Stripers in the ILS—with 13 runs, eight RBI, and a .274 batting average.

He makes excellent contact with the ball but his approach is more average, with around an 8% walk rate at Double-A and about 9% at Triple-A. His strikeouts improved considerably from Double-A to Triple-A, dropping from an above average level of 24% down to a much more reasonable 17%. It appears his approach at the plate has become much more contact-focused giving him solid value with a high batting average.

And on the defensive end he’s certainly no slouch. In fact, he is excellent, being named to the MLB Pipeline All Defensive team in 2018 and 2019. If he were to step into a full-time gig, he would be the best defensive option at center field for the Braves right now. He did not commit a single error over his 26 games at Triple-A, while also helping create two double plays.

All of that is the good, now here are some issues. For starters, he is has a group of talent ahead of him at center field, namely Ender Inciarte. There’s also potential for Ronald Acuña and Marcell Ozuna, while having Adam Duvall and Austin Riley in either corner spot.

Additionally, while he is quick at center field, he’s been increasingly unsuccessful stealing bases as he worked his way up the system. At Double-A he stole a combined eight bases but got caught stealing 13 times. During his 26 games at Triple-A, he didn’t have a single attempt.

His power is not overt. He had 12 homers at Triple-A and then just one during his time at Triple-A. I’m less concerned about the power than the speed, as it’s not uncommon to see a player lose speed as they get older and acquire more power. At 21 years old, I would assume he would still maintain the speed for another 5+ years meaning if that Triple-A limited stat line is an indicator, don’t expect more than maybe 10-15 stolen bases out of him in the big leagues. There is another possibility, which is that Damon Berry (head coach for Gwinnett Stripers) or Carlos Mendoza instructed him not to make any attempts while he was with them. The team finished last in the league in stolen bases with just 63 (in comparison to the Toledo Mud Hens who led the league with 128 stolen bases). Atlanta as a team was 9th in the MLB last year.

While he has no MLB regular season at-bats, he did play 13 games during spring training in the outfield. For 11 of those games he was at center and two games at right field. During those 13 games he hit .269 with five runs, seven RBI, and two home runs, which is a very solid stat line—granted, in Spring Training. My bigger concern is more of the lack of patience, where he had one walk and 11 strikeouts. He did steal three bases successfully without getting caught at all.

I am guessing it will be at least a month or two into this season before we see him come up and honestly, some added at-bats at Triple-A will probably help him. He looks like he will need some adjustment time as a 21-year-old at the professional level. His defense and batting average will be his strongest allies, and his power should be coming along soon thereafter. How they plan to utilize him with so many quality outfielders ahead of him, as well as whether they will push him to steal bases once he is up will be the ultimate questions. Nevertheless, Cristian Pache is a prospect to be tracking.