Major League Baseball may be in the middle of a lockout with no end in sight, but regardless of what happens with that situation, the show will go on in the minor leagues. So, I thought it would be a grand idea to look at some of the Braves’ most exciting prospects and project how they may fare in 2022, beginning with one of the more polarizing names in the organization — Cristian Pache.
Fans are often way too reactionary when it comes to prospects. Before they’ve even seen them play, they will deem a player untouchable, but then said player struggles once they get to the majors, and they’re ready to trade him for some dirty laundry. You see it all the time; just look at some of the hypothetical trades involving Austin Riley last offseason. Now he looks like a perennial MVP candidate and a player the Braves wouldn’t even think about moving.
The same thing is happening with Cristian Pache. A year ago, he was untouchable, but after just one bad stint in the majors, people are already questioning whether he will ever make it.
I am not saying Pache will break out as Riley did. They’ve had very different experiences in the minors and are two extremely different players. But if Pache can become half the player that Riley was last season, he will be a very productive major-leaguer, and I still believe he has a bright future ahead of him.
After what happened last season — which wasn’t pretty, let’s be clear — the Braves can’t go into 2022 believing Pache will contribute. If he does, fantastic, but the plan should be to let him play the entire season in Gwinnett.
Pache didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball with the Stripers, either. In 89 games, he hit. 265 with 11 homers and 15 doubles, good for a .744 OPS. However, that’s not too far off from what he was hitting in the lower levels of the minors. In fact, his .744 OPS is actually higher than his career OPS in five seasons on the farm (.736).
The Dominican native has yet to really show much improvement with the stick, but that’s not why he is so highly touted as a prospect. Pache is believed to be one of the best defensive centerfielders on the planet. That alone carries a substantial amount of value, but the Braves still need him to be serviceable offensively before they ever give him another shot in the majors.
At this point, I think it would be delusional to expect Pache to become some sort of star offensively. However, he’s still just 23-years-old and has yet to even complete a full season in Gwinnett. The year off for minor leaguers also didn’t do him any favors. Will he ever be an .800 OPS hitter in the majors? Probably not, but I do think he can hit 20+ homers while playing Gold Glove defense in centerfield, and that’s what I expect to see out of him in Gwinnett in 2022, setting him up to be the Braves starting centerfielder on Opening Day in 2023.
It’s the offseason, which means trade rumors will be swirling for the next several months. To this point, Alex Anthopoulos has refrained from making a blockbuster trade as the general manager of the...