Cristian Pache has been the top prospect in the Braves system for multiple years now, but his debut in the major leagues went poorly and left him rebuilding his swing and approach in Triple-A.
Pache came in as the Braves top overall prospect this season on nearly every single list, and will likely stay in that position to kick off 2022. He’s been in that spot since the middle of 2019 with the exception of the preseason list in 2021.
2021 Triple-A Stats: 89 G, .265/.330/.414, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB, 7 CS
Though he will go home with a World Series ring, Pache’s contributions in Atlanta were limited as he played terribly in 22 major league games. Pache posted a .358 OPS and -0.7 WAR in very limited time before an injury ended his time in Atlanta. When he came back he was sent immediately to Triple-A, where he also got off to a slow start at the plate. Through 25 games he sat with a slash line of .205/.271/.341 with nearly all of his offensive production coming from a single two home run game. More concerningly his strikeout rate was sitting at a career high 34% and he was lost at the plate for large stretches of time. Pache was having changes made to his swing on a regular basis, and finally in early June they seemed to settle on a swing that kept him higher in his stance and allowed him to drive low pitches with more frequency. On July 8th he kicked off a stretch of four consecutive multi-hit games and ended his season hitting .288/.352/.442 over his final 64 games. While this was helped by a high BABIP, the power production was the best we’d seen of Pache and he seemed to be adjusting to high level pitching for the first time. Pache had just 109 plate appearances above Double-A coming into this season, so for a player who seemed to be raw in his approach the struggles were not a surprise.
Pache’s calling card is and will always be his elite center field defense. Even as the bat struggles his defensive ability should carry him to a major league roster spot and even an average offensive contribution would make him one of the top 7-10 center fielders in the league. His offense is still a major weakness and while he has made rapid improvement it is still fair to expect him to struggle in the near future and maybe never reach that average offensive level. He has the raw power and hitting ability to be an above average offensive player, but he is a long way from that goal and at the moment his stock is slipping slightly. He is still clearly the top prospect in the system, but players like Shea Langeliers are fast approaching if he doesn’t make more of an impact offensively in 2022.