Cristian Pache enters camp this year with his sights set on one thing: the starting center field job. He’s been considered the Braves’ center fielder of the future dating back to 2016, and it appears that the future is now. Pache comes to camp as a rookie this year with unique experience, having played in playoffs the year before. With just four at-bats in the regular season, Pache racked up 22 at-bats in the postseason, where he hit .182/.280/.364 but provided valuable defense, including several highlight plays like this one where he robbed Max Muncy of a home run.
Fast forward to the beginning of camp in 2021 and Pache sees himself near the top of several prospect lists including number eight on Fangraphs 2021 Top Prospects with the chance of beginning his professional career.
While the bat isn’t considered his calling card, he has evolved as a hitter, showing more patience at the plate and hitting the ball the other way at a much higher clip. He’s put on significant size, without losing too much speed, and looks much calmer at the plate. He also began hitting for more power as well, back in 2019, when he put up .a 278/.340/.474 line good for a 134 wRC+ back in Double-A in 104 games. Gone are the days of Pache being off-balance at the plate and looking unconfident. You can see all the work he’s done to become more comfortable at the plate in this single play.
Against a pitcher with one of baseball’s top fastballs, Pache reads slider and goes straight up to center on a slider away. Massive kudos to him for really working a lot and becoming a solid hitter.
That being said, we all know what he will be making his money on and it’s providing us with highlight-worthy plays being made with ease like the one below.
What’s crazy about him is that he is so good defensively he may not put up a ton of highlight-worthy catches, instead you’ll see just some of the best route running and pure defensive instincts that you’ve seen in quite some time.
The Braves have signed a flurry of free-agent outfielders to create competition on the bench and seemingly to compete with Pache but it’s safe to assume he has the inside track to the starting role. Ender Inciarte is also around, but with a strong camp, the Pache era should begin soon.