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Pache's stock rises with power potential

@mlbbowman
March 9, 2019

LAKELAND, Fla. -- After Cristian Pache hit a pair of homers against Sean Newcomb while the Braves played an exhibition game against a group of their Minor Leaguers at SunTrust Park last year, manager Brian Snitker playfully told Newcomb, “Well, thank God he’s not in our league.” As the upcoming

LAKELAND, Fla. -- After Cristian Pache hit a pair of homers against Sean Newcomb while the Braves played an exhibition game against a group of their Minor Leaguers at SunTrust Park last year, manager Brian Snitker playfully told Newcomb, “Well, thank God he’s not in our league.”

As the upcoming season progresses, Braves fans may gain further reason to wonder when Pache might indeed reach the Major League level. The highly-touted prospect homered during Friday night’s win over the Phillies, and then drilled a two-run shot during the seventh inning of Saturday afternoon’s 6-4 win over the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Within consecutive plate appearances, logged over a span of approximately 19 hours, Pache tallied two more homers than he totaled over his first two full professional seasons.

“This kid just keeps doing it,” Snitker said. “He just keeps improving. It’s been a good camp for him.”

Pache’s stock has risen more significantly than any other Braves prospect over the last 12 months, since he first displayed the power potential he’d previously lacked. The 20-year-old center fielder had never played above the Low-A level when he hit those home runs against Newcomb. Nor had he homered in any of the 750 professional plate appearances he had tallied before the 2018 season.

“When people ask me why he’s not driving the ball or hitting home runs, I say, 'When this kid is coming [in] at 16 years old from the Dominican Republic, and you get a coach who tells him to use his speed and hit the ball on the ground, and you do that for three years straight, it’s a tough adjustment to make,'” former Braves outfielder Andruw Jones said. “Last year, he put some good swings on the ball and hit some home runs. So hopefully we just keep building him.”

Pache’s stock began to rise during last year’s Spring Training when Jones said the young prospect was already the best defensive outfielder within the Braves' organization, which currently employs Ender Inciarte, who has won three straight Gold Glove Awards. But the hype truly grew as the power tool developed.

As Pache totaled nine homers while spending last season with Class A Advanced Florida and Double-A Mississippi, he benefited from the approximate 20 pounds of muscle he’s added since exiting the 2017 season at 185 pounds.

“He’s doing everything an organization would want a young player to do, with how he’s progressing and with where he’s at in his development,” Snitker said. “It’s all just right on time. He’s going to go to Double-A. If you’re at Double-A, you’re in play. If they get it going, they get noticed and you don’t feel bad about putting them in the big leagues.”

Pache ranks 37th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list and he’s considered the No. 4 prospect in Atlanta’s system. The power he’s shown over the past 24 hours will only enhance anticipation about when he and Ronald Acuna Jr. might be playing alongside each other on a daily basis.

But the expectation is that Pache will need at least one more full year of Minor League seasoning before being deemed ready to jump to the Majors.

“He’s a big guy and he’s going to get 10-15 more pounds on him,” Jones said. “He’s 20 years old. So hopefully he can figure himself out and start making that adjustment to drive the ball.”

After Pache tallied eight homers and produced a .742 OPS for Florida last year, he hit just one homer and constructed a .630 OPS over 109 plate appearances for Mississippi. His attempt to prove more productive at the Double-A level this year will be aided by the confidence he’s strengthened while going 8-for-19 with three doubles and two homers this spring.

“He’s maturing into a really good ballplayer,” Snitker said. “Kids like [Pache] get bigger and stronger. The more they play, the more they learn how to play. This kid is getting it pretty quick.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.