Inciarte injury gives Pache leg up in center

March 11th, 2021

’s bid to begin the regular season as the Braves' center fielder has further improved as has spent the past week bothered by a sore left thumb.

“[Inciarte] got [jammed] the other day, and it’s just been a slow process to getting him treated and getting a bat in his hand again,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s progressing. But he’s not to the point where he can go out and get a game at-bat right now. So we’ll just have to see.”

With Opening Day three weeks away, Inciarte might not have enough time to prove he is capable of keeping the Braves' starting center-field job he possessed for most of the past five seasons. The 30-year-old lost the role last year and now faces the fact that Pache might be ready to be a productive everyday big leaguer.

Inciarte went 2-for-7 in the three Spring Training games he played before the thumb became an issue. He hadn’t had time to erase the concerns he created last year, when he produced a .512 OPS in 46 games and was not included on any of Atlanta’s postseason rosters.

Despite having totaled just four plate appearances in two career Major League games, Pache was placed on the postseason roster for each of the three rounds the Braves played. The 22-year-old was used as a pinch-runner and a late-inning defensive replacement during the National League Wild Card Series against the Reds and the NL Division Series against the Marlins. But Pache became Atlanta’s center fielder when Adam Duvall strained an oblique in the second inning of Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers.

Pache ranks as baseball’s No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He has the potential to immediately become one of the game’s elite defensive outfielders. But there are some concerns about his offensive development. He went 4-for-22 with a homer and a double in the postseason.

Pache is 2-for-13 with a double and three strikeouts this spring after going 0-for-2 in Thursday's 2-0 win over the Rays.

“I’ve liked what Pache has done,” Snitker said. “I think he has had some really good at-bats, and we’ll keep running him out there. I feel good about where he is at. He’s had some really good at-bats in sim games, and I’ve liked his game at-bats. He’s in a good spot.”

If Pache is not deemed ready, the Braves would have the option of moving Ronald Acuña Jr. to center field. But they'd prefer to keep Acuña in right.