ATLANTA -- Cristian Pache has been drawing attention since retired 10-time Gold Glove Award winner Andruw Jones arrived at Spring Training two years ago and said Pache was already the best defensive outfielder in the Braves' organization.
Pache was just 18 at the time and Atlanta had a guy named Ender Inciarte, who had earned his second consecutive Gold Glove just a few months earlier. But over the past two seasons, the baseball world has realized why Jones extended such lofty praise upon the young prospect.
Now, Braves fans are eagerly looking forward to the chance to see more of Pache, who could make his Major League debut at some point in 2020.
Pache, catcher William Contreras, right-hander Jasseel De La Cruz and left-handers Tucker Davidson and Philip Pfeifer were added to the Braves’ 40-man roster on Tuesday. These additions were made to protect each of these players from being selected during the Rule 5 Draft, which will be conducted during the Winter Meetings on Dec. 12.
Following Tuesday's moves, Atlanta has 38 players on its 40-man roster ahead of Wednesday's 8 p.m. ET deadline for rosters to be set.
Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
Players eligible for this year's Rule 5 Draft if they are not on a team's 40-man roster include:
- Players acquired on the international market in 2015 or earlier
- High school Draft picks who were 18 or younger as of June 8, 2015
- College players selected in the MLB Draft in 2016 or earlier
MLB Pipeline ranks Pache, Contreras, De La Cruz and Davidson among the Braves’ Top 30 Prospects. In fact, each of those four players fills one of the first 14 spots on this talent-rich list.
Here is a look at the newest additions to Atlanta’s 40-man roster:
Pache: Ranked baseball’s No. 11 prospect overall and the top prospect within Atlanta’s system, Pache combined to hit .277 with 12 homers and an .802 OPS for Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year. He produced a .747 OPS over the 26 games he played after earning a late-season promotion to Gwinnett. The center fielder, who turned 21 on Monday, has gained power potential as he has physically matured over the past two years.
Contreras: Ranked the No. 8 prospect in the Braves’ system, Contreras is a strong-armed catcher who is still developing offensively. The 21-year-old combined to produce a .669 OPS with Class A Advanced Florida and Mississippi this year. He’s likely going to need at least one more full year at the Minor League level. But he has good genes. He is the younger brother of Cubs All-Star catcher Willson Contreras.
De La Cruz: Scouts have long had an eye on the live arm possessed by De La Cruz, a 22-year-old right-hander who began this season with Class A Rome and ended it at the Double-A level. He produced a 3.83 ERA and recorded 73 strikeouts while issuing 37 walks over 87 innings for Mississippi. There’s still some room to grow. But he has made steady and significant strides since being signed as a raw 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2015.
Davidson: Though he might not draw as much attention as Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson, Davidson has established himself as another Braves prospect who could fit in Atlanta’s rotation at some point during the 2020 season. The 23-year-old lefty posted a 2.15 ERA while combining to make 25 starts for Mississippi and Gwinnett this year. He recorded 134 strikeouts and issued 54 walks over 129 2/3 innings.
Pfeifer: After spending his first two years in Atlanta's farm system in the bullpen, Pfeifer transitioned to the rotation and had a breakout season of sorts in 2019. The southpaw got off to a slow start in Mississippi's bullpen before being sent to Florida, where he took off as a starter. He put up a 3.23 ERA and racked up 110 strikeouts over 92 innings, including a July 18 gem in which he struck out 17 over eight scoreless frames. Pfeifer was promoted back to Mississippi in August and posted a 1.17 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 23 innings in four starts, before finishing the year with three appearances for Gwinnett.