Pache's playmaking could win him CF job

March 22nd, 2021

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Braves manager Brian Snitker has repeatedly said, he is not concerned by Cristian Pache’s offensive struggles. He has known that the heralded prospect is capable of dazzling on the other side of the ball, like he did again with an outfield assist during a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Monday.

Pache displayed his rocket arm in the second inning, when he charged Ryan Jeffers’ single to center field and unleashed a throw that denied Jake Cave’s attempt to advance from first to third. Braves third baseman Austin Riley snared the one-hop throw as Cave was beginning his slide.

“He’s fun to watch throw,” Snitker said. “He’s accurate, and he gets rid of it quickly. He’s got a prototypical outfield arm. It’s pretty good.”

Pache ranks as the Braves’ top prospect and baseball’s No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He had totaled four career plate appearances before being forced to become the Atlanta’s everyday center fielder during last year’s National League Championship Series.

Those who have watched Pache over the years have long described him as a future Gold Glove Award winner. But there have always been concerns about his bat. He hasn’t done much to quiet those, going 3-for-25 through 11 games this spring.

Pache snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a second-inning single Monday. His competition for the center-field job is Ender Inciarte, who has gone just 4-for-19 at the plate.

“You’ve got to have some patience with [Pache] if we’re going to go with him,” Snitker said. “It’s going to be like something he’s never experienced before. He’s got to keep his head positive and not make this thing too complicated. He has the skills to be able to defend himself offensively. Defensively, he’s going to be probably as good as there is out there.”

Getting ready
Much of the talk involving and this spring has been focused on which pitcher should fill a rotation spot until Mike Soroka returns from right Achilles surgery. But both of the young hurlers know they’ll need to do much more than possibly make a couple starts in April.

“We’re going to need everybody, and that is the honest truth,” Wright said. “You’ve got to stay in the present and not overwhelm yourself with trying to make a roster spot. Obviously, we all want to. I’ll just have to stay the course, work to get better and be ready to help this team whenever the opportunity comes.”

Though Wilson might be the current favorite to begin the season in the rotation, Wright still has the greater upside of the two. His advancement as a pitcher will be influenced by his current attempt to create more consistency with his slider. He was happy with the action, but not necessarily the command he had while throwing it 26 times against the Twins on Monday.

The slider accounted for 33 percent of the 80 pitches he threw while allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits over five innings. The two-run homer he gave up to Nelson Cruz in the third came against a fastball that stayed out over the plate.

“These guys aren’t going to be perfect all the time,” Snitker said. “But his stuff, I thought overall, was pretty good.”

Making an impression
is another pitcher who could make a positive impact as a starter or reliever at some point this year. Toussaint’s inconsistencies have been rooted in command struggles. But as he recorded a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless eighth Monday, he impressed Snitker.

“Touki has made some adjustments and I really like how he’s throwing the ball,” Snitker said. “His command of his fastball has been better, and he’s made some tweaks to his delivery. He’s starting to figure some things out.”