Braves 2021 Player Review: Cristian Pache

After essentially no competitive at-bats in 2020, and coming off a .278/.340/.474 BA/OBP/SLG line at AA Mississippi in 2019, 22 year old Cristian Pache was called upon in 2021 to fill the outfield spot opened by the retirement of Nick Markakis.

When you see it written down like that, it’s not so hard to see why it didn’t work out. Pache lasted for all of 68 plate appearances, posting a .111/.152/.206 line. Cristian has a reputation as a tremendous defensive center fielder, but nobody is overcoming that offensive performance.

The good news is that Cristian is not really as bad as his limited 2021 trial looked (nobody is.) Pache has over 900 minor league at-bats above A ball, posting a .274/.331/.446 in 496 AA at-bats, and a .267/.331/.413 in 416 AAA at-bats. He has hit 12 homers at each of the AA and AAA levels and has a combined total of 17 steals against an astounding 20 caught stealing.

So, we have what projects to be a sub .250 MLB hitter, with single digit home run power, who has an excellent defensive reputation, but who needs some work with his base stealing skills. There’s reason to believe there’s still a little more there, though. First of all, Pache is still only 23 years old. He reached AA at age 19 and had a cup of coffee in AAA at 20. He lost his age 21 season to the Covid precautions. It’s very reasonable to think that another season at Gwinnett will give Cristian a chance to raise that baseline projection offensively.

I would not be upset if Pache were packaged for immediate help. I don’t think his ceiling is irreplaceably high. Otherwise, I’m happy to watch him climb up the age curve as a good bet to increase his value.

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

35 thoughts on “Braves 2021 Player Review: Cristian Pache”

  1. Thank you, Rusty.

    You put my feelings about Pache in better words than I could find. I wouldn’t miss him if he were traded, but I’ve been wrong before. See Austin Riley.

  2. Thanks Rusty.

    I’m not optimistic about Pache. I have major concerns that he can be above replacement level with the bat, and my eyes just didn’t see an elite defender when he was here. With that said, I know he’s an elite defender. I still remember the dazzling catch he made in Spring Training 2020 against the Yanks here in Tampa that I was able to see live (amazing jump), and I’ve read the scouting reports and watched the highlight reels. But he has to be a Andruw Jones-level centerfielder to make up for what will likely be an atrocious bat, and I don’t know if that’s who he is.

    My fear is that Pache and Waters are both very flawed players who while had the tools to make it to near the top of the prospect lists, they’re not major league hitters. I hope I’m wrong.

  3. I think Pache has some power, but the hit tool will stay fringey. If the OBP can stay over .320, he can start. Long way from here to there, though.

  4. I’d be fine trading Pache if there’s a team out there that still sees him as the kind of prospect he was a year ago. I have my doubts to that, though, and at this point I think his value is so low, there’s more potential in waiting to see if it recovers than anything we’d receive in a trade.

  5. My fear is that Pache is a .240/.300/.380 guy. Maybe his peak is higher, but is his defense going to be so good to overcome that? I guess my fear is that he’ll be Andrelton Simmons, which I’m sure is not the worst thing in the world.

  6. @4 I think other teams would be just as concerned about his bat as we are. I think he’s ours for better or for worse.

  7. Towards the end of our Season of Wonder someone, somewhere posted that Cristian was putting on weight – evidence, both his facial cheeks were somewhat bloated. That was more than enough for me to cut any knot that still existed between us. OBP is one thing, surplus weight at 23 quite another particularly at that height above the ground- his jumps, leaps and bounds sadly attenuated.

  8. I think .240/.300/.380 is probably a super likely outcome. There could be more in there, but being pessimistic is completely valid and he’s going to have to prove a lot of us wrong.

    But he really needs reps, and like Waters, he REALLY got hurt by losing 2020. The power is the one offensive tool that I believe will be at or above ML average; the rest will be somewhere between bad and unplayable. So, let’s say I’m closer to .240/.300/.400.

    So all in all, I think the upside is a bat and glove somewhere slightly worse than peak Ender Inciarte, who was a four- to five-win guy until his legs gave out.

    So… I basically think he’ll turn out like Dansby Swanson. Disappointing but more or less league average.

  9. @6
    I agree. I have no issue taking the chance we did on him. We had a vacancy and every reason to believe he had a good chance to fill it affordably for half a decade. We probably should have traded him a year ago, but I think a lot of fans (not you) think trading him today will somehow right that wrong. He’s just a significantly different value today, and there’s probably more to gain from keeping him. I have a hard time finding any real value in selling low on a cheap young talented player, even if 4th OF is his reality.

  10. “his facial cheeks were somewhat bloated”

    I appreciate the clarification on which set of cheeks were distended, blazon

  11. @5
    If he played shortstop, but I’d like a little more pop from center field.

    The Braves did him no favors comparing him to Andruw Jones.

    I think the year off really hurt his development, but the hit tool really has been the knock on him.

  12. If his defense was good enough to make him a 4+ WAR player with a significantly below league average wRC+, then I’d be all about it. But the comp my lazy mind comes up with is, again, Andrelton. And when Andrelton had those paltry offensive seasons where he had a .680-.700 OPS, his WAR was only in the 3 WAR range. I’m picking nits, but my overall thought is that if you can clear 3 WAR for the league minimum, you take that any time you can get it. So if Pache could somehow clear that every year due largely to his defense, then I would put up with the subpar offense.

    If Freddie is re-signed, you have A LOT of value consolidated in four positions — 1B, 2B, 3B, and RF (Acuna). For not a lot of money at all, you’re getting about 20 WAR for about $45M, depending on what Freddie signs for. Since Dansby and the catchers are still affordable, AND then they can have Pache able to produce 3 WAR for the minimum, then that’s one of the most valuable per dollar position player cores one could assemble.

    If the conversation ends here, then you’d be include to just throw Pache out there because everythign else is so stable. But Ozuna is the yellow-forearmed elephant in the room. In an alternative universe, you could add Ozuna as a stable 2.5 WAR outfielder, and you still feel great about the value on the position player side, and you’d feel more comfortable penciling Pache into CF, but fortunately life did not present that universe. This is what flat out SUCKS about the lock out — 2/3 of Atlanta’s outfield is unsettled, and we get to spend potentially months not knowing if Atlanta is remotely equipped to attempt to repeat.

  13. Honestly, winning the World Series and then going straight into a lockout is like getting married then immediately taking your mother-in-law to small claims court. Makes it a lot harder to celebrate the joyous life event.

    End of the day, Rob, I think you and I are pretty much in the same place. Guys who actually have the glove for center field are so rare that you can more or less suck at the plate and still wind up league average. So I think Pache will probably have a pretty good long career in the majors somewhere. Hell, just look how long Cameron Maybin played!

  14. Pache will play next season at age 23, and has less that one full season above AA if I am reading his stats correctly. He’s been a respectable offensive player in AA and AAA and was most certainly impacted by the lost pandemic season and the pressure of playing opening day in 2021 before he was ready. I’d give him another full year in Gwinnett and go from there.

  15. Honestly, winning the World Series and then going straight into a lockout is like getting married then immediately taking your mother-in-law to small claims court. Makes it a lot harder to celebrate the joyous life event.

    Haha, very well put.

    I have never seen Alex and Rob in the same place at the same time.

    Alex is a nicer and smarter man than I. Not many similarities there.

    Omar, I agree that we might be “giving up” on Pache too early. He’s always been young for his levels, but his bat just hasn’t shown up throughout the minors, so when his bat didn’t show up in the majors, I think a lot of people felt like it was more of the same.

  16. Imagine having such a fragile ego that even a lickspittle like Rosenthal isn’t sufficiently deferential for you.

    On the other hand, imagine loyally carrying ownership’s water for over a decade and then being kicked unceremoniously to the curb in the middle of a “defensive lockout.”

    It’s got comedy value, I’ll say that much.

  17. I’m not sure his bat has been as bad as we have made it out to be based on the minors. In AA/AAA Pache has exactly 1000 PAs and has slashed a more than acceptable .269/.331/.431 . I’d love to see a little more OBP, but if he could approach those numbers at the ML level with all world defense, you’ve basically got Lorenzo Cain (career .286/.347/.413) with a little less OBP and a bit more power.

    It is way too early to give up on Pache, but it would be nice to see some ML strides this year.

  18. @14

    I honestly don’t feel that way. If it starts impacting regular season games, I will, but I’m not much of a “there is no offseason” guy. If they wanna have a lockout when nothing is going on, I say have at it from the standpoint of my psyche as a fan. I obviously have my opinions as to the issues surrounding the lockout, but it’s not lessening my enjoyment of anything right now.

  19. @21 If you want to have a guy OPS .750 in the bigs, don’t you at least want to see him exceed that at most stops in the minors?

  20. @23

    That very well may be, but I guess I’m not gonna let myself get all worked up over that until February.

    @19

    The utter hit piece for which Rosenthal was run off, in theory, was a piece he wrote for The Athletic in June 2020. The lede: “Rob Manfred finally seems to be figuring out he has no choice: Strike a deal with the union and salvage the 2020 season, or ruin his legacy as commissioner of baseball.” (Here’s the full story if you subscribe.)

    It’s…pretty tame? Nothing that wasn’t obvious at the time…essentially, it is completely unacceptable to have this season torpedoed by dumb money-grubbing by the owners in the middle of a pandemic. Just get a deal done!

    For that, Rosenthal was reportedly put on double-secret probation for three months and it was decided he wouldn’t have his contract renewed.

    It’s possible that Rob Manfred is petulant, on top of being an imbecilic stooge!

  21. MLB Network firing Rosenthal clearly shows they’re not in the business of having objective news on their channel. I lost a lot of respect for MLB Network, one of the few reasons why I have cable. I may not watch MLB Network much anymore because of it. The owners are pathetic, thin-skinned people.

  22. 24 – Ideally – but when they are young for the level that often allows for a little less performance in the minors. I’m just saying I think he’s got the potential for a .340 OBP/.450 SLG which is basically Torii Hunter. I’m not ready to throw the towel in on a couple of poor ML showings following injuries and a pandemic.

  23. @26 — My best guess is that Manfred realized during the Covid negotiations, during which the union showed more collective spine than they had in more than a decade and during which he was surprisingly unable to sell the players as the villains of the piece, that the only way he was going to come out ahead during the CBA fight was if he maintained complete media control. And since coming out ahead in CBA fights is basically his only job responsibility, this became top priority. No one who even suggested that Manfred and the owners were anything other than benign stewards of the game being bullied by greedy players could be allowed within a mile of a microphone on any league-owned platform. Hence Rosenthal’s removal over some absurdly mild, both-sides criticism.

    Again, though, if Rosenthal is too harsh a critic for the owners’ taste, who are we left with here? Jon Heyman and Buster Olney?

  24. @29 Exactly. And what happens when every established reporter like Heyman that doesn’t really need MLB Network leaves? Is MLB Network really that huge in the media machine of MLB? There are lots of places to get baseball content, and if the most established talent doesn’t like that it’s getting muzzled, could that damage MLB Network?

    Not to get too political, but sports media is starting become more like most media: if you want to hear objective news, it’s probably best to turn off cable television.

  25. Here is my non-factual opinion about the status of the lockout:

    -The players never want to play 162 games along with a full Spring Training
    -The owners don’t care about a full Spring Training, obviously.
    -The owners would prefer to play 162, but are willing to not do that this year to maintain leverage.

    Accordingly, this thing will drrrrrag on, they probably reach an agreement in late February/early March, free agency begins for the month of March, short Spring Training in April, and the season starts towards the end of April. We basically had 2020 as a blueprint for how this will play out, IMO.

  26. I’m afraid it will drag on, too. But why do you say the players don’t want to play 162 games along with a full spring training? In my experience, the players are afraid of going into the season cold, without having been able to play themselves back to in-game timing with Spring Training.

  27. @32 The overwhelming sentiment I feel I’m getting from player comments throughout the years is that the season is too long. 20+ Spring Training games, 162 during the regular season, and then the playoffs. If a season here and there is shortened, I don’t think the players mind and would prefer it. None of these players were around when the season was lengthened from 154 to 162. I don’t get the impression that the 8 month playing season is preferred by the players.

  28. One thing that bothers me is that the owners were actually fighting for fewer games in 2020. I understand it was a completely different scenario in 2020, and that there the owners weren’t going to receive any gate revenue. It’s just another reminder that the owners don’t really care about Baseball, writ large.

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