ROME, GA — Finally.
If you followed my season-long angst, you are aware that in all of my trips to Rome this season, Cristian Pache hadn’t gotten a hit. I began to feel as if I were a curse upon the Braves’ talented future centerfielder. That didn’t influence my thoughts on Pache one bit, as he still came in at No. 11 on our midseason top 20. He always made solid contact and his defense is impeccable.
When I went to Rome this past Thursday, Pache once again didn’t get a hit.
No, he got four of them
That was the first hit of the night for Pache, all of which were singles. Three more followed. Pache went 4-for-6 on the night, all singles. He simply loves to hit singles, having hit more of them than he has struck out this season. He stretched the first into a “triple”, swiping his 25th stolen base of the season and advancing to third when Asheville’s catcher Joel Diaz’s throw got past second baseman Max George. He also got caught snoozing and was picked off at first.
Hey, nobody is perfect.
(all videos from my Minor League Videos page. Please take a look!)
Sometimes you watch Pache and forget he's a teenager. While he’s still searching for that first home run of his career, he does everything so fluidly. And he’s only 18.
We’ve written enough about Pache here at Minor League Ball that we don’t need to get into too much of his past. A quick refresher course is always a good thing.
CRISTIAN PACHE 101: Pache was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 for a nice $1.5-million signing bonus. He had a nice debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2016 in 27 games, but his 30-game promotion to Danville at the age of 17 is what turned heads. Pache ended the season on a ten-game hit streak, going 16-for-40 over that span (a .400 batting average).
Here’s the negative. Every one of the 16 hits was a single. Thanks to what John Sickels has as 70-grade speed — but plays even faster in person — Pache is good at extending those singles with stolen bases, now 36-for-49 in his career. Pache was known as a defensive first centerfielder, and at that, he has not failed.
This season as the everyday Rome centerfielder, Pache has 16 assists, creating seven double plays. It doesn’t make much sense why other teams continue to test him, but they do, and he delivers. He’s made just five errors, but those were momentary lapses, as he has great instincts and glides to seemingly every ball in the outfield with ease.
Two plays stood out this past Thursday in the outfield. The first was a ball that was crushed to the deep left-center gap in the seventh inning. While most centerfielders would be on their horse tracking it down, Pache took a perfect arc to the wall and looked like he was jogging, one hand out to call off left-fielder Leudys Baez before he camped underneath it.
The second didn’t show up on the scorecard but showed the 18-year-old is advanced in baseball years. In the top of the 12th inning, Jordan Rodgers had some trouble wrangling in a throw from Lucas Herbert to the opposite side of second base. The ball shot into centerfield, and right there was Pache to back it up, not allowing the go-ahead base runner to advance to third. Again, small play, didn’t show up in the highlights, but arguably saved the game.
Baseball smarts. You watch some major league centerfielders, and they still don’t react like that.
The four at bats were vintage Pache. All singles, two of which he beat out with his speed. The fourth at bat was a swinging bunt. He slapped it down between third base and the pitcher’s mound, and by the time the pitcher fielded it, Pache was a step off of first base. The pitcher didn’t even throw, pounding the ball back into his glove. You can’t teach that kind of speed.
Pache has a big swing, sometimes with a bit of an undercut to it. He is certainly aggressive, but will take a walk. He bats out of the three-hole, and this Rome Braves team lacks a true power threat. With some consistent protection behind him, I could see his walk rate rising to 10 percent, despite his go-get-em approach. Last season, he didn’t strikeout a whole bunch. In fact, he struck out just four times in that season-ending ten-game hit streak, three of which came in the final game of the season.
His strikeout totals have risen this season, touching nearly 20 percent, but it’s important to remember his age and relation to the league. Pache cooled off in July, the same time he crossed the threshold of the most amount of games he had ever played. He could be having some fatigue, he could still be adjusting to life in full-season ball. The fact that he’s struck out 13 times in the last 10 games I think is more telling than the 20 percent mark.
One thing I noticed about Pache, and which I like, is that the right-hander uses the opposite field a lot. If it’s intentional, which from repetition it certainly seems to be, it makes him an even more lethal threat.
(an opposite field pop out from July 4th against Jay Groome)
John had Pache at No. 14 entering the season and again, he jumped to No. 11 at the midseason rankings. He definitely needs to find some power to fit that perfect profile of an everyday outfielder, but his defense is simply to astounding to ignore.
Close your eyes. Picture, two years down the road if you would, Pache in center and Ronald Acuna in right.