Everybody at Braves camp is giddy about rookie Cristian Pache, who’s expected to be the team’s starting center fielder.
Pache, 22, was thrown into the National League Championship Series in October when Adam Duvall suffered an injury. Pache’s maturity and poise in the situation stood out. He showed off the superb defense that’s put him among the best prospects in baseball in recent seasons. He also flashed with the bat, hitting a homer and double while impressing the team’s higher ups with his at-bats.
Count first baseman and NL MVP Freddie Freeman as another observer blown away by Pache. When asked about Pache on Tuesday, Freeman couldn’t say enough about how the youngster handled the biggest stage.
“I feel like it’s not talked about enough, what he did last year,” Freeman said. “When you get thrown into the playoffs like he did, especially in the NLCS, losing Adam last year like that, and for him to perform like he did, it’s hard to even fathom. I would’ve crumbled in that situation at 21 years old, just getting thrown into the NLCS. Like, c’mon. And this guy is just taking it in stride, hitting a homer, running balls down. It was really amazing.”
Freeman continued, speaking glowingly about Pache’s defensive wizardry. He even invoked the names Andruw Jones and Andrelton Simmons, the two best defenders in franchise history.
Credit: Matt York
Credit: Matt York
“Just watching him shag balls in the outfield is so much fun,” said Freeman, who’s watched Pache the past two days in camp. “I’ve never seen it before. I saw Andruw on the tapes before I got to the Braves. Watching him play center field, he’s the best I’ve ever seen on tape. I got to watch Andrelton Simmons at short, playing with him, and now I get to watch Cristian Pache play center field. It’s pretty special. How he handled what he was given last year, it’s going to be fun to watch. He’s so impressive. He looks great, and he looks like he’s trying to get that job. Hats off to him. He’s a special player we’re going to be watching for a long time.”
Pache is competing against veteran Ender Inciarte for the center-field job. He’s expected to win that competition and make his first opening-day start April 1 in Philadelphia, which officially will begin the Braves’ next era in the outfield with Pache and All-Star Ronald Acuna.
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