“First one was right down the middle,” Newcomb said. “Second one, had him diving out over the plate. I was trying to come in and just missed up and away, he just got the barrel to it and hit it in the air. He obviously put some good swings on the ball. Tip my cap to him.”
While no one would’ve predicted Pache would hit home runs in consecutive at-bats against Newcomb in the third and fifth innings, few who’ve seen Pache’s physical growth expected his homer drought to continue much longer. The 19-year-old, 6-foot-2 center fielder has gone from a slender 185 pounds to a strapping 215 in under two years.
“During the offseason I spent a lot of time training, working out and just kind of working on the physical stuff,” Pache said, “and then also working on my mechanics of my swing and just trying to improve as a hitter.”
Two hours before Tuesday’s game, legendary former manager Bobby Cox, who skippered the team of prospects, said this of Pache: “He’ll come into power. He didn’t hit any home runs last year, but he’s gotten bigger. He’s going to come into power, definitely.”
If Pache adds power to the mix, the Braves will suddenly have another five-tool outfield prospect. And even if he’s not on the overall caliber of 20-year-old Braves phenom Ronald Acuna, who went 1-for-3 with a single Tuesday, Pache is on a similar level as Acuna defensively.
Early in spring training, Braves manager Brian Snitker said some in the organization believe Pache is the best defensive outfielder in the entire organization – an organization that has baseball No. 1 prospect in Acuna and a two-time Gold Glove center fielder in Ender Inciarte.
Cox sounded like he was among them.
“He’s one of best defensive players I’ve ever seen in the outfield,” Cox said of Pache. “He can fly, go get the ball, he can read balls off the bat. He’s just turning 20. He’s just got to go out and play. He’s definitely a (future) big leaguer.”
Actually, Pache only turned 19 in November. He spent last season at low Single-A Rome, hitting .281 with a .335 OBP, eight triples and 32 stolen bases in 514 plate appearances over 119 games. He’s such a bright prospect the Braves invited him to major league spring training, where Pache went 2-for-10 in 10 games, getting a taste of the big-league atmosphere before being reassigned to minor league camp.
Speaking of Acuna, his single to left field off Newcomb was clocked at a sizzling 115 mph off the bat.
“Loud,” Newcomb said. “(Acuna) is the real deal. Has good presence up there. Taking his time and kind of acting like a big leaguer already. But like I said, he’s the real deal. The kind of guy you kind of pick up the intensity against in one of these games because you know he’s similar to the type of people you’re going to be facing during the season.”