The Cristian Pache conversation isn’t too distant.
Pache is another in the line of Braves wunderkind. He’s widely viewed among the best - if not the top - defensive outfielders in the minors.
His bat will determine how valuable he becomes. He went from zero to 10 homers in the past couple of seasons, but his general plate presence is a work in progress.
“The defensive talents he has,” manager Brian Snitker said. “That, coupled with improved hitting - a big, strong guy like that, all of a sudden the power starts developing. You see a frontline major-league player there.”
Not that spring training is the ultimate barometer, but Pache has to be thrilled with how it’s played out. He’s showed all the strides for which the Braves hoped.
He’s hit .444 in 27 games, launching two homers and knocking in nine runs. His OPS stands at 1.335.
“It’s been going really well,” Pache said through an interpreter. “I feel like we’re beginning to see the fruits of all the work I’ve put in over the offseason and here in spring training.”
The 20-year-old has packed on 10 pounds of muscle. His physical and mental maturity will figure into how long he spends with Double-A Mississippi.
“When you get to Double-A, you’re in play,” Snitker said. “You start getting noticed and you don’t feel bad about putting them in the big leagues from Double-A. He’s going in the right direction.”
Pache is self-aware enough to know he still needs more physical and mental growth. He’s soaked up as much as he can from Braves alumni who’ve dropped by camp, including Andruw Jones.
And he’s enjoyed his time with Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and the other rising stars. To Pache, they’re already a foundation.
“They’re like my brothers at this point,” he said. “We get along really well, even outside the clubhouse. They’ve become my family. We enjoy each others’ company and for me it’s been awesome to be in this clubhouse with such great baseball players.”
Pache knows playing with his brothers won’t happen in the coming months. It might not even happen this season, especially if the Braves’ regular outfielders stay healthy.
But all bets are off. Pache’s rapid development lends credence to any beliefs that his debut is on the cusp, whether that cusp is in four months or a year.
“I feel like I’m in the mix, Pache said. “Just being in the clubhouse helps with that feeling because you get to interact and enjoy the guys’ company. And as you continue getting to know each other, they continue offering you support and encouragement.
“So those factors help you feel like you’re in the mix. Hopefully we continue to develop and get to the point that it’s a more serious conversation.”
That serious discussion, as it has with so many others before him, might sneak up quicker than anyone imagined.
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