While fans get excited for Opening Day of the Atlanta Braves season, a number of Braves prospects received an opportunity to play at SunTrust Park in the preseason finale. The finale featured an exhibition game between current Braves players and some of the franchise’s elite prospects for the future. A number of prospects performed well, but it was OF Cristian Pache who stole the show in the game. Here is a look at his night and how the other prospects fared in the contest. (Prospect rankings, if applicable, listed in parenthesis. Rankings taken from MLB.com’s Prospect Watch.)
Cristian Pache Steals the Show in Atlanta’s Preseason Finale
Pache (No. 9)
While top prospect Ronald Acuna commanded a lot of attention heading into the game, it was actually Pache who stole the headline. Regarded as the best defensive outfielder in Atlanta’s system, 92.9 The Game reporter Grant McAuley shared that former Braves manager Bobby Cox labeled Pache as one of the most dynamic defenders he’s ever seen. The 19-year old OF has shown he can play defense and get on base, but the one aspect missing from his game early on has been power. That was not the case Tuesday evening.
Pache went 2-for-3 on the evening with two HRs off of lefty Sean Newcomb. It would not be unexpected for Pache to continue increasing his power as his body continues to develop, and homering off of a pitcher who will begin the year in Atlanta’s rotation is a strong sign. There continues to be a growing wave of people who believe he could be due for an Acuna-esque breakout year in 2018.
Acuna (No. 1)
Atlanta’s top prospect had a relatively quiet night by his standards, going 1-for-3 with a single. However, that lone single had a bit of significance to it. Statcast clocked the exit velocity of Acuna’s hit at 115 MPH. MLB.com writer David Adler provided context to that number by pointing out it would have been the hardest hit ball by a Braves player in 2017. Acuna’s talent is no secret, and he continues to be impressive as his highly-anticipated debut looms in the future.
Kyle Wright (No. 2) and Touki Toussaint (No. 11)
These two pitchers have followed opposite career paths to this point, but both possess incredibly high ceilings. Wright was a college star at Vanderbilt before going No. 5 overall to the Braves in the 2018 draft. Many believe he is poised to make a quick jump, and he looked sharp on Tuesday. Wright recorded a scoreless inning with two strikeouts while allowing a lone single to Kurt Suzuki.
Toussaint was drafted right out of high school and came to Atlanta via trade in 2015. His career ERA still sits above 4.00, but he possesses electric stuff and has shown an ability to make batters miss consistently. On Tuesday, he made it through a perfect inning with two strikeouts and a pop out in foul territory.
Also Notable: OF Dustin Peterson (No. 16): 1-for-2 with two walks. P Mike Soroka (No. 3): He did give up a run on two hits and a wild pitch. However, he did record strikeouts of Suzuki and Charlie Culberson.
3B Rio Ruiz
With the injury to INF Johan Camargo, Ruiz had a golden opportunity to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as the starting third baseman. Unfortunately, he has struggled over the past few weeks and now finds himself on the outside looking in after Atlanta optioned him to Triple-A to start the season. His numbers in limited MLB action are not good, but he is still young at 23-years old. Ruiz will likely get another chance in Atlanta, but he finished his preseason by going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.
LHP Joey Wentz (No. 10)
Wentz remains a pitcher I am quite high on, but his outing Tuesday night was not a strong one. He found trouble quickly with a walk, a single, and a walk to load the bases with no outs. Two runs would score against Wentz on a sac fly and an RBI single in the inning. It should be noted that Wentz limited the damage to those two runs and notched two strikeouts, but it was definitely not his best outing.
OF/1B Braxton Davidson (Unranked)
A first round draft pick in 2014, Davidson has spent the past two seasons at the Advanced-A level with little to no improvement in his batting average and slugging percentage. Atlanta has played Davidson at first base this spring, a position the system does not have many prospects at, and a number of scouts still rave about his raw power. Unfortunately, that has yet to translate to games, and he struggled on Tuesday night. Davidson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and now awaits his assignment to begin the 2018 season.
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