9. Cristian Pache, OF
Age: 19 | Bats: R
.281/.335/.343 | 98 wRC+ | 0 HR | 32 SB | 7.6% BB | 20.2% K
Current Assignment: Class A Rome
Acquired: International Amateur Free Agent – 2015
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 18
Superlatives: Atlanta Braves Rome Position Player of the Year, South Atlantic League All-Star, Baseball America’s #5 Prospect in the South Atlantic League
History: Pache was a top international amateur free agent in the 2015 signing period, getting a reported $1.4 million bonus from Atlanta. Pache had a strong pro debut in 2016, hitting well in first the GCL and in Danville. Pache started and finished the season with Rome, and put on a season-long defensive clinic for outfielders. Offensively Pache started slowly, but progressed throughout the season, doing his best work in the final weeks of the season, hitting .317/.361/.366 over his final 25 games.
Offense: Pache has solid offensive tools that belay his relative lack of production. Pache shows good hands and bat-to-ball skills, and adapts well to experience, rarely getting out the same way twice from the same pitcher. Pache’s bat plane however showed too much groundball tendency to allow his potential plus raw power to play in games; in fact, his next professional home run will be his first. He does possess excellent speed, so he can squeak out some extra hits on the ground, but he should be able to produce more with slight adjustments and the continued filling out of his 6′-2″ frame. Pache is a raw baserunner, who should improve on his 72% stolen base percentage with experience.
Defense: Pache is arguably the most gifted defensive outfielder in Minor League Baseball, with fantastic range, good instincts, and a well above-average arm that helped him gun down 17 baserunners in the 2017. Quite frankly the only reason he didn’t have more assists is that baserunners simply stopped running on him. His defensive skills are major league caliber now.
What’s Next: More than any other top-10 Braves prospect, Pache’s ranking is dependent on projection. However, even if he doesn’t come close to converting his offensive tools to skills, his defensive talents give him a much higher floor than is typical for a toolsy, teenage outfield prospect from the lower minor leagues. At a minimum he could become an Ender Inciarte-style defensive wiz. If his power catches up with his hit tool, he could be much more. Look for him in high-A Florida for 2018.
8. Max Fried, LHP
Age: 24 | Throws: L
5.54 ERA | 3.97 FIP | 21 G, 21 GS | 92.9 IP | 4.37 BB/9 | 8.84 K/9
Current Assignment: MLB – Atlanta
Acquired: Trade w/San Diego Padres – 2014
Midseason 2017 OFR Ranking: 15
Superlatives: Baseball America’s #19 Prospect in the Southern League, Arizona Fall League All-Star
History: A first round pick by the Padres in 2012, Fried was traded to the Braves in the Justin Upton trade late in 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Fried missed the entire 2015 season rehabbing, but joined the Rome rotation to begin the 2016 season, where he performed well after shaking some early season rust off. Fried was added to the 40-man roster that offseason and jumped up to AA Mississippi after an impressive spring training. After that, the wheels came off his season. On opening day, Fried had to come out of the game in the second inning with back spasms. After missing a turn in the rotation he returned, but started developing blister problems that caused severe command issues. By the end of June, Fried was sitting with a 6.63 ERA, allowing a .275/.369/.464 batting line against. The Braves shut him down for a month, and when he returned he was constrained to 50 pitches his first couple games, raising it to 60 on August 1. Fried was outstanding in these short stints, not allowing an earned run in any of them. That was enough for the Braves to call him up to Atlanta to see if he could help the big league club’s beleaguered bullpen.
With Atlanta, Fried had two scoreless outings out of the pen before allowing four runs in the next two. Fried was sent to AAA Gwinnett to get stretched out to start again, and Fried pitched two short, scoreless starts before being recalled to Atlanta when the rosters expanded in September. Fried pitched to a respectable 3.26 ERA in four September starts and one one-inning relief appearance. After the season, Fried was sent to the Arizona Fall League to fill out his innings. Fried was clearly well above the competition there, pitching to a 0.47 ERA while only allowing one extra base hit. Fried was named a starting pitcher for the AFL All-Star game, where he faced the minimum over 3 innings.
Pitching: There’s a lot of great curveballs in the Braves system. Fried’s may be the best. He has a big looper that he can get over for strikes early in the count, but he also can tighten the spin on it and throw a sharper, faster one to generate swing-and-miss. He throws it to both lefties and righties, though it’s more effective against lefties. Fried’s fastball has a lot of life and glove-side run when he’s healthy; when he had is blister issues he had a very difficult time commanding it. Lefties would still have issues, but righties that could lay off the curveball generally hammered the fastball over the plate. This lead to a severe split in his minor league numbers in 2017 as lefties only had a .647 OPS against him and righties had a .823 OPS. His third pitch is a change-up which has a chance to be an equalizer against righties, but he could command it no better than the fastball during much of the season. All three pitches were much more effective in his month in the majors and in the AFL after his one-month DL stint. Fried is athletic and fields his position well. He also has an outstanding left-handed pick-off move, and he’s nabbed 15 baserunners in the last two seasons.
What’s Next: After rebuilding his value with his outstanding AFL showing, Fried will be in the mix for a starting rotation spot this spring. Fried has the stuff and poise to be a top-of-the-rotation starter, but even if he doesn’t hit that ceiling he should be able to carve out a long major league career by getting out left-handed batters.