ST. PETERSBURG — Certain baseball players possess a natural talent that just screams star potential. With each game he plays in an A’s uniform, Cristian Pache continues to show off qualities that fit such a description.
The more the A’s saw of Pache in Spring Training after he joined the club as part of the prospect haul acquired from Atlanta in exchange for Matt Olson, it became apparent the 23-year-old center fielder can impact the game in a variety of ways. That’s exactly what he did in Oakland’s 4-1 victory over the Phillies on Sunday.
With the A’s entering the ninth holding a 2-0 lead and seeking late insurance runs to combat Philadelphia’s potent offense, Pache followed Austin Allen’s single by roping a double down the left-field line at Citizens Bank Park that registered a scorching exit velocity of 104.5 mph off the bat, per Statcast, putting Oakland in a strong position to add on.
That was a glimpse of what Pache’s bat can do. Next up was his baserunning abilities.
On second with Tony Kemp at the plate, Pache immediately turned up the speed as Kemp lined a single into shallow right-center. He bravely tested the strong arm of right fielder Bryce Harper, and he won. Though Harper fired a 95.8 mph throw to the plate, Pache raced from second base to home, just beating the throw with an exciting headfirst slide to get in before a tag was applied and extending the A’s lead to four runs.
Pache’s 70-grade speed and run grades alone make him a fun player to watch. What could separate him as a potential star, though, is a more intangible tool he brings: Energy.
Sensing the importance of that critical run scored, Pache wasn’t afraid to show his emotions. After synchronizing the safe call with the home-plate umpire, he let out a roar directed toward his teammates and pumped his fists in the air. That energy reverberated throughout the A’s dugout upon his return, with each player feeding off the vibes produced from the big moment.
“We talk about just letting these guys be themselves. He’s himself,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said of Pache. “He’s electric. His plays in center. Scoring on that ball with the slide that he made. Those are the game-changing abilities that he possesses.”
Everything Pache does looks exciting: the smoothness with which he patrols center field; the way he glides around the basepaths; the sound he generates with his bat at the point of contact.
Pache is just different. His teammates can feel it.
“I think when I’m older, I’m gonna say, ‘Hey, I got to play with Cristian Pache,’” said A’s starting pitcher Daulton Jefferies. “He’s unbelievable. The energy he brings to the dugout, too, is pretty hilarious and pretty awesome.”
Kemp echoed similar statements.
“You can tell there’s just a lot of joy in his game,” Kemp said. “I feed off him. Can’t say enough about his energy, especially scoring that last run right there.”
Some within the A’s clubhouse have actually already seen the many talents Pache brings to the baseball field, like Allen, who was a teammate of his in the 2018 Arizona Fall League.
Even then, Allen noticed how a raw teenage Pache stood out among a group loaded with talented prospects that made up the Peoria Javelinas’ roster.
“He can be one of the best players on the field every day,” Allen said. “He was showing flashes of what he’s doing now back then. He brings a spark.”
Given Pache’s ranking as Oakland’s No. 4 prospect, an emergence into stardom might not exactly be classified as a surprise. However, while a prospect in the Braves organization, questions about his offensive game often came up as something that could hold him back as a Major Leaguer.
It’s a small sample size, but Pache’s adjustments at the plate this spring have translated into success in the regular season. In Oakland’s first three games, he’s constantly been able to barrel up balls with a great amount of force. Entering Monday’s game against the Rays, five of Pache’s seven balls hit in play have registered an exit velocity of 95.6 mph. Two of those were tagged at 104.5 mph and 107.6 mph in the series against Philadelphia.
Already considered a future potential Gold Glove winner who brings 80-grade defense to center, hitting appears to be the final piece of the puzzle for Pache. If these early improvements with the bat continue, the A’s might just have a new superstar to lean on as they enter a new chapter.