680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – On Saturday, Braves fans once again got news that they had feared for the last few days. Ronald Acuna Jr, out since Monday with a left wrist injury, was landing on the IL. The team had hoped it was a minor issue and that Acuna could return to the lineup on Monday when the team returned home from the road trip to see the Nationals, but things haven’t progressed the way they had hoped, forcing a roster move. For now, the club will move forward with an extra reliever as Chad Sobotka was recalled from the remote training site in Gwinnett to give the team another fresh arm in the pen.
The loss of Acuna goes along with a laundry list of disappointments for the team in the first three weeks of the season. And the timing couldn’t have been worse, as Acuna’s bat was red hot at the time he was first scratched on Tuesday in The Bronx. In ten games played in August, Acuna was hitting .364 with a 1.306 OPS, coming off that huge doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park that saw him hit three homers over the two seven inning games. The walks had also gone up significantly as Ronald had drawn eight free passes, while cutting his strikeouts down to just eight over 41 plate appearances.
While many fans were surprised to see Cristian Pache not get the call on Saturday, the top prospect isn’t far off. Saturday night, Pache looked strong in the box in an intrasquad game at Truist Park as he was facing the 6’7 lefty Kyle Muller. Defensively, scouts have told me even in early 2019 that Pache’s elite defense has him prepared for life in the Big Leagues. It was his offense that still had room for improvement. The 21 year old outfielder split last season between AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinnett, hitting .277 with 12 homers and 61 RBI in 130 games between both levels of Atlanta’s minor league system. The problem for Pache right now is the fact that the Braves still have three time Gold Glover Ender Inciarte under contract through the 2021 season. This year, Inciarte was set to make roughly $7.7 million dollars, which adjusts to roughly $3.2 million for the 60 game slate. For 2021, the final year of Inciarte’s contract shows an $8.7 million dollar commitment. So, while the Braves could look to move Inciarte this offseason to free a spot in the outfield, for now, Pache will remain with the satellite camp in Gwinnett, keeping himself ready in the event the Braves suffer another injury among their outfielders.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.