March 3, 2021 –
BY BUCK BELUE
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – The new Atlanta Braves outfield has a chance to be one of the best in Major League Baseball, with Ozuna, Pache and Acuna in the line-up! Seriously, Braves Country already knows that Marcell and Ronald are ballers. So, if the rookie in centerfield comes through this group could really be special.
Cristian Pache flashed his skill set a little bit last season, but not enough to really be sure what he is going to bring to the party, but I’m excited about his game. His end of the season highlight reel is going to be epic defensively. The great unknown is how the kid will hit major league pitching.
Pache’s scouting report speaks of him being a “plus-defender.” Think about a young Andrew Jones. Cristian can go get it in the gaps and gun down aggressive baserunners. Fans get ready to be entertained.
Offensively, Pache has worked hard to improve his swing, at the minor league level. It’s now much shorter & quicker than it used to be. Combine that with this physical maturation and the Braves might have gold glove caliber centerfielder, who can hit twenty bombs and join the 40 doubles a year club in the future.
Hitting 8th in the batting order this season will present some potential problems, as far as getting quality pitches to hit consistently. Opposing pitchers will be trying to make him chase pitches out of the zone. So, plate discipline will be a big key for him.
Over in right field, the Braves feature the 7th rated player in Major League Baseball, in Ronald Acuna, Jr.
Acuna’s skill set is amazing. He provides instant energy in the lead-off spot. Can hit, hit for power, run, steal and play the field. He also has fun doing it, which is awesome for the team and the fans.
This also might be the season where we get to see Acuna join the 40-40 Club. That’s 40 homers and 40 stolen bases in the same season. Only four players have done it; Jose Canseco, Alfonso Soriano, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Talk about special!
Expect to see Acuna doing more amazing things this season. Can he improve? Sure he can. Ronald should settle into right field now, with Pache taking over in center. That should help Ronald clean it up defensively.
Marcell Ozuna signed the multi-year deal he has been looking for and is back protecting the N.L. MVP Freddie Freeman in the batting order. He can “Stir It Up” offensively. Ozuna almost won the Triple Crown last season. The man can swing the bat! He also rakes against the top pitchers.
Also, don’t be concerned about his play defensively. It’s true, Marcell is not the gold glove fielder he used to be. So, play him deep with his feet on the warning track, tell him to hit the cut-off man and let Pache roam into the left-center field gap. No worries, man.
Ozuna is also a super teammate and a guy with a High Baseball IQ. I’ve seen him holding court in the clubhouse talking hitting with Albies, Acuna and Austin Riley. Riley told me later that Ozuna can remember in detail, how each pitcher he’s faced has tried to get him out.
The Dodgers outfield looks world class with Bellinger & Betts as headliners. The Angels with Mike Trout, Dexter Fowler and Justin Upton are impressive. Robles and Soto give the Nationals some juice. The Yankees show off big Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks.
However, if Cristian Pache delivers in his rookie season, the Braves outfield can match-up with any in baseball for years to come.
Buck Belue is the Co-Host of “Buck & Hut,” Weekdays on 680 The Fan & 93.7FM.