We at MLBTR have been doing head-to-head comparisons of some of baseball’s elite prospects in recent weeks. Let’s keep it going with a pair of the minors’ top young outfielders, the Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic and the Braves’ Cristian Pache. The two would have been National League East rivals had the Mets not traded Kelenic (we’ve covered their 2018 blockbuster with the Mariners extensively of late; see: here, here and here), but it wasn’t to be. Kelenic now looks like a tremendous building block for the long-suffering Mariners, while Pache could amount to the latest homegrown Braves great.
Kelenic was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, and there now seems to be an almost unanimous belief that he is the game’s 11th-best prospect. Each of MLB.com, Baseball America and FanGraphs place him in that position, after all. The power-hitting 20-year-old climbed to the Double-A level for the first time last season, his debut campaign in the Seattle organization, and batted .253/.315/.542 with six home runs in 92 plate appearances. Not necessarily extraordinary numbers on paper, nor was it a huge sample size, but that line was an impressive 33 percent better than the league average, according to FanGraphs’ wRC+ metric. Speaking of FanGraphs, their own Eric Longenhagen wrote just two weeks ago of Kelenic, “He’s much more stick than glove, but Kelenic looks like an All-Star center fielder who’s rapidly approaching Seattle.” The upside’s definitely there for Kelenic, like fellow Mariners outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez, to help the Mariners escape the mire in the coming years.
Unlike the M’s, the Braves have enjoyed quite a bit of success in recent years. They’re back-to-back NL East champions who probably aren’t going away in the near future, considering the vast amount of talent they possess. And it appears to be only a matter of time before they get a look at Pache, who just turned 21 a few months ago and could someday join the amazing Ronald Acuna Jr. (and maybe fellow prospect Drew Waters) as an indispensable part of the Braves’ outfield. For now, the experts at Baseball America (No. 12), MLB.com (No. 13) and FanGraphs (No. 20) say Pache is among baseball’s 20 premier prospects. Pache was terrific last year in Double-A, where he hit .278/.340/.474 (134 wRC+) with 11 homers in 433 PA, but wasn’t quite as powerful in his initial taste of Triple-A action (.274/.337/.411 with a single HR over 105 PA). However, as Longenhagen suggested a couple months back, Pache won’t need to post all-world offensive numbers to make a notable impact in the bigs, as he possesses tremendous upside as a defender.
Kelenic and Pache could eventually turn into two of the top center fielders in the game, but their styles are different. Kelenic seems to be more of a force at the plate, while defense looks like Pache’s forte. Which one would you rather have? (Poll link for app users)