The Braves announced this morning they’ve placed Guillermo Heredia on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 30, with right hamstring inflammation. Fellow outfielder Cristian Pache has been recalled from the alternate training site in a corresponding move. The team did not provide a timetable for Heredia’s potential return.
Somewhat ironically, Heredia only got his call to the big leagues this season when Pache went on the IL a little less than three weeks ago. The 30-year-old was viewed as something of an emergency stopgap capable of holding down center field, but there wasn’t much expectation he’d produce at the plate. After all, he’d managed only a .231/.311/.354 line for four teams from 2018-20 and had been waived by the Mets in February.
However, Heredia has unexpectedly mashed to begin his Atlanta career. He quickly played himself into the everyday lineup and has hit .300/.429/.575 with a pair of home runs over 49 plate appearances. Pache returned from the IL last week, but the Braves immediately optioned him to the alternate site and continued to play Heredia in center.
Of course, Heredia was likely to take a significant step back offensively at some point. His 74.7% contact rate this season is the lowest of his career, a full eight points below his overall mark. He has always been a patient hitter, but Heredia’s massive 16.3% walk rate is an outlier, likely aided by his frequent work hitting directly in front of the pitcher. And while Heredia’s 87.8 MPH average exit velocity is a new career high, it’s still a bit below the league average of 88.3 MPH.
Even if Heredia were to regress at the plate, he’d probably offer more offense than Pache. The 22-year-old is already regarded as one of the game’s best defenders and is a consensus top prospect, but he’s looked overmatched by MLB pitching so far. In his first 35 plate appearances, Pache has hit just .147/.171/.206 with 13 strikeouts and one walk. Those struggles aren’t particularly surprising for a young player who has never been renowned for his plate discipline and hasn’t had much experience above Double-A. With Heredia joining Ender Inciarte on the IL, though, it seems the Braves are likely to turn to Pache for the time being, where he should at least offer a boost with the glove.