Do you prefer elite defense up the middle or a very strong all-around offensive package? This is essentially the question we dig into this week in our Player Battles series when we pit Cristian Pache and Taylor Trammell against each other.
There might not be a greater divide in the fantasy vs. real life spectrum than the one Pache currently inhabits. The facts are these: He has three plus-plus tools and two of them are involving his defense. His arm and fielding combine to form what could realistically be the best defensive center fielder in baseball the moment he debuts, and potentially the best defender period. It’s a game changing profile on the field that will give him value right way and take immense pressure off his bat, which is a little lackluster. In a fantasy setting, however, it’s the bat we care about. Pache’s lack of walks (sub-5 BB% in 2018), his weird hesitancy to steal (7-for-15 on basepaths) despite 80-grade speed and eventual mid-teens power isn’t terribly enticing right now. If the power continues burgeoning and he can provide significant value with his wheels, his fantasy value shifts dramatically.
But for now, I’m aboard the Trammell train. Here’s someone with the potential for a plus hit and plus power tool (and I know Jason Woodell thinks there’s more power than that). Oh, and let’s not forget the 70 speed. That’s a drool-worthy fantasy profile that somehow gets even better when you consider he posted 12 percent walk rates in back-to-back seasons now. When I covered the 2018 Florida State All-Star Game he was easily the most athletic guy there, a physical specimen that still has projection to grow into, hence Woodell’s hype on the power. Future 20/25 seasons might be in order with .275/.360/.490 lines. Even though his fielding is just a fraction of Pache’s, I’m taking Trammell any day. -Eddy Almaguer
In my AFL top 25 piece, I ranked Pache fifth as a 70-Extreme and Trammell sixth as a 60-Moderate. From a “real life” perspective they are very close in my mind. Pache’s 70-Extreme grade implies the most likely outcome is a frequent All-Star, but there is a decent chance he will miss this projection. What makes Pache a 70-Extreme? It is the big variance in his hit tool. He is very raw offensively. I like his bat speed, and his swing is pretty direct to the ball. However, the swing mechanics are inconsistent, and he looks off balanced at times with his center of mass falling back as he swings, rather than attacking the baseball. He has tweaked the swing at various times this season, and I believe he has the raw talent to find a swing that works for him. On Twitter, I was asked for a realistic stat line for Pache and responded:
Trammell shows a much more refined approach at the plate. His hands are excellent, but he is still learning to tap into his raw power. The swing can get too linear at times, but 60 game power is in play as a possible outcome, which could make him a 20-homer, 35-steal fantasy monster. Trammell has the better chance to hit at the major league level, but he provides significantly less defensive value. Ultimately, it was too hard for me to resist the potential All-Star center fielder with double-plus defense. Even if the hit tool is more of a question mark, I think Pache projects to be the better player. Having said that, if you are in a fantasy league, you take Trammell over Pache with relative ease. - Jason Pennini
This is tough for me, but the answer is Trammell in fantasy and Pache in a reality sense. Pache projects as an elite defender and that makes up a significant portion of his value. Trammell has the speed, but looks like more of a left fielder going forward which obviously dings him. I do think Trammell is going to have some issues hitting for the power that some project him for; a really linear swing will make it difficult to count on 20+ homers a year. Both of these guys are capable of 30+ steals, and it will just be a matter of how much each team lets them run.
There might not be a player in the upper minors (Double-A and above) that is farther from what they currently are and might become offensively than Pache. Pache is purely projection, but the potential offensive tools are loud. Pache has a similar offensive ceiling to Trammell but you just have to use more of your imagination to see him get there. My vote is for Trammell though, because he’s closer to a sure thing in fantasy. - Matt Thompson
I have given this much thought since JP and I shared between three and seven beers one night in Arizona during the Fall League. The industry consensus points to Trammell being the more polished hitter and therefore the safer option. However, having seen both guys from April to November, the perceived gap between the two in terms of present hit tool is closer than you might think.
Both guys are insanely athletic with a ton of body projection left. They aren’t even a fraction of a finished product, both body wise, athletically, and as hitters. Without being repetitive, we know Pache has the edge over Trammell on defense and arm strength. 80 vs 50 as far as the tools. As hitters though, while Trammell will walk more and work deeper into counts, Pache still made contact at a higher rate (17.8% K to 22.8% K). Pache also outslugged Trammell in the FSL. .431 to .406.
I’m taking Pache and it isn’t even close for me. He is a year younger with plus bat speed and emerging power. He is more raw at the moment and is still learning to hit. He will smooth out the inconsistencies with his swing. He will lay off sliders low and away from him. He may not cut down on his aggressiveness and never walk at a league-average rate, but I do expect him to cut down on his aggressiveness outside of the zone. He is just too good and works too hard not to make these adjustments. Look at how much he improved from 2017 to 2018. Let’s not forget, he was 19 last year and reached AA.
This doesn’t mean I don’t love Taylor Trammell. Imagine Homer Simpson salivating over a doughnut. That is me when I envision Trammell playing 81 games in Great American Ballpark. - Jason Woodell
My brain is in a pretzel, do I go with the freak athlete with great offensive production but defensive questions? Or do I go with the freak athlete with comparatively modest offensive production, but an otherworldly ability in centerfield? Fantasy vs Reality!
First let’s look at Trammell. A star football player at the high school level that spurned a Georgia Tech multi-sport commitment to sign with the Reds. The combination of on base ability, raw power, and double plus speed made him an immediate fantasy darling. With this tag came lofty expectations and probably inflated real life value, at least with the collective conciseness. The player Trammell can be if he reaches 80% of his ceiling, is the type of player Reds fans haven’t seen the likes of since Eric Davis. He takes a ding for his subpar defense and throwing arm, if we’re discussing real life value. This speaks to the very contrast we deal with regularly, what real teams value versus what we value as fantasy owners. For fantasy, Trammell is the plug.
If you could build the perfect centerfielder at least defensively you’d likely end up with Cristian Pache. Armed with three 70-80 grade tools in his speed, fielding, and arm, I truly believe Pache would be one of the better centerfielders in the major leagues right now. The offensive game however has been a work in progress, but one that has showed promising returns in the last 12 months. Over Pache’s first 750 plate appearances he failed to clear the fence even a single time. Coming into 2018 everything changed, as he tapped into increased game power hitting eight homers, and raising his isolated slugging 69 points year over year... nice. This jump in production pushed Pache into the conversation with the top outfield prospects in the game. Especially when you consider the level of ceiling still there offensively. From a real life standpoint, I consider Pache to be the best centerfield prospect in the minors at the moment. But he’s just not the a player I’m willing to trade Taylor Trammell for straight up in a fantasy league.
Verdict: Heavy hedge between real life value and fantasy - Ralph Lifshitz