Minor League Baseball 2017 League Top 10 Prospects: South Atlantic League

MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Ronald Acuna
MIAMI, FL - JULY 09: Ronald Acuna /
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4. Freicer Perez, RHP, New York Yankees

A long, lean pitcher, the Yankees signed Perez out of the Dominican Republic in December of 2014 as a “late sign” already 18 years old, and they’re quickly reaping the benefits.

Perez has added velocity consistently since coming into the Yankees system, to the point of eclipsing the triple digit mark this season a handful of times. With his long arms and height, that level of velocity alone is nearly unhittable. Then Perez adds in a curve that has worked to a fringe-plus pitch. His change is more consistent than his curve, but it’s more of an above-average pitch.

Perez has tremendous consistency in his delivery, especially for a guy his height, but he often struggles with consistency in the feel with his curve, and when that happens, he relies on his fastball/change combo, which works very well for generating weak contact, but not so much for generating swing and miss.

Perez was easily the most impressive pitcher on this list that I saw in 2017. He’s older than many on this list, but much of that is due to his age at signing. I would not be surprised if he jumps multiple levels in a season or two.

3. Cristian Pache, OF, Atlanta Braves

The Braves had an outfield of very good, even elite, defenders in 2016 that roamed the Rome outfield. However, in talking with folks that viewed Pache this season, there’s not even a competition who is the best.

Pache has elite plus to plus-plus level defense with a plus arm that can play up with accuracy to another level, making him one of the truly elite defensive center fielders in minor league baseball. That he also offers plenty on the offensive end as well allows him to be a player that could be an impact player on the Braves future.

Pache has above-average contact skills with above-average zone recognition. He did struggle some with hard breaking stuff in pitch recognition, but he employed an aggressive offensive approach in 2017 that led to a lower walk rate than his true zone recognition would imply is coming down the road.

Pache has true plus-plus speed, and he uses that speed exceptionally well on the bases, stealing 32 bases and hitting 8 triples in 2017. Currently, his bat path is awkward, which makes his ability to consistently put quality contact on the ball all the more impressive. With his athletic build, it’s easy to see that getting a more consistent and less awkward bat path would allow him to tap into above-average raw power. He’ll likely not ever be a guy who hits 30 home runs, but getting double digits is not out of the question.

Pache will move up to high-A Florida in 2017, but it wouldn’t surprise if he moves up quickly, especially the way the Braves have been aggressively promoting those guys who prove themselves.