Braves Land Matt Olson, Send A's Cristian Pache, Shea Langeliers And Pitching Prospects
After sending righthander Chris Bassitt to the Mets last week, the Athletics’ expected selloff continued in full on Monday when they reached a deal to send star first baseman Matt Olson to the Braves for a mammoth haul of prospects. Included in the deal were a pair of Top 100 Prospects in catcher Shea Langeliers (No. 54) and outfielder Cristian Pache (No. 84) as well as high-end righthanded pitching prospects Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes.
In all, the A’s received three of the Braves’ Top 10 prospects in Langeliers, Pache and Cusick as well as Estes, their No. 14 prospect and one of the breakout arms of the 2021 minor league season.
The cost was high because the return was high. Olson, an Atlanta native, is one of the game’s brightest young sluggers—he mashed .271/.371/.540 with 39 home runs in 2021—and is an excellent defender at first base as well.
Matt Olson, 1B
The Braves acquire Olson, one of the better hitters on the trade market and a Georgia native who was drafted out of powerhouse Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., by the A’s with the 47th pick in 2012. Olson has two more years of team control before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024. He has been a consistent offensive contributor for the A’s since he established himself in the majors in 2017. The two-time Gold Glove winner and 2021 all-star has massive shoes to fill with this trade seemingly ending the Freddie Freeman era in Atlanta a year after the team won a World Series with its homegrown star. Olson is similarly a middle-of-the-order lefty bat the Braves can build their lineup around who is coming off a career-best 39-homer season and is a career .252/.348/.511 hitter with a 134 OPS+.
Matt's Breakout MLB Prospect Team For 2022
Matt Eddy's picks for breakout prospects in the minor leagues all around the diamond. Each has the potential to force his way into the Top 100 Prospects conversation.
Shea Langeliers, C
Langeliers has long been regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues, and he ranked behind only Adley Rutschman at the position in the 2019 draft. He’s excellent in all facets defensively—from receiving and blocking to catching and throwing to working with pitchers—and showed exciting offensive growth in 2021 as well. Langeliers socked 22 home runs in a season spent mostly at Double-A Mississippi, and posted a .949 OPS in games away from the supremely pitcher-friendly TrustMark Park. He reached Triple-A by season’s end and was part of the taxi squad for Atlanta’s run to the World Series.
Cristian Pache, OF
Pache is one of the most talented defenders in the minor leagues, a center fielder with a true 80-grade glove that will, at the very least, give him plenty of value on that side of the ball. He broke out offensively in 2019 and was part of each of the Braves’ last two postseason rosters. He sputtered with the bat at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2021 but steadily improved throughout the course of the season and hit .307/.361/.458 over the final two months. The Braves worked with Pache to improve both his hitting mechanics—specifically they tweaked the way he sets his hands at address—to get him into a better position to hit. They also tried to improve his approach to use the whole field more consistently. In all, Pache is sure to save plenty of runs in the big leagues and still has a chance to produce a good number of them as well.
Ryan Cusick, RHP
Cusick was the Braves’ first-round selection in 2021 out of Wake Forest on the strength of an electric right arm. He uses upper-90s-to-triple-digit heat to buzz through hitters and whiffed an astounding 34 batters in 16.1 innings at Low-A in his pro debut. Armed with a four-pitch repertoire in college, Cusick focused on his slider as a pro. The hard-biting pitch has the potential to be above-average. His curveball could be average in time, but his below-average changeup still has a ways to go. If either of the latter two pitches comes along, he could be an intriguing rotation piece. If not, he could easily fit in the back of a bullpen and blow gas for an inning or two at a time.
Joey Estes, RHP
The Braves signed Estes for $497,500 in the 16th round in 2019 and he was one of the better Low-A pitchers in baseball in 2021, striking out 127 batters over 99 innings. Estes has a solid three-pitch mix that’s led by a fastball in the 91-95 mph range that has standout carry and a flat approach angle that analysts love. He complements that fastball with a low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup that are both solid pitches, but need more development to become plus secondaries. Estes showed good feel to fill up the zone against lower-level hitters (2.6 BB/9), though some scouts think a delivery with a bit of effort is a better fit for a bullpen role in the long run.