Due to unforeseen circumstances, William Contreras was forced into the Braves’ plans far earlier than expected.
During the first week of the season, the Braves were down both their veteran catchers—Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers—due to them exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The team turned to youngsters Alex Jackson—who’d appeared in four career big league games—and Contreras in their absence.
Contreras, the Braves’ preseason No. 8 prospect, looked more ready than expected. After subbing in during his first two games, the 6-foot, 180-pound backstop made his first start on Sunday Night Baseball, collecting three hits in a win against the Mets.
Teammates and coaches have raved about Contreras, who signed in 2015 as an international free agent from Venezuela, since summer camp opened. Contreras’ natural athleticism already made him a rare talent behind the plate, but a swing adjustment has advanced his power.
Contreras’ camp highlight was a mammoth homer off lefty Sean Newcomb. Despite the encouraging glimpses he showed, there was no reason to believe the 22-year-old would be making his big league debut anytime soon.
Yet the sudden catching voids paved a path. Contreras, who hit .255/.315/.354 between high Class A and Double-A in 2019, excelled in the early going, showing that perhaps he could be counted on as a regular by 2021.
Contreras’ older brother, two-time all-star Willson Contreras of the Cubs, recently told reporters that he thought his brother was better than him.
The Braves had few welcome developments as the season started. Contreras’ success, especially under such unpredictable circumstances, gave them one reason for excitement.
“I just see physically, mentally, he’s growing up, he’s maturing,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He came to camp, we brought him into our camp in the summer and it looked like he’d done some work with his swing. He’s a very tooled kid. This is a great experience for him.
“We didn’t think we’d be rushing him into action. He’s another one that it’s a shame there’s not a minor league season for a kid like this to play.”
— Righthander Kyle Wright has an opportunity to cement himself in the Braves’ rotation plans moving forward. The Braves were down two starters when the season opened—Felix Hernandez decided against playing and Cole Hamels was injured. Wright opened as the team’s No. 5 starter.
— The Braves are hoping top pitching prospect Ian Anderson works his way into their plans during the 2020 season. The righthander began the campaign at the team’s alternate site in Gwinnett, Ga. Anderson, 22, made a strong impression back in spring training. Given the aforementioned pitching shortage, Anderson could certainly get a chance at some point.