William Contreras Keeps Climbing
The Braves reject the notion that any of their prospects is "untouchable.” But one rising youngster tests that theory.
Catcher William Contreras, the younger brother of Cubs backstop Willson, is climbing the hill of upper-echelon Braves prospects. The organization feels it’s a matter of time before he ranks at or near the top of the list.
Contreras, who turned 21 in December, hit .293/.360/.463 with 11 home runs across 82 games at low Class A Rome last season. Promoted to high Class A Florida, he hit .253 with seven doubles in 23 games.
It was an encouraging development. Contreras routinely makes hard contact and showed a jump in power production in 2018. Plus, the Braves believe he made strides as a game manager.
"We’re really excited about him,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "We like everything about him. We like his bat. The way he receives. We like his tools. He doesn’t get talked about, but he’s right there as one of our best position player (prospects) in our minds.”
Anthopoulos acknowledges baseball is trending more towards catcher-by-committee systems. But the Braves hope Contreras blooms into one of the exceptions. That he can be a plus with the bat and among the better game-callers.
If Contreras, who signed out of Venezuela in 2015, doesn’t open the year at Double-A Mississippi, he’ll be there soon enough. Under Anthopoulos, the Braves have been aggressive with their prospects, most recently evidenced by righthanders Bryse Wilson and Kyle Wright quickly ascending to Atlanta in 2018.
Had the Braves acquired J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins, Contreras perhaps would have been part of the deal or suddenly become expendable. But the Braves' plan now includes stopgaps in the majors while further evaluating their highest valued backstop in the system.
The Braves could afford to trade most of their prospects, individually speaking, simply because their depth allows it. Contreras likely doesn’t fall in that category. The organization is ready to invest in him, and he’ll be as close to "untouchable” as they come
Unless the deal brought in another catcher, of course.
2019 Midseason Rookie of The Year Watch
Pete Alonso and Brandon Lowe remain the favorites. But big names like Vlad Jr., Tatis and Jimenez are all heating up.
— Righthander Mike Soroka threw in instructional league and his velocity was back to full capacity. The 21-year-old Canadian will be ready to go for spring training, Anthopoulos said, after his big league debut was cut short after five starts because of shoulder soreness.