Young Catchers Ready To Contribute In Atlanta
Young Braves catchers Alex Jackson or William Contreras are poised expanded roles in Atlanta this season.
Jackson, 25, and Contreras, 23, have combined for 13 games in the majors. Jackson was a 2014 first-round pick by the Mariners who, through position changes and inconsistent offense, has struggled establishing himself.
While Jackson boasts high-level power—he hit 28 homers in Triple-A in 2019—it hasn’t translated to major league production. Jackson is 2-for-20 across the past two seasons with the Braves.
“Alex is very talented,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve always loved Alex behind the plate, his receiving and throwing. The biggest thing has been contact, even in the minor leagues. He’s got power, we all see that. He’s got natural power. But he hasn’t made a whole lot of contact."
Contreras, meanwhile, is a lauded catching prospect who boasts an impressive athletic profile. He debuted last season, going 4-for-10 with an RBI. Contreras and 2019 first-rounder Shea Langeliers are considered the best catching prospects in the Braves' organization.
Both Jackson and Contreras, a 2015 international signing from Venezuela, opened the 2020 season on the big league roster because veterans Travis d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers were out due to Covid-19 protocols. The Braves were impressed with how the players handled the hectic situation.
“We started the year with two Double-A, Triple-A catchers, and I thought they both handled themselves very well,” Snitker said. “They’re both growing. Physically, mentally, it was a great opportunity for both of those guys to see the reality of where they’re at.”
The Braves are thrilled with the catching talent in their system.
“I don’t know if I’ve been in a major league camp with that many guys who can throw like they can," Snitker said of the young catchers in big league camp. "It’s unbelievable what those kids are capable of.”
— In addition to Jackson, Contreras and Langeliers, Snitker also singled out Logan Brown and Jonathan Morales among catchers in big league camp.
— The Braves didn’t name rookie Cristian Pache their Opening Day center fielder when camp opened, though that remains the expectation. The 22-year-old is the team’s top prospect.
“We’re going to give him a lot of opportunity,” Snitker said. “The kid has to come to camp feeling really good about things, having a lot of confidence off his performance in the NLCS. This’ll be his third or fourth camp, so he’ll know what to expect and have a better idea about himself.
“Until these guys come in and compete at this level, they don’t know what to expect. He probably has a lot of confidence in his abilities and that he can play here.”
— If you’re looking for an intriguing name at Braves camp, turn to Bryce Ball, the towering first base prospect with loads of power. Ball, 22, was drafted in the 24th round in 2019 and soon after began garnering attention. He also impressed the team last spring before the shutdown. With the DH likely making its way to the National League permanently next season, Ball could eventually fit into that role.