The younger brother of Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras, William signed with Atlanta for a small bonus in February of 2015. We were among the first to get a live look at Contreras during his breakout 2018 campaign in the South Atlantic League, a season after which he established himself as Atlanta’s top catching prospect. I saw the 21-year-old backstop for three games in the Florida State League right before he got promoted to Double-A Mississippi.
Contreras was listed at 6-foot and 180 pounds when I saw him last year, and while that’s still the height and weight that shows up on the roster, he has thickened considerably in the time since. He looked more athletic in 2018, and while the added bulk likely aids his durability behind the plate, both Contreras’ batspeed and overall actions have lost some twitch. Defensively, his arm still grades well ahead of the receiving and glovework, consistently in the 1.88-1.95 range on throws down to 2B. He will need to set quieter targets—especially on off-speed—and make progress blocking and framing to finish an average defensive catcher in the big leagues.
The chance for power at a premium position is what made Contreras such an interesting prospect, and that raw was still on display both in BP and game action. He crushes mistakes to the pullside with strong loft contact, though his stiffer swing struggled to barrel secondary and frequently chased breaking stuff outside the zone. He’s a dead pull hitter with a hooked path that doesn’t use the big part of the field often: nearly half of Contreras’ contact was to left field in the Florida State League, and that number has increased since moving up to Double-A. While I do think Contreras will always have some pop at an offense-scarce position, there’s a chance it plays closer to 45-grade at the highest level (12 to 15 home runs over a full season) if he winds up a low-average hitter that always struggles to adjust the barrel.
Contreras wasn’t necessarily lighting the Florida State League on fire at the time of his promotion, and he has struggled in his first few weeks at Double-A. He’s likely to stay with Mississippi through this season and potentially into 2020, as it will take time to make the requisite defensive improvements and shore up parts of his hitting ability. In the best-case scenario, everything comes together on both sides of the ball and Contreras unlocks his full ceiling as a bopping FV 50 everyday catcher. If the player I saw in the FSL is closer to who he will be at higher levels, a realistic outcome is a bat-first second option behind the plate.