Willson Contreras may be the hottest hitter in baseball right now. The Chicago Cubs catcher has hit .324 with five homers and 13 RBI in August alone. He is one of the hardest commodities to come by, a solid defensive catcher who can hit, and for power. Unfortunately, during the process of writing this article, he actually a sustained an injury. We wish him a speedy recovery.
The catcher position looked to be the Braves biggest weakness organization-wide going into the 2017 season. However, Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki have surprisingly given the team some of the best production at the position in the big leagues. Down on the farm, Alex Jackson and Lucas Herbert have had bounce back seasons, and Brett Cumberland played well enough to earn a promotion to high-A ball. But it is William Contreras, the younger brother of Willson, who has emerged as perhaps the most intriguing future backstop for the Braves.
The Braves signed William as an international free agent out of Venezuela back in 2015. Now 19-years old, the younger Contreras is starting to make serious noise in Rookie ball. Given his performance this season and his gene pool, it raises the question: just how high is Contreras’ ceiling?
Let’s take to the numbers to compare William to his older brother, who may be the best catcher in the game right now, through their age 19 seasons.
Straight out of the gate, Willson struggled in his first year of Dominican Summer League ball, while younger brother William thrived at that level in a larger sample size. They both displayed limited power, but significantly higher on-base percentages in relation to their averages. They also both showed their sneaky speed for a catcher with multiple extra-base hits. Willson was even hitting out of the lead-off spot for the Cubs this season at one point.
Willson had slightly better results than William in his second pro season, but neither had over 100 at bats, so it is a tiny sample size. It is worth noting though that Willson had to repeat DSL while William was playing in the Gulf Coast League.
William’s production this year is what stands out. While older brother Willson was rather pedestrian in his first season of low-A ball, William has absolutely dominated. He has a .939 OPS through 31 games. He almost has already put up the production older brother Willson did at the same age and level but in half the plate appearances. His age 19 season is head and shoulders above his superstar brother.
This could mean nothing, but it could also mean that the Braves have a star catcher on the rise. One thing worth mentioning is that Willson was a late bloomer for the Cubs. He did not really come into his own with the lumber until his age 21 season, where things seemingly clicked and he grew into his power. Contreras spent EIGHT seasons in the Cubs farm system, but was only ranked as a top 100 prospect heading into 2016, the year he was finally promoted.
William Contreras has time to grow as a player, and he is head and shoulders above where his brother was at age 19. He is emerging as a serious dark horse prospect in the Braves organization. If he can add some pop to his game, the rest will figure itself out. After all, he is a .314 hitter thus far in his minor league career. Contreras could be due a promotion soon considering he is hitting a whopping .345. He has hit safely in 27 of his 31 contests in 2017. He also has a nice cannon, though some thing he could work on the accuracy of this throws.
We are hopping on the hype train earlier. We advise the rest of Braves Country to do the same.