The best story of the Braves season thus far — hands down — has been William Contreras. Many people had already written him off after a poor major league stint last season, but Atlanta knew they had something special, which is probably why they were more willing to part ways with top prospect Shea Langeliers for Matt Olson in the offseason.
Initially, the plan was for Contreras to work his way back to the majors by beginning the year in AAA, but things accelerated when Manny Piña went down for the season. Once again, Contreras was thrust back into a major-league role with minimal AAA experience; however, this time he appears up for the task.
Following a three-hit performance yesterday, Contreras is now hitting .302 on the season with seven homers in just 18 games, correlating to a 1.095 OPS. The sample size may still be small, but he’s been the pulse of the Braves offense more often than not when he’s in the lineup, and there’s no reason Brian Snitker shouldn’t be doing everything in his power to make sure he’s getting at-bats every day.
But as Mark Bowman pointed out after yesterday’s game last night, getting Contreras at-bats is easier said than done.
It’s clear Contreras deserves regular playing time. How the Braves can make this happen isn’t so clear https://t.co/HhQb9z6Gvw
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) June 2, 2022
The Braves aren’t exactly comfortable with Contreras in outfield just yet, which is understandable. “He looked like somebody who hasn’t played out there before,” Snitker said of his performance in left field. Contreras was about as abysmal, if not worse than Ozuna out there. However, the outfield is just one of many roles he can handle.
The Braves could use Contreras as a designated hitter, but a lot of those opportunities need to be filled by Ozuna, and Acuña will also need some DH days, as he can’t be relied on to play in the field every day just yet. Of course, Contreras is a catcher by nature as well, but he’s still not yet ready to take over the reins from Travis d’Arnaud, who is significantly better than him defensively.
Without question, there are obstacles to getting Contreras in the lineup, but they are ones that need to be avoided while he is this hot. It doesn’t matter how it happens; Brian Snitker must find a way to write his name into the lineup almost every day. Whether it requires giving Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Harris, Adam Duvall, or Marcell Ozuna an extra day off every now and then, there is a way everyone can eat, and Contreras should be first in line at the dinner table.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire