The Braves’ trade for Matt Olson sent shockwaves throughout the league, and there were a plethora of repercussions that followed, mainly Freddie Freeman joining the Dodgers. However, the Braves also had to part ways with two of their very best prospects — Cristian Pache and Shea Langeliers.
Losing Pache stung, but it was much more palatable than trading away Langeliers, who I had as my top prospect in Atlanta’s system coming into the season. The Braves have a boatload of talented outfielders in their system, but their long-term outlook at catcher — especially without Langeliers in the picture — was cloudy at best coming into the season. At least… that’s what we thought.
Langeliers has exceeded expectations in Oakland’s system thus far. He’s hitting just a hair under .300 and already has 11 home runs to his name — good for a .997 OPS. Combine that with his elite defense behind the plate, and it looks like the Athletics have a star in the making. I’m not surprised at all by the success Langeliers is having at AAA, and I doubt the Braves are either; however, perhaps they knew exactly what they had in William Contreras, which made them much more willing to part ways with the top catching prospect in their system.
After an underwhelming performance at the major-league level last season, Contreras was counted out by a lot of the fan base coming into this year. Most even expected him to be traded following the addition of Manny Piña via free agency. However, the Braves clearly still held Contreras in high regard, and that faith is paying off for them early on in 2022.
In just 30 plate appearances, Contreras has launched four balls out of the yard and recorded a 1.026 OPS. For comparison, only three other Braves have more homers this season, and they all have at least 150 plate appearances. Contreras’ defense has also vastly improved, which was a concern after last season because of how much he struggled behind the plate at the major-league level.
The sample size this season is small, but this is beginning to look like a prototypical case of people overreacting to a young player’s struggles early on in his major-league career. The reality is that Contreras was basically forced to skip AAA out of necessity and learn on the fly. That is one of the most challenging things to do in all of sports, especially as a catcher, which is arguably the hardest position to play in the game.
In no way is this a jab at Langeliers, who I believe has the potential to be an All-Star catcher at the top level, but perhaps the Braves knew precisely what they were doing when they moved him for Olson. To get great players, you have to give away great players, and William Contreras is looking more and more ready by the day to take over as the starting catcher. In a couple of years, maybe we could be talking about him as an All-Star catcher as well, just like his brother.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire