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Contreras opening eyes at Summer Camp

@mlbbowman
July 18, 2020

ATLANTA -- As Shea Langeliers drew much of the attention during Spring Training, there was reason to wonder if he had passed William Contreras in the battle to be the Braves’ catcher of the future. But Contreras has taken advantage of the chance to shine while working out with the

ATLANTA -- As Shea Langeliers drew much of the attention during Spring Training, there was reason to wonder if he had passed William Contreras in the battle to be the Braves’ catcher of the future.

But Contreras has taken advantage of the chance to shine while working out with the big leaguers during Summer Camp. The 22-year-old backstop, who ranks as Atlanta's No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, now stands as the most improved since Spring Training ended in March. A swing adjustment has enhanced his power, and natural physical maturity has improved his athleticism behind the plate.

“You’re looking at a young player who is starting to mature,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just a shame he’s not out playing every day right now.”

Like many prospects, Contreras is dealing with the fact his development has been impacted by the cancellation of the Minor League season due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he used his time wisely by spending a portion of the past few months with his older brother Willson Contreras, the Cubs' catcher who has started for the National League All-Star team each of the past two years.

Contreras has opened some eyes with his success against some of Atlanta’s top pitchers in scrimmages and intrasquad games over the past week. The opposite-field homer he hit off Sean Newcomb was hit so hard, Ronald Acuña Jr. barely moved from his spot in right field.

Contreras totaled just six homers over 381 combined at-bats at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels last year. But he has shown increased strength while playing games and taking batting practice this month.

“I was out there [in right field] shagging balls with Austin Riley, and [Contreras] was hitting balls like a left-handed pull hitter,” Snitker said. “His body looks better. I think he used the time off to his benefit. He’s a young man who is maturing. He looks great physically.”

Given Contreras has played just 60 games above the Class A level, Alex Jackson would likely be the first catcher called upon if the Braves were to lose either of their primary guys -- Travis d'Arnaud or Tyler Flowers -- this year.

But if needed, the Braves now would have less hesitance to call upon Contreras, who was added to the 40-man roster in November.

“We forget with young guys, especially catchers, we all want them to be the finished product before they are,” Snitker said. “[Contreras] just continues to mature. He’s got a pretty good feel. It’s been a great experience for him to sit in on all of these meetings they’re having with [d’Arnaud and Flowers]. He has been able to soak all that in and see how all of this works. I think this has been very beneficial to his growth.”

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.