No. 6 prospect Contreras to debut Wed.

September 28th, 2021
Kevin Pataky

PITTSBURGH -- The most anticipated pitching callup of the season for the Pirates is finally here.

Manager Derek Shelton said the team intends to promote right-hander to make his MLB debut on Wednesday night against the Cubs at PNC Park. Contreras, the Pirates’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Sept. 20 as Double-A Altoona's season came to a close, and one turn later, he’s headed to the Majors.

“We're getting to take a look at one of our prospects -- one of our top prospects,” Shelton said. “I think we temper all excitement, just like we do with any situation, but it’s just a credit to our development group as we continue to move guys forward."

To say Contreras’ 2021 season has been strong would be an understatement. The Dominican Republic native has racked up 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings while recording a 2.64 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A this season. He was one of two Pittsburgh prospects, alongside No. 3 prospect Quinn Priester, to be named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game this season.

Although it has been highly anticipated, Contreras’ debut was uncertain due to health concerns, and it’s unclear what Contreras' pitch count will be -- but there will certainly be one.

Wednesday’s outing will be Contreras' fifth since returning from a two-month stay on the injured list with right forearm and elbow discomfort -- an injury that kept him from participating in the Futures Game. In his final outing with Indianapolis, he threw 65 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.

"It's a definite credit to our performance team and our medical group and our player development group,” Shelton said of Contreras’ recovery. “Any time you're dealing with young players or you're dealing with injuries, you have to make sure that's first and foremost. Our group has done a good job not only in this situation, but throughout the year with multiple players."

The Pirates acquired Contreras as part of the trade package for Jameson Taillon on Jan. 24, along with three other Top 30 prospects: shortstop Maikol Escotto (No. 20), right-hander Miguel Yajure (No. 24) and outfielder Canaan-Smith Njigba (No. 27). Though Yajure was ranked higher by MLB Pipeline at the time, it was clear the club saw a ton of upside in the other right-hander, too.

“We thought and hoped that there was just enough athleticism there that, with just continued natural strength gains and training, that we might see a little bit more power to the stuff over time,” GM Ben Cherington said in May.

The Pirates' faith paid off. Contreras’ fastball jumped from the 92-95 mph range in 2019 to the 95-96 mph range in ‘21, gaining a bit more riding action to make it even tougher to pick up. His best secondary pitch, a changeup, has also graded out above average to complement his curveball and slider.

And now, Pittsburgh fans will get a look at how Contreras' arsenal plays vs. Major Leaguers for the first time since his final Spring Training appearance on March 23, when he followed a leadoff walk with three consecutive strikeouts and flashed potential the Pirates hope carries into the Majors.