This time around, let's take a quick dive into William Contreras, his historical hitting, and how he has the potential to be a premier hitter for the Brewers.
The blockbuster trade to acquire Contreras has undoubtedly been the Brewers' biggest move this off-season due to his All-Star production at the plate of .278/.354/.506 and the Brewers' recent history of markedly developing their catchers' defensive capabilities, particularly their receiving skills. However, Contreras hasn't always looked like the power bat he is today, taking six years to get past High A ball, and his power not really showing up between 2015-2020, with ISO numbers below .100 in three of those seven seasons. However, looking at his history in the minors, he had a relatively consistent strikeout percentage, capping out at 21.3% in 2019 but regularly in the 17-21% range. After getting his first taste of the majors the following year, his power numbers spiked, recording ISO's of .228 in 2021 AAA, .184 in 2021 MLB, and .228 in 2022 MLB, a huge increase that also coincided with an increased strikeout rate and walk rate, while also producing a much better batting average. The Braves reportedly worked very hard on simplifying his swing to allow his raw power ability to manifest, and in 2021 the organization was split on which of Langeliers and Contreras was the better prospect.
Contreras ranked in the bottom 6% of the league last year in Whiff Rate yet was in the 90th percentile for batting average and expected slugging, suggesting that although he may swing and miss a lot when he gets his pitch, he makes the most of it. His heat map indicates he can swing a little too much at balls just above the strike zone but doesn't chase a ton elsewhere, with a chase rate in the 54th percentile last year, and his favorite pitch by far is the sinker, which he took for a plus eight-run differential last year in 299 AB's. He hits most pitches well but struggles a little more with the slider, according to the run differentials. He faced more sliders than any other pitch last year (413) with a .191 Average and .266 Slugging, whereas for all other meaningful pitches he faced, he had a BA/Slugging of:
Sinker - .358/.672
4 Seamer - .301/.614
Curveball - .306/.444
Changeup - .292/.583
Cutter - .292/.687
While he appears like a slugger who can't hit for average due to his underlying whiff rate, pitches up in the zone being swung on and missed, and his strikeout rate, he can barrel the ball regularly to all fields (his spray chart is spread very evenly). This should give him a high floor regarding his on-base percentage, particularly given he has consistently developed as a hitter over the last three seasons, improving his power output, batting average, and maintaining steady walk rates. He also, despite a tendency to swing and miss, has relatively consistent xOBP for all parts of the zone, showing a propensity for quality contact when he does connect.
Reviewing the comparisons in his StatCast numbers from 2021 vs. 2022 (and he did outperform these slightly in 2022), some notable differences include:
- His Hard Hit rate, Barrel rate, and Sweet Spot % all jumped 2-3%
- His xSLG jumped from .419 in 2021 to .479 in 2022
- His WOBA jumped by 0.67 points
- He dropped his SO and Whiff % by ~ 2%
- He destroys middle middle pitches. His xSLG was 1.048 in this area of the zone last year, xBA was .470
In terms of his weaknesses, Contreras had one particularly troublesome foe: the slider.
As you can see above, he swings a lot at pitches down and away (although he does have an ability to make quality contact when he connects even diving out over the plate). The Strikeout and whiff percentage are something he will have to tighten up on in order to become less streaky at the plate. He expected stats of .169/.279 for a minus four run differential against the slider, the only negative score posted against any pitch last season, and a strikeout rate of almost 40%.
With league average pop time (mostly from his strong arm behind the plate, and some technical work to do on his transition and release), his bigger issue defensively is framing. He registered minus three framing runs in both 2021 & 2022, but it's something the Brewers have really specialised in developing, the most recent case being Omar Narvaez who was the worst in the league before he came to Milwaukee. To emphasize the difference this provides, he had a called strike rate on the edge of the zone of 45.1%, whereas league leader Jose Trevino had a 53.8% rate. Where Contreras particularly struggles is below the zone, as you can see below in a table created by Jason Wang of Brewer Fanatics (left hand side is Contreras, right is Trevino)
Hope you guys enjoyed!
There are no comments to display.