Contreras Climbing the System

Contreras Climbing the System

Carlos Contreras was not a highly regarded prospect in the Cincinnati system but that has not stopped him from putting together a nice season. The Reds moved the reliever mainland from the DSL despite a lackluster ERA. Now in his fourth minor league season he's showing success on the diamond that they must have envisioned when they promoted him earlier despite an unimpressive stat line.

Bakersfield fell behind when they allowed five runs in the fourth inning at Modesto and then came back to win 7-6 with two runs in each of their last two at-bats. Niko Vasquez singled in the final run in the eighth and stepped to the plate again in the ninth to force in the game-winner with a walk. Steve Selsky and Devin Lohman each had two hits and two RBI.

The offense bailed out Daniel Renken who had a rough start and was charged with six runs on seven hits while being lifted in the fourth. Chris Joyce, Andrew Brackman, and Carlos Contreras combined for five plus scoreless innings of relief. Contreras threw the final two and recorded his first win for the Blaze. The win was the only game that Bakersfield got in the four game set and they will return home to play Visalia on Tuesday.

Contreras did not enter this season a very highly regarded prospect in the Reds system but that did not prevent him from putting together a nice season. He started his professional career as a seventeen year-old in the Dominican League after he signed with Cincinnati as a free agent in 2008. He came out of the pen in his first season and then moved into the rotation his second year. Overall he had an ERA above six in 31 appearances, but the Reds saw something that made them want to move him stateside in 2010.

Whatever they saw did not materialize on the field over the next couple of seasons. He was still over six in eighteen relief appearances in the Arizona League in 2010 and got it down to a flat five out of the Billings pen last season. This year has been a kind of a coming-out party for Contreras because he lowered his ERA to 3.20 in 40 appearances at Dayton while recording sixteen saves with a sub-one WHIP. He was also leading Midwest League pitchers with the lowest opponent batting average. That earned a promotion to high-A Bakersfield where he's around mid-two in six appearances with three saves and a 1-0 record.

Contreras is 6'0"/165# and throws right-handed. Now at 21 years of age, persistence is starting to pay off for him. The Reds advanced him earlier despite very forgettable stat lines and now he's repaying that by effectively closing out games at the single A level. Donnie Joseph left the Reds system in the trade for Jonathan Broxton and a couple of former Reds pitchers have taken their lumps at Louisville this season so there might be an opportunity for him to take the next step in 2013 as pitchers index up the pipeline. Right now this late-bloomer is the youngest pitcher on the Bakersfield roster.

It's no secret Cincinnati works hard to tap into Latin American talent. Still, the Dominicans take there baseball serious and there's a lot of competition to make it off the island. Give the Reds credit for seeing potential in Contreras beyond his lackluster ERA there. Oddly enough the righty has been more effective at getting out left-handed batters. He's also been effective at keeping the ball out of the air with an overall ground out/air out ratio above one in four seasons. This year he's struck out more than one batter per inning pitched and improved his K/BB ratio to over 2.6 compared to the 1.6 he had at Billings in 2011.

Contreras did manage to keep his ERA under four in the Pioneer League last year before he got roughed up in a couple of late-August appearances. Now he's improved his projection from minor league filler to climber. He should continue to get opportunities to close somewhere in 2013. Brian Pearl has gotten knocked around at Pensacola after being named to the California League all-star team so he might get a return stint with the Blue Wahoos and cause Contreras to start with Bakersfield. Wherever he ends up it will be interesting to see how well he sustains his success of this year.

Other News from the Farm:

Louisville was idle and will open a home series against Columbus on Tuesday.

Pensacola won 3-2 at Mississippi in ten innings. Yordanys Perez plated Billy Hamilton with the winning run on a sacrifice fly. Josh Fellhauer had two hits and drove in two while Hamilton added two singles and scored twice. Mark Serrano allowed two runs on four hits/two walks and was lifted in the sixth with five strikeouts. Five Wahoo relievers combined for 4+ scoreless innings. Curtis Parch threw one of them and got the win. Chris Manno retired the only two batters he faced to get the save.

Billy Hamilton Theft Watch:

Hamilton had his way on the bath paths last night. He singled in the third and stole second. He reached on an error in the sixth and stole second again. Finally he led off the tenth with another single and stole second and third before scoring the winning run. His four thefts on the day raised his season total to 154 SB in 128 games.

Dayton scored in the ninth, but came up short at home in a 5-3 loss to West Michigan. Yorman Rodgriguez and Nick O'Shea had two hits apiece for the Dragons. Robert Stephenson allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits/two walks in four innings for the loss.

Billings had the day off and will host a home series against Helena starting Tuesday.

The AZL Reds were idle and will continue their season by hosting the AZL Brewers on Tuesday.

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