Top 30 Reds Prospects: No. 18

Contreras Coming off Breakout Season

While many of the Reds' Caribbean signees have received a lot of attention Carlos Contreras did not make a much noise before 2012. Last year he went from an off-the-radar to a spot on the Cincinnati 40-man roster. The 22 year-old with a mid-90's fastball and good change-up has emerged as one of the top relievers in the Cincinnati system and is primed to break into the upper levels in 2013.

One year ago Dominican Carlos Contreras had neither thrown a pitch above the rookie league level nor had a season with an ERA below five. He had progressed up the lower levels of the Cincinnati organization for four years without returning any stats to justify promotions. In 2012 he had a breakout season at Dayton and now he's on the 40-man roster.

The Reds signed him as a free agent in 2008 and he's paid his dues since. He debuted in the Dominican League at the age of seventeen and made it stateside two years later where he got knocked around in rookie leagues for a couple of years, never making more than 18 appearances in a season. Whatever the Reds saw that influenced them to keep Contreras around must have materialized in 2012 when he posted a 3.12 ERA with 20 saves in 49 games and earned a promotion to Bakersfield.

His ERA at Dayton was 3.20, which is a bit high for a closer, but that number looks inflated because his WHIP was below one. He also had the lowest opponent batting average in the Midwest League and matched his strikeout total to the number of innings pitched. Oddly, his luck must have changed after the promotion because his ERA went down in spite of an increase to WHIP over the nine appearances with the Blaze.

Contreras has a mid-90's fastball and mixes it with a good changeup. He's also working on a below average curve, but mastering a third pitch is more of a bonus than a necessity for a reliever. The right-hander has been as effective against left-handed hitters as he has against righties and kept a ground out/air ratio above one. Like many young pitchers his biggest issue has been control and last season he walked around three and a half batters per nine innings. There will be a lot of attention on his efforts to bring that down because after Donnie Joseph was traded and Brian Pearl got hit hard in AA he became the top reliever prospect in the Cincinnati organization.

The Reds are deep in the pen but that didn't stop them from using a roster spot to protect Contreras from the Rule 5 draft. He's still at least one year away from MLB-ready and will likely start out the season closing for Bakersfield with expectations of moving to Pensacola sometime during the season. If he can exhibit improved control he'll force considerations for a spot in a MLB bullpen in the not-too-distant future. The Reds have been investing heavily in foreign talent and high profile or not, Contreras is providing a reason for them to keep doing that.

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