Contreras, 28 in January, has been with the Twins for his entire career so far, having been selected by them in the ninth round of the 2017 draft. He didn’t hit too much in the lower levels but he pushed himself up the ladder with his ability to play all three outfield positions and steal some bases.
Offensively, he seemed to take a step forward when reaching the upper levels, after the minors were cancelled by the pandemic in 2020. Splitting his time between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, he hit 20 home runs in 114 games and produced a batting line of .251/.338/.485 for a wRC+ of 117. His 29.6% strikeout rate was certainly on the high side but he also walked in 9.1% of his plate appearances.
In 2022, the Twins dealt with a large number of injuries and had to lean hard on their depth. Contreras got selected to the club’s roster in May and was frequently optioned and recalled throughout the year. He generally seemed overmatched in his first chances against MLB pitching, slashing .121/.148/.293 in 61 plate appearances. In 102 Triple-A games on the year, he hit .237/.317/.418 for a wRC+ of 94. He hit 15 home runs and stole 23 bases but also struck out in 29.6% of his trips to the plate.
Contreras certainly has concerns on his track record, especially with the strikeouts, having never posted a rate lower than 23.7% at any stop in the professional ranks. However, there are reasons to think he could garner interest from other clubs around the league. For one thing, he still has a couple of option years, meaning he can be stashed in the minors as depth. He also has some intriguing tools, especially outside of the batter’s box. All three of Outs Above Average, Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating gave him a positive grade for his outfield work this year. Statcast also ranks him in the 90th percentile in terms of arm strength and the 80th in terms of sprint speed.
In terms of his work at the plate, while he didn’t connect much, he did do some noticeable damage when he did. Statcast ranked him in the 56th percentile in terms of maximum exit velocity and he somehow tops the leaderboard in terms of barrels per plate appearance, minimum of 25 batted ball events, just ahead of Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez and Mike Trout. That’s a tiny sample but an interesting one nonetheless. With so many teams looking for left-handed hitting outfielders, he’s sure to draw some interest, just based on his speed and defense alone. If there’s some sneaky power in there as well, that’ll only make him more attractive. The Twins will now have one week to trade him or pass him through waivers.