A year ago around this time, the Pittsburgh Pirates had just acquired right-handed pitcher Roansy Contreras from the New York Yankees, as one of four players acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade.
Contreras entered the Pirates system having never played above Low-A ball, with solid numbers at the level at the age of 19. He ended the 2021 season as one of the biggest breakout prospects in the system, ending up on a few top 100 lists heading into 2022.
I spoke with Miguel Perez, Contreras’ manager in Altoona in 2021, about his breakout season, which saw the pitcher end up in the majors for three innings by the end of the year. Perez noted that Contreras was determined from the start of the season.
“At the beginning of the year, we were having a conversation out here on the grass,” Perez said, referencing Peoples Natural Gas Field in Altoona. “Yes, he wants to be a big leaguer, he wants to pitch in the big leagues. Something that stuck out to me was him saying ‘I want to be ready when I pitch in the big leagues.'”
Contreras wasn’t content with just going to the majors and appearing in a game. He wanted to be ready, “the whole package” as Perez put it. That required thinking like a big leaguer, and knowing when to throw each of his pitches.
“His mindset is very clear,” Perez said. “He knows where he’s going to go, and what he’s going to do.”
Contreras did arrive in the majors, and at least for three innings, he looked like he belonged. He allowed no runs on three hits and one walk in three innings, with four strikeouts. The appearance was probably more for experience as a trial basis.
The mindset from Contreras may be his biggest strength. This is a player who saw massive improvements without the aid of games in the lost 2020 season. That allowed him to advance from Low-A to the majors in such a fashion. He suffered an elbow injury during the season, and Perez noted his work ethic during the time down.
“Where I’m very impressed with him is he wasn’t just coming in and going through his rehab process,” Perez said. “He was using his time wisely as well. He was reviewing video, and charting the game, and asking questions.”
After the impressive debut from Contreras at the end of the season, Pirates fans will probably be counting the days until he returns to the big league rotation. The most likely path is him going to Triple-A, where he’ll continue working with Perez, until his likely arrival in the Pirates’ rotation by the end of the 2022 season.