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Prospect Retrospective: OF Mark Contreras


The Twins have been devastated by injuries over the past few weeks, both in the pitching staff and in the lineup. Using the "next guy up" philosophy, the Twins have given opportunities to several minor leaguers and they've helped the Twins during their current streak of 14 wins in 17 games. With Carlos Correa placed on the Injured List and Luis Arraez not coming off of the Covid-IL list, outfielder Mark Contreras was called up to provide the Twins with depth. Look back at his development from high school to the Saints. 

 

Recently I was chatting with a former Minnesota Twins minor leaguer. I think if you asked him, he would have called himself a suspect instead of a prospect. We were talking about current prospects, and I made the comment that I always have a soft spot for guys who either weren’t drafted or were drafted in the late rounds. 

Mark Contreras wasn’t a late-round pick, but he fits into another similar category. He was a ‘Senior Sign.’ In 2017, the Twins had the top overall pick and signed Royce Lewis. He signed for under-slot value to allow the team to also draft and go way over-slot RHP Blayne Enlow in the third round. In addition, the Twins drafted three college seniors with their eighth (Bryan Sammons), ninth (Contreras), and tenth (Calvin Faucher) round picks and signed each of the for just $10,000. 

It’s a strategy every team uses to manipulate the current draft slot system. The Twins have had success with several senior signs. In 2013, they drafted Mitch Garver, a senior catcher from the University of New Mexico, in the ninth round. In 2008, Brian Dozier, a shortstop from Southern Mississippi, was the Twins' eighth-round pick. 

With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look back at the baseball career and timeline of Mark Contreras, all of which has led him to his first big-league call-up today. 

High School: Canyon Springs High School in Moreno Valley, California
Contreras was a four-year starter in high school. He worked hard on the field and in the classroom. He was known already then for his great defense. He played in the infield, mostly at third base until his senior season when he moved to shortstop. 

College: UC-Riverside 
Despite all of his high school successes - his team won the league championship all four years, he was all-league his final three years - he didn’t have a lot of college offers. He stayed fairly close to home and enrolled at UC-Riverside. 

As a freshman, he played in just 19 games and went 4-for-27 (.148). His sophomore year, an opening presented itself in the outfield. His coach asked how comfortable he would be in the outfield. Contreras replied, “If I’m in the lineup, it doesn’t matter. I’d love to play.” 

He showed it could do just that, hitting .284 with ten doubles. In his junior season, he played in 55 games and hit .332/.407/.430 (.837) with 14 doubles and a homer. He went undrafted. 

He returned for his senior season and hit .366/.427/.558 (.985) with 11 doubles, eight triples, and two homers in 42 games. 

 

 

Northwoods League: Rochester Honkers
His time with the Saints and Twins does not mark his first time playing ball in Minnesota. In the summers of 2015 and 2016, he played for the Rochester Honkers. 

“That was fun. Meeting new guys. The competition was great. The success our first year. We got to the semi-finals. The St. Cloud Rox kept kicking our butt. They put it on us. Going back for another year was great. Playing in Rochester exposes you to a lot of excellent players from around the country.”

Professional Baseball: Minnesota Twins 
As mentioned, Contreras became the Twins’ ninth-round draft pick in 2017. He signed quickly at $10,000 and went to Elizabethton. In 43 games, he hit .275/.319/.421 (.740) with nine doubles, two triples, and four home runs. 

In 2018, he played in 97 games with Ft. Myers and hit .212/.302/.361 (.663) with 15 doubles, four triples, and nine home runs. He also stole 12 bases. He did hit .440 in seven games in Cedar Rapids at the end of the season. 

2019 was a tough season for Contreras. He played in 27 games for Ft. Myers and hit just .101 with three doubles. He moved back and forth to Double-A Pensacola several times. In 85 games with the Blue Wahoos, he hit .210/.279/.381 (.660) with 12 doubles, three triples, and ten home runs. 

Double-A manager Ramon Borrego talked last year about the challenge for Contreras, moving back and forth between Ft. Myers and Pensacola. It was difficult to get into any sort of routine. He later said, “That back-and-forth helped me understand the mental grind of the game.” 

To illustrate that, Contreras was named a Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award winner. Defense has always been an important part of his game, and he is capable of playing all three outfield positions very well. 

The home run power he started to show at the end of 2019 was something he wanted to continue to improve upon in 2020. Unfortunately, there was no 2020 minor league season due to the pandemic. He spent the whole lost season, working with his dad, hitting every weekday. 

It helped. In 2021, Contreras’s prospect stock rose with his play at the highest level. He began the season in Wichita, and like in 2019, he moved back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A a couple of times. In 19 games at Double-A, he hit .269/.355/.448 (.803) with four doubles and two homers. In 95 games at Triple-A, he hit .248/.335/.493 (.828) with 26 doubles and 18 home runs. 

In 2022, he has hit .239/.350/.489 (.838) with five doubles, five homers, and five stolen bases. 

 

 

The Call 
Being just a short drive from Target Field has been a motivator to Twins prospects the last two seasons. Contreras said last year,  “We're 20 minutes from Target Field, and being so close to that… We know we're so close.”

He has seen several of his current and former teammates get The Call. He noted, “"It's definitely amazing to see my teammates that I grinded a whole year at High-A or Double-A with getting their opportunity to be in the big leagues. Not just there and back, but proving that they can be in the big leagues. Trevor Larnach. Alex Kirilloff. Luis Arraez is one of the best hitters I've seen. Griffin Jax got his opportunity this year, and he's doing what he needs to do. Charlie Barnes just got called up the other day, and he had a great outing for his first start. We were drafted in the same year. I know there's a lot more that I've played with. Akil Baddoo is getting his opportunity. It's very motivating because it shows that they're getting the chance to show.”

Last summer, he also told me, “I'm not there, so the goal is to take care of the What, and then the When will happen.”

Tuesday became the When for Mark Contreras when he was called up to the Twins for the first time. With the team having two players on the Covid list, Contreras (and Jharel Cotton) did not need to be added to the 40-man roster. It’s very possible that if Luis Arraez is activated on Wednesday, Contreras could be on a plane to Columbus to meet the Saints.

 

 

Scouting Report 
Let's start with the defense. Again, Contreras is a plus-defender at all three outfield positions. He isn't a burner, but he gets good jumps. He also has a very strong arm. Offensively, he has power. After 20 combined homers in 2021, Contreras has five homers in 26 games for the Saints this year. Only Matt Wallner, with six, has more homers in the Twins minor leagues. A left-hander, he will strike out quite a bit, but he has learned which pitches he can do something with and can really drive. Contreras is a team player who will do what he can to help the team win. 

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For much, much more on Mark Contreras, click here to see all of the Twins Daily articles Contreras has been tagged in. 

 


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Great young man and someone who has worked hard his whole career in hopes of getting the call and he finally did.  I am happy for him.  But, this kid is a good player.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him do well in whatever time he has in the bigs.  His defense is great, and his ability to play all three spots actually makes him a perfect 4th outfielder.  It will be fun to see how he does.

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Posted (edited)

Great insurance if Kirilloff can't hit (and he hasn't yet in the year since injuring his wrist, which still bothers him), and for the Byron injury periods. It does highlight their wildly unbalanced 40-man roster, though.

All their position players are up or hurt; a situation so bad that the only bat they could call up last weekend was a good-defense/low-offense catcher. Time to make a call on someone like Vallimont (who has been consistently awful), or put Sano on 60-day IL (something that could have been done with Enlow who was dreadful last week in his first outing), or package a few of the 'almost, but not quite' pitchers like Sands and Strotman to teams with a lower pitching bar for a prospect or something. Something to clear some space not only for players to help now, but also for the more legit prospects that will need Rule 5 protection soon.

Edited by PatPfund
I'm an idiot, who started condensing, but left an extra word in.
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Pretty sure Byron would be on the IL if the Twins had a player to call up (like, say, Contreras) who was on the 40-man. I mean, seriously, are they really going to rush him back from the type of injury that cost him a big chunk of season last year? (Or do they keep him day-to-day, and keep a short bench shorter, because they literally can't call up good players for lack of 40-man spots.)

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