Pittsburgh Pirates: Red Flag for Roansy Contreras

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 01: Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates walks to the dugout after being removed from the game during the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on July 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 01: Roansy Contreras #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates walks to the dugout after being removed from the game during the second inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on July 1, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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While Roansy Contreras has only had one poor start with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, there are some red flags worth monitoring

Entering the season Roansy Contreras was the top pitching prospect of the Pittsburgh Pirates. With Contreras now entrenched in the Pirate starting rotation he has graduated prospect status and is looked upon to grow into the ace of the Pirate starting rotation.

So far this season Contreras has pitched in 11 games, 8 starts, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, logging 44 innings. Contreras has walked 10.8% of batters faced, struck out 22.1%, and has a home run rate of 1.64 HR/9. He has posted a 4.09 ERA and a 5.10 FIP.

Obviously, these numbers are not what a team wants to see from the pitcher that is expected to blossom into their ace. That said, his numbers are greatly inflated due to Friday night’s poor start in which he allowed 7 runs and 3 home runs in 1.2 innings pitched.

Even though is numbers are being greatly impacted by one brutal start, which will happen when you have only pitched 44 innings on the season, there are some red flags with Contreras worth monitoring. These red flags stem from quality of contact that Contreras is allowing.

To be blunt, Contreras is allowing too much high quality contact. Opposing batters have an average exit velocity of 90.8 MPH off of Contreras this season. This more than 2 MPH higher than the league average exit velocity of 88.4 MPH.

Contreras has also been allowing too much hard contact. His hard contact allowed rate of 46.5% is well above the league average of 35.7%. With opposing batters hitting Contreras’s pitches hard to go with a high exit velocity, it should not be a surprise that opposing batters have a 13.2% barrel rate against Contreras. This is nearly double the league average barrel rate of 6.7%.

So, what can Contreras do to address this issue? While it may sound like a simple fix, that does not necessarily mean it would be an easy one.

Due to the pure stuff Contreras has he should be fine moving forward. His slider has limited opposing batters to a .393 slugging percentage to go with a 43.1% whiff rate this season. While you would like to see his curveball’s 20.8% whiff rate increase, the pitch is limiting opposing batters to a .273 slugging percentage. The average exit velocity off of his slider has been just 87.4 MPH, and it’s been just 83.0 MPH off of his curveball.

The biggest issue for Contreras has been his fastball. While the pitch is averaging a healthy 96.3 MPH he has struggled with his fastball command. This is a factor in opposing batters slugging .552 off of the pitch and having a 94.8 MPH exit velocity off the pitch.

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Improving fastball command could go a long way toward Contreras limiting hard contact, lowering his exit velocity and lessening the amount of pitches he throws that opposing batters barrel up. Identifying that is the easy part, the challenging part is figuring out how to do it. Contreras may need to change his release point on the pitch or make some other sort of mechanical change. Whatever will solve the issue, it is something that Contreras and pitching coach Oscar Marin need to figure out.

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