Braves catcher William Contreras has great opportunity in front of him

You’ve heard this one before: The Braves are down a catcher. Veteran Manny Pina, signed to a two-year deal over the winter, will undergo wrist surgery and miss the remainder of the season. He played in only five games.

Pina’s injury opens the door for 24-year-old William Contreras, who takes over as Travis d’Arnaud’s full-time backup. Losing Pina was a blow, but the Braves should be eager to see Contreras in an expanded role over the coming months.

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“William is going to get a chance to play a pretty good amount,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. Contreras hasn’t had expanded major-league opportunities since May and June of last year, when he hit .203/.277/.385 over 45 games as the primary catcher. His struggles led to a demotion in early July. He appeared in only seven more games.

This time, Contreras won’t be as relied upon. He’s spelling d’Arnaud while also giving the team additional options in the outfield and at designated hitter. While he hasn’t played the outfield this season, Snitker indicated Contreras “could end up out there” in certain instances.

But the focus centers on Contreras as a catcher. He’s the organization’s lone coveted young backstop after it traded Shea Langeliers to Oakland in the Matt Olson deal. The rap on Contreras largely has stayed the same: promising bat, leaves much to be desired behind the plate.

Contreras has teased that batting potential this season. He’s 4-for-16 (.250) in five games, including a multi-homer performance April 29 against Texas. The Braves had a shorter bench Wednesday and opted against using Contreras as a designated hitter, but it stands to reason he’ll log some reps to get his bat in the lineup.

The Braves have d’Arnaud and Pina on two-year deals, permitting them patience with Contreras. This might be Contreras’ best chance to prove he’s trending toward being the team’s long-term solution beyond their veterans.

It’s easy to forget how unseasoned Contreras still is. He has appeared in only 61 games. Just last spring, the Braves opted to open the season with Alex Jackson as their backup over Contreras (though that was motivated in part by letting Contreras play every day in Triple-A). The Braves have long praised Contreras’ raw abilities while preaching patience.

“I think there’s a lot of upside,” catching coach Sal Fasano told the AJC about Contreras in May of last year. “I think eventually he’s going to get better and better. I’m looking forward to actually getting together and teaching. That’s always fun for a coach. You want to be able to teach the ins and outs of that position because it’s so demanding. I’ve been pretty happy. He’s going to make some young mistakes, and I know that going in, but I think the good he’s doing is outweighing the bad that I see.”

Fasano’s message holds true a year later. Offensive-oriented catchers are a premium in MLB. Contreras could provide the Braves one of the sport’s great rarities. Without Pina, Contreras will have more playing time than anticipated entering the year, giving him the chance to cement himself as part of the Braves’ core with a promising campaign. It’s up to him to make the most of the opportunity.