Rayner "Wow" Contreras doing it in the states

Rayner Contreras, nicknamed "Wow" in the Dominican for his ability to notch the clutch hit and overall hitting prowess, brought his exciting bat stateside this season, topping the Arizona Rookie League in RBIs.

A middle infielder, Rayner Contreras provides a glimpse of how far that Latin development has come in recent years.

The 20-year-old right-handed hitter came into the system as a wiry 150-pound player, suiting up for two years in the Padres' Dominican Summer League. He came to the United States for the first time to play – starting the year in Fort Wayne where he struggled.

He found his confidence with the Padres Rookie League team, crushing the ball at every turn and putting 52 RBIs up in 44 games.

His .429 mark with runners in scoring position – over a large sample of 77 at bats – led the Padres' system. Wow indeed.

"It was a very nice year," Contreras said. "(I had) more concentration when there were runners in scoring position."

Contreras' knack for putting bat on ball with men on base allowed the team to capitalize on their top overall team batting average. The AZL Padres scored more runs than any other squad and Contreras was driving them.

Contreras' year actually began in Fort Wayne in late May, called up from extended spring training. In 38 at bats he registered just four hits for a .105 batting average.

He finally found his niche in the two-hole down in Peoria – moved up from hitting eighth in Fort Wayne.

"I was thinking a little too much and not concentrating as much," Contreras said of his time with the Wizards. "I am more comfortable hitting second."

Contreras came to the Instructional League in the fall and found himself working at second base the majority of the time. While he flipped between shortstop, second base and the occasional foray at third base, second base is his most natural position.

The moving back and forth between positions provided a challenge for the 20-year-old.

"At shortstop you move your feet more and second you use your hands. I like second base more. I feel more comfortable there."

But shortstop is a position the Padres would like to see him continue to get repetitions at, broadening his versatility.

At the plate, pitch selection and calming his aggressive nature are on tap.

Contreras is in the midst of tackling both.

"I am working on moving my feet more at shortstop, and at the plate I am working on getting some walks and taking more pitches," he said.

For someone who has hit first on his mind and ask questions later it is a tough adjustment.

"It is difficult," Contreras acknowledged. "I don't like to swing at the first pitch but when you take more pitches you have a better chance to get a pitch to hit."

Given his competence in hitting today it is scary to envision how good he can become with a more disciplined approach.

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