Before this season, Carlos Contreras hadn't been a starter in the Cincinnati system since 2010, when he was just in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Just 22 years old this season, the Reds had still seen enough through 18 starts with Class A Advanced Bakersfield that they decided he was ready for the challenge of Double-A.
Three starts in, the talented right-hander isn't disappointing.
The 2013 Futures Game selection for the World Team yielded just one hit over six innings on Thursday, walking two and striking out one to earn the victory as Double-A Pensacola topped Mobile, 2-0.
Contreras (1-1) was praised by Blue Wahoos pitching coach Tom Brown for the natural talent he's shown early on in the Southern League.
"[Tonight] he was really sneaky, his breaking ball was extremely good, he was focused," Brown said. "The biggest thing is he has a really live fastball. It's got cutter-like action, he attacks the zone and doesn't nibble around.
"In the first couple outings he was very good. Even though the numbers were not there, he threw the ball fine. He's a young guy, went from the bullpen to being a starter and he's still in that learning stage."
The Dominican Republic native had a 4.66 ERA in those two outings after allowing five runs on 12 hits and five walks in 9 2/3 innings. His six shutout frames Thursday dropped that figure to 2.87.
With Bakersfield, he went 5-7 with a 3.80 ERA in the hitter-friendly California League, striking out 96 and walking 41 in 90 innings.
"He's just so good, so easy to work with. Understands the game, makes adjustments, he's a really perceptive person," said Brown. "And his fastball, boy, his fastball runs 91-95 mph, touches 96, but it's got a 6- to 10-inch cut. It's really live, a special fastball."
Brown added that Contreras reminded him favorably of another former star pupil from the Cincinnati system, Johnny Cueto.
"I've had some guys along in the past [like Cueto], and Carlos has the makeup of Cueto. He's really calm, understands the game and has that quality fastball. Cueto threw [in the 90s] and hit 97 mph, and Carlos is gonna have a good changeup. He has two plus-pitches already," he noted.
The jump to Double-A for Contreras, at least so far, has been impressive in Brown's eyes.
"He's doing extremely well. What happens with young pitchers in Double-A is they start to play some older players, so it's an adjustment. It's not about how you do on your good days, it's about how you do on your bad days," he said. "How good can you survive on the bad days? Can you go through adversity? How do you react? That's what makes you a quality starter.
"He has a really good attitude, a lot of focus on where he's trying to get."
Offensively for the Wahoos, shortstop Devin Lohman went 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored out of the leadoff spot. Third baseman Travis Mattair smacked a solo shot.
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MiLB.com.