Yesterday marked the end of Wilson Contreras’ first two weeks as a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. He could not have picked a better time to come up considering the losing streak that happened once he did arrive in Chicago. For one, he seemed to be the only one hitting during that span. And two, his hitting detracted from the losing streak, especially after that first weekend when the Cubs swept the Pirates.
Since Contreras came up, the Cubs are 7-6. In that same span, the Cardinals and Pirates posted worse records, despite the Cardinals sweeping the Cubs. In a long 162 game schedule, players are going to get tired, players are going to make mistakes, and teams are going to win and lose during those time frames. The Cubs will snap out of it. But for Contreras, I think he has plenty of energy for everybody else on the team.
He’s played three positions since his arrival. In his first nine games, he hit .348 with three homeruns and nine RBIs and an OBP of .474. He’s not going to sustain that kind of success over a full season. If he did, that would be an amazing 54 homerun and 162 RBI pace. That’s a little ridiculous; it would be cool, but still, ridiculous.
It’s easy to see his positive attributes on defense. Behind the plate he can block pitches in the dirt, throw out runners, get after pop ups, and do all the athletic things most catchers cannot do. However it’s clear he still needs to work on framing pitches, holding a pitch once it’s been framed, and getting to know what pitchers like to throw in a certain counts to certain hitters. Those will all come with time.
Is also good that the Cubs, with an eleven game lead, can afford to put him out there and have him play a little left field, play a little first base, or even return to third-base, his original position, if need be. When it was announced that he would catch 2 to 3 times a rotation, I got a little nervous just because of his unfamiliarity with the pitching staff. Of the six games the Cubs have lost since he’s been up, I don’t think Contreras’ appearances or play had anything to do with any single loss. Pitchers still got to make pitches, hitters still got to hit the ball.
I think what you’ll see in the coming months is only going to make Willson better. His ability to hit, run, catch, throw, and hit for power truly do make him a five tool catcher. It’s something that you just don’t see. Even though he is just 24 years old, he is still learning. He’s only been a catcher for 4 and 1/2 seasons. Even though the goal might be for him to be ready to be the man in 2017, I think you really have to wonder how much of the man he’s going to be this year.
With Montero’s back and minor injuries sidelining him from time to time, and Ross’ energy dwindling from overuse, it makes perfect sense to develop Contreras for the major leagues at the major leagues. You don’t see that in too many winning professional teams. The Cubs have the luxury, and the record, to do so. As well, they also have the track record in the past three years of doing it with Bryant, Schwarber, Baez, and Soler.
To be honest, I am quite surprised at how good of a player he has become. When I saw Willson at Kane County in 2013, he was pretty raw. I think it took a few years for him to get used to all aspects of catching. Once he did, the bat caught up very, very quickly.
I don’t know if the Cubs need to play him almost every day this year to fully develop him where they want him to be, but I don’t think it hurts for now. I might feel different about that in October, but I’m not so sure he’s going to be the same player in October that he is now after three months of development. What he’s going to be, then, will be much, much better than what he is now.