It’s hard to believe that Willson Contreras, a former 3rd base prospect from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, has become on of the best catchers in all of baseball. Contreras was one of the last acquired players by former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, he is currently the longest tenured Cubs player in terms of being in their system, and was essentially flying under the radar until being named the Cubs minor league player of the year in 2015.
It has always been clear the Contreras could hit, a career .283 hitter in the minors, but the question was where the kid would play? He bounced all over the field during his minor league career, playing at first base, second base, third base, left field, and right field, to go along with catching. Contreras’ work ethic is much to thank for his conversion from an infielder to big-league backstop.
Remember seeing Willson Contreras do catching drills at instructs like his hair was on fire back in 2012. It's just who he is.
— John Arguello (@CubsDen) May 4, 2017
Fast-forward to 2017, and Contreras is not only proving he can handle the duties of a full-time catcher, he is absolutely thriving at the MLB level. His value to the Cubs is sky-rocketing, to the point where Contreras is proving he may be the most valuable player on the club not named Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant. According to Fangraphs, Contreras trails only the Giants Buster Posey in WAR among catchers, registering a 2.3 WAR so far this season.
Currently, the 25-year-old catcher is slashing .267/.332/.473 with 12 home runs and 45 runs driven in, but Willy has been clobbering so far through the month of July. In his first 10 games in July, Contreras owns an OPS of 1.128 with three home runs and seven RBI thus far. And is he coming off an 8-14 weekend in Baltimore, where came around to score seven times and drive in four. Maybe it has something to do with a slight change in his approach at the plate? Regardless, Willy is freaking raking as of late.
— Aldo Soto (@AldoSoto21) July 15, 2017
And while he is supplying plenty of power at the plate, what makes Contreras so impressive is his elite defensive ability behind the dish. According to Fangraphs’ DRS and rSB, Contreras has saved eight runs this season so far due to his defense. And fair warning to prospective runners, Contreras will throw at any point during the game, and the odds are likely he will gun you down.
Just like he did to the Pirates three (THREE) times earlier this season.
And he clearly knows how to handle a pitching staff, being that the Cubs handed him the reigns at the beginning of the playoffs last year after only playing roughly four months of pro ball. Contreras is a special player, and while many don’t realize it, he is inserted himself into the Cubs core group.
Anyway you slice it, Contreras is one of the best in every key statistic among catchers. While he can still make improvements on the defensive end, like his framing (currently ranked 52nd catcher in framing according to Baseball Prospectus) and his nine throwing errors on the season are somewhat of a sore spot. But Willson Contreras is already one of the best catchers in baseball, and is well on his way to proving he is one of the most complete players in the entire league.