Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

Willson Contreras is the newest Cubs minor leaguer to remind us that not all of the talent has already been promoted to MLB. From July 26 to August 2, the Tennessee Smokies’ catcher scorched through AA pitching, posting a slash line of .478/.556/.739, a .261 ISO, and matching strikeout and walk rates (16.1%), on his way to winning Player of the Week:

Contreras, 23, is a right-handed hitting catcher signed out of Venezuela in 2009 and is just the second Smokie to win Player of the Week honors for the Cubs this year (Dan Vogelbach did it back to back in April). His hot stretch last week pushed his season line up to an impressive .338/.415/.493 with a very good 10.9% BB rate and an even better 12.7% K rate. For a regular position player, that is a fantastic line, for a catcher … it’s all gravy. He’s currently riding a five-game hitting streak. Excuse me: a five-game multi-hit streak.

Heralded for his impressive control and isolated power, Contreras was recently included in Carson Cistulli’s Fringe Five Prospects over at Fangraphs on July 29 – during the heat of his fantastic week. Although the offense has come around rather significantly, this year, Contreras is anything but a one-dimensional player. In fact, his defense comes in for equally high praise from a very familiar voice…

Miguel Montero, if you recall, is rehabbing down in Tennessee and his first hand look at the 23-year-old catcher is all but inspiring. Positive comments (about a catcher) from other position players or even pitchers is always encouraging, but hearing those comments from a very solid defensive, framing and game-calling ML veteran catcher like Montero is as strong as an endorsement can get.

There is only a little over a month left in the AA season, so there isn’t much time to see much more of Contreras this year. Indeed, it’s relatively unlikely that we’ll see Contreras promoted to AAA Iowa or to MLB in 2015, when rosters expand in September, but he is a decent bet for the Arizona Fall League. Hopefully, then, he finishes out the year strong, has a solid showing in the AFL and begins 2016 in Iowa where he can look to make a serious impact, one way or another, on the 2016 Chicago Cubs. I feel like I’ve said this every time a new Cub prospect wins an award, but don’t sleep on this system, even after the big promotions. There is still plenty of talent left, and wave two may be coming very soon.

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