Willson Contreras has gotten a good deal of (deserved) attention around these parts lately. In early August, we took a look at some of his breakout numbers, after winning Southern League Player of the Week, and then just a few weeks later, we were all pretty surprised (and encouraged) to find that Luke named Contreras the top prospect in the still very strong Chicago Cubs MiLB system, in his iteration of the Bleacher Nation Top 40.
As a catcher in AA Tennessee, Contreras has made very good use of his 474 PAs, slashing .328/.405/.480 (154 wRC+) with a solid 10.5% walk rate and minuscule 12.0% strike out rate. At any other position on the field, those numbers would count as a breakout; as a catcher, they are damn near drool worthy.
While MLB Pipeline doesn’t quite see Contreras overcoming as many prospects in the Cubs system – they have him at number 10 overall – they have bestowed upon him a different, yet still impressive honor: fifth best catching prospect in baseball.
Noted for his arm strength and athleticism, Contreras is seen as a very quick backstop that can shut down the running game. He may have some work to do on his receiving skills, but I’d guess that most minor league catchers could (not to mention, the report acknowledges that he has already made strides in that area).
Although his defense is reportedly superb, MLB Pipeline still envisions an annual .270 hitter with 15 HR potential in MLB. With his recent breakout performance in double A and his advanced approach at the plate, that forecast seems plenty attainable. This report at MiLB.com does a nice job of recapping Contreras’ season and helps explain what has led him to the success he is now enjoying.
Overall, it’s been a great year for Contreras and exciting one as a Cubs MiLB follower. Amidst all of the big name draft picks and pricey international signings, it’s nice to uncover a breakout performance from an otherwise unexpected source. It remains unlikely that Contreras finds his way to the big league team this September when rosters expand, but he is a good candidate for the Arizona Fall League or the Venezuelan Winter League and could be competing for a spot on the Major League Roster as early as some point next year.