I want to say here that many times it’s tough to say which Cubs prospects will take home post-season honors, because, given the talent in the system the last several years, you’d think that would be the case.
In reality, though, the last few years, it has seemed pretty obvious which prospects would be getting some well-deserved nods at the end of the year. And that’s true again this year:
Congratulations to C Willson Contreras and RHP Ryan Williams, our Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year! pic.twitter.com/sf7KxXoKMA
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 21, 2015
Although Kyle Schwarber has gotten the positional nod from other publications, it was always a good bet that Willson Contreras, who was in the minors the whole year, would get the hardware from the Cubs. And he deserves it, too, after having one of the most impressive breakout campaigns in recent memory. In just one year, Contreras went from the periphery of prospecting discussions to arguably being right there at the top of the list.
On the year at AA, Contreras, 23, hit .333/.413/.478, nabbing the Southern League batting title in the process. He struck out just 11.9% of the time and walked 10.9%, and drew praise for his improving skills behind the plate. After a stop in the Arizona Fall League, Contreras will come to big league camp in the spring before heading to AAA Iowa to continue his ascent.
As for Williams, 23, I remain thoroughly impressed by his story as a 10th round senior sign in 2014, and a guy the Cubs converted back into a starting pitcher after he was closing in college. After posting utterly stupid numbers at Low-A South Bend for a couple months, the Cubs jumped Williams all the way to AA Tennessee, where he more than held his own: 2.76 ERA, 2.86 FIP, struck out 17.8% and walked just 4.7%. The stuff is not overwhelming, but Williams pairs excellent command with a propensity for grounders. As long as the walks stay down and the ball stays in the ballpark, that can play at the higher levels.
Like Contreras, I’d tentatively expect Williams to head to AAA Iowa next year, though it’s possible he could return to AA Tennessee to begin the season, given that he had just 88.0 innings there in 2015.