In the first game of THE REVENGE SERIES against the San Diego Padres last night, Chicago Cubs’ catcher Willson Contreras was really fired up. (He always is, but you know what I mean.)
Contreras went 1-4 at the plate, with a late game-tying solo home run and even threw a runner out at second base – which I’m pretty sure is his favorite thing about life (perhaps just behind breathing).
Of course, last night’s effort comes as part of a quietly solid season for Contreras behind and at the plate. But before we get into all of that, let’s take a look at what he did to help the Cubs win yesterday.
Starting with that game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the seventh inning:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) June 20, 2017
An opposite field, two-strike home run from the Cubs’ 25-year-old catcher to tie the game in the 7th inning? Uh, yes please.
According to Statcast, that ball traveled 401 feet into the night, leaving Contreras’ bat at a cool 100.4 MPH. That was his sixth homer of the season, and part of a pretty hot stretch lately.
In the 110 plate appearances since he caught that 18 inning game at Wrigley Field against the Yankees, Contreras has been HOT: .296/.355/.510. That’s a 122 wRC+ from a highly-effective defensive catcher. His 7.3% walk rate and 25.5% strikeout rate during that stretch are also both perfectly respectable, given the amount of average and slugging he’s achieved.
For the season, Contreras is slashing .254/.319/.423, which is a slightly-below-league-average 93 wRC+. But here’s the thing: that ranks fifth among all MLB catchers. To be fair, Contreras technically doesn’t qualify right now, but he’s just 10 plate appearances shy of the threshold, so I don’t think that changes anything.
Of course, Contreras is more than a bat-first backstop, right? Uh, right.
He also nailed (former Cub) Matt Szczur as he tried to take second base with no outs in the top of the seventh inning, which led to his increasingly infamous finger wag:
Willson Contreras reaction, finger wave.gif pic.twitter.com/Q1Ldfr8IAW
— ⓂarcusD (@_MarcusD2_) June 20, 2017
That proved to be a huge moment in the game, as the Padres threatened – but did not score – after that, and then Contreras tied it up with his homer just a half inning later. You can watch Contreras’ postgame interview – where he addresses his offense and defense on the night – here.
That was also Contreras’ 14th caught stealing this year, which is right up near the top of the leaderboard. Check it out:
- Yan Gomes: 15
- Tucker Barnhart: 15
- Yasmani Grandal: 15
- Willson Contreras: 14
- Salvador Perez: 13
Taking it a step further, Contreras’ 5 Defensive Runs Saved ranks fifth in MLB and his overall 7.7 Def Rating is third best. In short, he’s among the very best offensive and defensive catchers in baseball today … and he’s just 25 and under control for five more seasons after 2017. Neat.
By WAR, Contreras’ 1.3 is tied for 8th best in MLB, but only one player, Gary Sanchez, ahead of him on the list is younger (and that’s only by seven months!).
A lot is made of the Cubs young core, but given his position, age, and current production, Contreras is arguably one of the most valuable players on the team. He’s already shown his skills on both sides of the baseball and is just now beginning to get hot. At his best, Contreras could be one of the best catchers in baseball*, and, as we’ve already seen, that day may not be too far away.
*[Brett: Could be one of the best *players* in baseball. Fixed that for you.]
Also, while we have you, don’t miss the big sale:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) June 20, 2017