Although it doesn’t quite feel like it, Willson Contreras might just be the Cubs’ one and only chance at a starter in the 2018 MLB All-Star game. The 26-year-old catcher is slashing .276/.369/.434 this season, which is better than any other qualified catcher in baseball – including the current fan voting leader, Buster Posey.
But while it feels like Contreras has been the Cubs catcher forever, he actually debuted at the plate only two years ago, today. And if you recall, he made quite a splash by crushing the first first pitch he saw in his big league career:
#OTD 2 years ago, Willson Contreras entered the game to pinch hit for Kyle Hendricks…
It was the first pitch, of his first career MLB at bat… pic.twitter.com/OFdn4NgH44
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 19, 2018
Entering the game as a pinch-hitter for his first Major League plate appearance, Contreras walked up to a standing ovation at Wrigley Field (we sure did love our prospects, didn’t we?) and left with a curtain call. That’s about as good as a debut gets and he certainly felt the same way: “I don’t have the words to explain how happy I am.”
Here’s the shot again from the Cubs site, with a little more before and after the hit:
Since that day, Contreras hit 36 more homers in just 253 games while amassing an overall slash line (.278/.360/.479) that amounts to 22% better than the league average hitter (122 wRC+). He has also become one of the most beloved Cubs on the roster and arguably among the three most important and valuable players on the roster.
So while he may have come out of relative obscurity as a later-blooming, one-time-available-for-free-in-the-Rule-5-Draft prospect, he’s the Cubs’ main guy now. I suspect, before too long, the Cubs will try to ink him to a nice beefy extension, too. Until that day, however, let’s appreciate what the Cubs already have, and vote him into the first All-Star game of his career. He deserves it.