Earlier this winter, Buster Olney (ESPN) ranked Willson Contreras as the fourth best backstop in MLB, adding that “Within a year or two, he could be the best all-around catcher in baseball.”
While that was obviously optimistic praise, I took it a step further:
“After posting his second consecutive 120 wRC+ (or better) season, Contreras figures to be a dominant presence and frequent cleanup hitter in the middle of the Cubs’ order. And if, knock on wood, that crazy 100 PA stretch just after the All-Star break (.311/.380/.700, 10 HRs, 173 wRC+) is even remotely within reach, he could soon be an MVP candidate.”
Suffice it to say, I really like Willson Contreras, and think it’s easy to expect a lot out of his future. For that matter, so does he: “I know that I have a lot of talent,” he said to Steve Greenberg at the Cubs Convention, “and I thank God every day for giving me this kind of talent that I have. In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time.”
Well, then. Go get it, dude.
But what does “being the best catcher” mean for Contreras, in practice? Is he going to start more closely studying guys like Buster Posey or Yadier Molina to see what he can take from their successes? Nah. At least, not anymore. “I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I’m watching myself because I know that I’m going to be better than them. That’s my plan.” Confidence for days.
And even if you think those are some big shoes to fill, I’d add that Contreras has probably already tried them on.
After all, his teammates think the world of him – Kyle Hendricks says hs has all the tools and “every angle” covered to be the best in the league, and Kris Bryant says he’s already a star. The national analysts, like Olney, are already giving him his due credit. Now, Contreras just needs to take that final leap forward into a more consistent receiver behind the plate – while continuing to rake at it – to sneak into that final, best-of-the-best group. There’s no reason to think he won’t.
And, of course, if you check out Greenberg’s piece at the Sun Times (and you should), you’ll note that Contreras has nothing but respect and admiration for guys like Posey and Yadi, in particular. But you will get the sense that the respect they command throughout the league is a particularly strong motivator for him. He wants it, he’s hungry for it, and, frankly, he’s probably going to get it.