After taking a big step forward at the plate during his 2015 campaign at Double-A, Willson Contreras raked at Triple-A Iowa to begin the season and forced his way onto the Cubs' 25-man roster in short order. Especially for a 24-year-old, his performance was impressive, as he continued to show a discerning eye (9.2 percent walk rate) while flashing 20-25 home run pop. Additionally, Contreras proved to be an above-average defender, which should give him the starting job again in 2017 regardless of what the team does with Miguel Montero. Although his overall line fell during the second half, Contreras cut his strikeout rate from 26.9 percent to 22.1 percent during that span. Moreover, Contreras demonstrated the ability to handle righties and lefties, swatting 10 of his 12 homers against the former while maintaining a slightly higher OPS against the latter (.854). Contreras' pop and run-production potential give him a chance to finish as a top-five catcher in 2017.
Contreras will be Jon Lester's personal catcher this season, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago reports. The news comes as no surprise, Contreras was already expected to be the everyday catcher for the Cubs moving forward. The 24-year-old hit .282/.357/.488 in his rookie season and will have a chance to improve on those numbers with more consistent playing time. David Ross, who served as Lester's battery mate the past two seasons, will help coach Contreras in spring training, according to manager Joe Maddon.
Contreras is out of the lineup Sunday for Game 5 of the World Series against the Indians, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. As has been the case throughout the season, David Ross will start at catcher with battery mate Jon Lester on the mound, forcing Contreras to head to the bench. Contreras, who is batting 9-for-33 (.273) with one home run in 33 postseason at-bats, could be called upon as a pinch-hitter if the right matchup presents itself.
Contreras is not in the lineup for Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday against the Giants, Carrie Muskat of MLB.com reports. Contreras caught in Game 2 and went 2-for-3 in the process, but he'll cycle out of the lineup once again. The Cubs will go with their third different catcher in three games, as after David Ross was behind the plate in Game 1, Miguel Montero will get a turn in Monday's Game 3.
Contreras went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a walk in Sunday's 7-4 win over the Reds. Contreras helped keep the game close with his fourth-inning RBI single and eighth-inning solo homer, both of which trimmed Cincinnati's lead to one. Chicago then rallied for four runs in the ninth for its 103rd win of the year. Contreras played a key role in his team's success this year, slashing .282/.357/.488 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI in 283 plate appearances. The 24-year-old rookie excelled after his callup in mid-June and should be locked in as the Cubs' starting backstop next year.
Contreras went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in Saturday's 10-4 loss to the Cardinals. The rookie backstop smacked a solo homer to left in the ninth with the Cubs on the wrong end of a 10-3 score. Contreras now has a five-game hitting streak, with a pair of solo homers over that span. His solid campaign includes a .270/.346/.473 line with 11 homers and 32 RBI.