2013 Cubs Prospects in Review: Willson Contreras

In Commentary And Analysis by myles28 Comments

Willson Contreras is only 21, but has been in the Cubs' organization for 5 years. An unheralded IFA from Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, Contreras spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before making his stateside debut in Boise 2 years ago. In the 5 years he's played for Cubs affiliates, he's done yeoman's work, playing adequate defense with mediocre offensive numbers. This season, though, he's shown some progress with the bat. Will Contreras keep improving and make a name for himself in the next year or two?

Performance

Willson Contreras has had 1049 plate appearances as a professional, going back all the way to his age-17 season. In those PA, he's hit .257/.319/.373 for a .692 OPS. At first blush, that screams "org filler." I'm not so sure I see it that way. He's had wRC+ totals of 84, 92, and 110 the last three years. Each of those were at a different level, and each of those were as Contreras received the bulk of playing time at the most physically demanding position on the baseball field. He walked 7.4% of the time last year, which isn't great EXCEPT it's a 3% increase from last year. He's also more feared than before as a hitter; he hit 11 HR after 4 and 3 in the last 2 years. Overall, his ISO climbed from .086 and .084 to .176. That will get you noticed. Put it al together, and he owned a .248/.319/.425. And all of this was after a 50 point BABIP drop!

Contreras has some swing and miss to his game, with a 19.1% rate this year and a 20.3% rate last year. Those are completely acceptable, though, and I wouldn't be worried about it (especially because his ISO went up to a rate where pitchers will fear him).

Scouting

Contreras is a converted 3B, so the position does not come naturally to WIllson. The tradeoff, though, is that he's got better speed than a normal catcher does. He won't get a chance to use it defensively (though he has a plus hose on him, so he has the skillset to be a defensive asset once he has experience), it will help him as far as baserunning and legging out extra bases. His bat profiles as a bottom-of-the-order type; that's not a knock on him, just a reality of a catcher that isn't offensively incredible. In 2012, he threw out 47% of baserunners, which is an incredible clip. This year, it was 29%, still a great number.

Contreras has been praised for his ability to hit a good fastball, which is important, but it's an open question what he'll do against breaking pitches. Even after 5 years in the minors, he's still only seen as high as Kane County.

Outlook

Contreras is in a unique place right now. He's probably the best catching prospect in the Cubs system, but he's not a great one. Furthermore, Chadd Krist is the other guy in the conversation, and he's at the level right about WIllson. I'd like to see Krist repeat A+ next year, but Contreras more or less needs to play every day and he should be promoted as well. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Krist is promoted somewhat aggressively to Tennessee to open the season, and Contreras gets the nod in Daytona next year. I also wouldn't be surprised if Contreras starts in Kane County even though he deserves to be promoted. I also wouldn't be surprised if one or the other wasn't thrown in a trade for another player with similar positional glut issues. If I had to guess, Willson will be the full-time catcher in Daytona next year, and he'll spend the entire year there. Unfortunately, I think he'll probably put up a 115 wRC+ that we won't be able to read much into, because we won't be able to see him play and he won't face the caliber of pitching that I'm interested in seeing. Still, it was a great year for him, and he played his way into fringe Top-30 consideration, if I had to take a stab at that sort of thing.

2013 Cubs Prospect Reviews

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Comments

  1. kcobserver

    I saw Contreras play a couple of dozen times and I’m hoping he isn’t the best catching prospect in the org. Not to mention the fact he wasn’t even the everyday catcher the last couple of months at KC this year as Carlos Escobar got most of the playing time behind the plate.

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  2. Author
    Myles

    kcobserver wrote:

    I saw Contreras play a couple of dozen times and I’m hoping he isn’t the best catching prospect in the org. Not to mention the fact he wasn’t even the everyday catcher the last couple of months at KC this year as Carlos Escobar got most of the playing time behind the plate.

    That’s interesting. Carlos Escobar is older than Willson and worse in every measurable respect. I wonder why he’d be getting the bulk of the starts (unless it’s just he’s newer and therefore more important to develop for some reason).

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  3. Author
    Myles

    The system is incredibly barren in catchers, but targeting them is only so useful. I’m all about take the best player, and address gaps via trades/FA signings, but I don’t have a concrete reason why I think that’s best.

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  4. WaLi

    This is the worst best thing that every happened on this blog.
    [img]http://i1053.photobucket.com/albums/s467/nkamsalem/Amelia%20and%20Bruno/photo1_zps9f340d51.jpg[/img]

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  5. Suburban kid

    @ WaLi:
    I’m glad I’m not the only one to buy OV merch. AC needs the money, given his BWM suspension.

    Your kids are going to look at that picture in 20 years, though, and wonder WTF was up with that…

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  6. Suburban kid

    I’m sure the profits from that mug I ordered two years ago have been keeping him going, but it can’t last forever.

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  7. Suburban kid

    @ WaLi:
    It looks like the baby on the left is responding to the baby on the right with his onesie message, but the one on the right is all, “Talk to the hand!”

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  8. uncle dave

    @ dmick89:
    Sorry for missing the response re: login issues from the last thread. I’m fine logging in at work but am having issues doing so at home for some reason. Might be a browser issue? Have you run into this before? Thanks…

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  9. Suburban kid

    Did you know that Zonk caught both Fergie and Maddog, in addition to hitting behind Hawk in the lineup and playing behind Ryno in the field? And he took Santo’s job in the booth? He’s like the shadow following every Cub HOFer since Billy Williams.

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  10. uncle dave

    @ dmick89:
    Yeah I’ll fuck around with it and let you know what I find. Could just be that using IE2 or whatever the fuck I run there isn’t cutting it.

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  11. Suburban kid

    I stopped listening, but a couple innings ago Stanton’s bat went into the stands on a swing and hit a child sitting behind the Cubs dugout. Pat and Keith were pretty shaken up about it, especially Pat, who I thought was going to have to leave the booth. It sounded really bad. I hope the kid’s gonna be OK.

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  12. Suburban kid

    Koyie told Judd that Maddux would call pitches based on the way he caught the ball coming back from the catcher. Saved time that way. And Lilly would mouth the word Ford for fastball and Chevy for curve.

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  13. JonKneeV

    I actually like the chances that Bosio/Derek Johnson can fix Daniel Bard. I think it’s well worth it.

    Bullpen options 2014:
    Bard
    Vizcaino
    Strop
    Russell
    Villaneuva
    Grimm
    Arrieta
    Rusin
    Alberto Cabrera
    Rosscup
    Gregg
    Fujikawa
    Zych

    IMO that’s a pretty good crop to choose a bullpen from.

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  14. WaLi

    So did they tell Castro to revert back to his old ways? Kind of looks like it. Of course I’m only saying that because he is hitting now, but I wonder if the stats back that up.

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