Posted on June 16, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
For the Chicago Cubs, the help just keeps on coming. Not that they need it. Reports indicate that the Cubs, who are 24 games over .500 and running away with the NL Central, plan to promote catcher Willson Contreras on Friday. Contreras is considered by many to be the top catching prospect in all of baseball, and appears poised to make his big league debut this weekend when the Cubs play a three-game series against the third place Pittsburgh Pirates.
At the start of the 2015 season, Contreras was splitting catching duties at double-A with Kyle Schwarber. Both players ended up having breakout seasons, with Schwarber becoming a key part of Chicago’s run to the NLCS, playing mostly in the outfield, and Contreras emerging as one of Chicago’s most promising prospects. Contreras has continued to build off of last year’s breakout season, hitting .350 with nine home runs and 16 doubles in triple-A this year, giving him an OPS of 1.030. He’s also described as a solid defensive catcher with slightly better than average arm strength.
Despite unparalleled success on the field this season, the Cubs have not been enamored with their situation behind the plate. Miguel Montero is hitting just .210 with three home runs while splitting time with David Ross, who has performed well but is not a full-time catcher at age 39. The Cubs are expected to carry three catchers, with Contreras sharing time with both Montero and Ross. Both Montero and Ross appear willing to mentor Contreras and have spoken highly of the young backstop in the past.
However, a source indicates that the promotion is not necessarily intended to be a permanent one. The plan is for the Cubs to slowly expose Contreras to the majors, much like they did with Schwarber last year, but ultimately send him back to triple-A at a later date. With such a comfortable lead atop the NL Central, the Cubs should have no problem being patient with Contreras and slowly bring him along.
With Ross expected to retire after this season and Montero only under contract through the 2017 season, Contreras figures to be a big part of Chicago’s plans beyond this season and could easily turn into the team’s catcher of the future. The Cubs fully expect Contreras to eventually join a young core of position players that includes Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, and Schwarber, among others.
The Cubs are currently getting a look at one of their other young prospects in outfielder Albert Almora, who was promoted when Jorge Soler went on the DL earlier this month. There appears to be no shortage of young talent in Chicago’s farm system, and Contreras will merely become the latest to make his debut with the Cubs.