On Thursday it was announced that catcher Willson Contreras was being promoted from AAA Iowa while Tim Federowicz was being designated for assignment. The move is very interesting for numerous reasons due to the timing as well as the need for a catcher at this point in the season. But first let’s dig into Contreras.
Willson Contreras is the number 2 prospect in the Cubs system according to MLB Pipeline and also number 2 according to the Out of the Vines top position player prospect list. After making a very slow and steady climb up the system for his first 4 seasons, Contreras’s stock skyrocketed last season in AA Tennessee. He won the Southern League hitting crown after going for a .333 average. That earned him the promotion to Iowa for this season where he has just continued his tear. At the time of his call-up Contreras was sporting a slash line of ..350/.439/.591/1.030 with 16 doubles, 9 homers, and 43 RBI in just 54 games. So based off all the information given to you, it would be easy to say that Willson Contreras is more than MLB ready.
And while that statement would not be false, the promotion still comes at a very interesting time. I have been a huge Contreras supporter as well as a harsh critic of Miguel Montero at times, but the fact of the matter is, the Cubs have 2 veteran catchers on the roster already with Montero and David Ross. While neither of those guys are getting any younger and Montero especially has dealt with some injury issues this season, there is always that very important saying of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
On the other hand, I look at this as a very important move, both for the Cubs and for Contreras in the long run. Willson has done everything he needs to do in AAA. His bat is now major league ready and he defense is ready for the bigs as well with that very strong arm of his. The only thing he needs to do is learn how to manage a game when he is behind the dish for Major League veterans like Jon Lester or John Lackey. And who can help with that? David Ross and Miguel Montero. With Rossy retiring after the season, I see absolutely no reason why Contreras should not be following the old man around like a lost puppy just learning everything there is to know about baseball and life. Easing a young player into the bigs like that may be just what Willson needs to get acclimated properly.
So let’s take a look at how Joe Maddon can squeeze Contreras into a rotation of 3 catchers.
David Ross is Jon Lester’s personal catcher of course, but has also been assuming the catching responsibilities against lefty starters as well. While Rossy has been having a great year both behind the dish and at the plate, he has hinted numerous times that he has about had it as he is wearing down. By starting him strictly once every 5 days on Lester’s starts and then bringing him off the bench as a defensive replacement late in games for Montero, I think David can be utilized nicely the rest of the season.
That leaves Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras receiving platoon duties more or less. I would assume that Willson would get a spot start against righties on occasion so that each guy gets around 2 starts for every turn through the rotation. By handing the catching duties this way, the promotion of Contreras isn’t wasted by him sitting on the bench and both of the veteran backstops get some much needed rest throughout the season.
Completely unrelated to all of this information might be the coolest lineup possibility I have seen in a long time. While this lineup would not be the most ideal lineup for Joe Maddon to throw out there and it also includes a guy currently on the DL, it is still incredible to look at the possibilities. Here the players are listed with their age in parentheses.
- Albert Almora– CF (22)
- Jason Heyward– RF (26)
- Kris Bryant– 3B (24)
- Anthony Rizzo– 1B (26)
- Jorge Soler– LF (24)
- Javier Baez– 2B (23)
- Willson Contreras- C (24)
- Addison Russell– SS (22)
- Pitcher’s Spot
Mind you, that lineup doesn’t even include 23 year old Kyle Schwarber. A lineup with the oldest guy at the ripe age of 26 years old. I never thought I would see that in baseball — ever. What a time to be alive.