Earlier this morning, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the Cubs would be promoting another of their top prospects on Friday, with catcher Willson Contreras joining the team against the Pirates. To clear room on the 25-man roster, the Cubs designated for assignment previous third catcher Tim Federowicz. Federowicz had appeared in just two games this month, both as a pinch-hitter and only a total of 13 all season.
Contreras, meanwhile, has been at AAA Iowa this year, and has been absolutely killing the ball there. In 54 games so far, Contreras hit .350/.439/.591 with 9 home runs, 43 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. Of even more interest is that he has been able to maintain an excellent approach as he has moved up, walking 28 times and striking out just 32 in 239 plate appearances so far. Here’s what Domenic Lanza had to say about him during the offseason:
Despite Kyle Schwarber's best Babe Ruth impression in the playoffs, many feel that Contreras is the Cubs' catcher of the future. The former third baseman draws praise for his receiving skills and pop times behind the plate, and seems a lock to stick at the position. Contreras broke out in a big way this season, batting .333/.413/.478 with 34 2B, 8 HR, and nearly as many walks (10.9% of PA) as strikeouts (11.9%) in Double-A. He followed that up by hitting .283/.361/.547 with 3 HR in 61 PA in the Arizona Fall League. Contreras may peak as a .270 to .280 hitter with 12 to 15 home runs, but that is quite good for a catcher - particularly one that profiles as a potential stud defensively.
Contreras’ performance so far this year has done nothing to diminish the idea that he is the long-term answer for the Cubs behind the plate, and could potentially be a fantasy monster at the position with full-time playing time. For this season however, that seems unlikely. The Cubs still have both Miguel Montero and David Ross on the roster, and while Ross is retiring at the end of the season, he remains the personal catcher for Jon Lester and should still see 1-2 games a week for the rest of the year. Montero has not been great this season, but is under contract through the 2017 season.
For this year, Contreras is absolutely worth grabbing in all two-catcher formats, and could provide decent production in four categories even in a part-time role. The hard part is how much he plays, and I think honestly he ends up with 2-3 starts a week since he has also played third base in the past. I can see the Cubs using this season to help ease him into the majors, and a line of .260 with 6-8 home runs the rest of the way seems reasonable.