Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is twice the man he was

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Cubs supervisor David Ross believes Willson Contreras’ evolution from bat-first catcher to all-around participant is almost full.

Catcher is arguably essentially the most demanding place in baseball, and lots of backstops by no means discover the precise steadiness between what they do on the plate versus what they do behind it. When he got here up for the Cubs in 2016, Contreras confirmed he might ship together with his bat instantly. He has a profession OPS of .819 and persistently has hit for energy since his rookie season.

However the query was all the time whether or not he might develop into the entire package deal and hone his game-calling and pitch-framing abilities, too. In 2018, he was nicely beneath league common in pitch framing, however by final yr, he had climbed to barely above, and he had a career-best fielding share final season.

For his half, Contreras isn’t targeted on making enhancements only for his personal sake.

“I simply don’t give it some thought, to be sincere,” he stated. “I’m simply making an attempt to be a man that helps a crew to win as many ballgames that I can.”

At occasions, that has meant carrying the offense together with his bat, and at different occasions, that has meant taking part in good protection and dealing with his pitching employees. These days, Contreras has provided each.

“It’s a very laborious ability set to seek out,” Ross stated. “We put a lot significance on game-calling, pitch-framing, the defensive aspect and what you do to your pitchers — that in itself might be sufficient for lots of groups — and but he comes out, and he’s a two-time All-Star, can actually hit, he’s received energy, is a very robust at-bat for us. He actually brings us power on a nightly foundation.”

For many catchers, it’s robust to do issues like shake off a foul evening on the plate after they’re nonetheless wanted to information a pitcher by means of a rocky inning; they carry a way of accountability for a pitcher’s efficiency in a method the remainder of the roster doesn’t. The place an outfielder may be capable to take a look at mentally for a second, a catcher by no means can.

At 28, Contreras continues to be younger, however he has amassed numerous baseball expertise, which has facilitated his development. Ross stated he sees similarities between Contreras’ trajectory as a catcher and his personal.

“You be taught extra the older you get of tips on how to examine,” Ross stated. “The extra you understand the league or hitters, it will probably form of velocity up the method. You then discover out what works for you, whether or not it’s rewriting the scouting report, watching video, going by means of it together with your beginning pitcher. You be taught to be somewhat extra environment friendly in how you’re employed. Quite a lot of that modifications together with your batting follow or your defensive drills, but in addition with the finding out that catchers should do — that evolves as nicely, and the way you streamline these issues.”

Whereas the remainder of the Cubs’ offense struggled the primary two weeks, Contreras was the lone shiny spot, main the crew in batting common and on-base share and tying Kris Bryant for dwelling runs. He was the spark plug in a win over the Braves on Saturday with homers within the first and third innings.

There’s nonetheless room for enchancment, however Contreras has lengthy since received over the clubhouse.

“He’s as passionate and hardworking as anyone we’ve got,” Ross stated. “He’s received the nickname ‘Killer’ round right here as a result of he’s received that killer intuition. He needs to win and does every thing he can to assist his crew win.”



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