Chicago Cubs: Don’t expect Contreras to play much now

Jun 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40), center, before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40), center, before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

Willson Contreras is an extremely talented player and has a long big league career ahead of him. However, his promotion to the MLB does not necessarily mean he is going to be playing much in 2016.

I get it, Chicago Cubs’ top prospect Willson Contreras is extremely talented. I really do understand that. In fact, Contreras is so talented that he was ranked the top catching prospect by before the 2016 season.

I get it, Contreras is the presumed catcher of the future for the Cubs. Even though this is true, it’s also true that he will not be playing as much as other Cubs’ prospects after their promotions to the big leagues.

Yes, Contreras was promoted to the big leagues, but he was called up to be the Cubs’ third catcher on the depth chart. Instead of playing everyday in Triple-A as the starting catcher, Contreras will be doing more watching than playing in Chicago, assuming he stays with the team for the rest of 2016.

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In fact, Cubs’ President of Baseball Operation Theo Epstein recognized the fact that Contreras is not going to come in and play every day immediately. Instead, he will get a chance to learn what it takes to catch at the big league level from the team’s current veteran catchers and coaching staff, according to CSN Chicago.

“We think it’s great timing to get Willson some experience up here, get acclimated to the big league level at a time when he doesn’t have to step in and carry the catching load,” Epstein said. “He’s got a great opportunity to learn from David Ross, from Miguel Montero, from Joe and our coaching staff to get a feel for what it’s like, the responsibilities of being a catcher at the big league level.”

In summary, Contreras was promoted to be the Cubs’ third catcher under the guidance of Montero and Ross. Instead of playing everyday, he might get start a couple games each week, if he’s that lucky.

As strange as it is to promote someone tearing it up in the minor leagues and not play him (Contreras was hitting .350 through 54 games), the Cubs have their reasoning. Essentially, the organization wants the young backstop to learn as much as they can from the experienced Montero and Ross, both of whom are getting up there in age.

Montero (32, turning 33 in July) and Ross (39) don’t have many years left before retirement, which is evident in the fact that Ross plans to retire after the 2016 season. By promoting Contreras now, he has the chance to learn everything he can from two players with a combined 26 years of MLB experience.

Despite this being the case, the decision to promote Contreras should be questioned, not simply accepted and brushed off.

In 2015 the Cubs promoted Kyle Schwarber around this point in the season, albeit for a far different reason. Last season, the Cubs had several interleague series at this time. By bringing Schwarber up, the team had another impact bat on their roster to DH against American League clubs.

Now in 2016, the Cubs have no interleague games in sight, not to mention any away interleague match-ups where they would need a DH. If the 2016 schedule played out like 2015’s, Contreras could have potentially DH-ed while learning from Montero and Ross on the side. That isn’t the case this season.

Because he’s the third catcher for the Cubs right now, Contreras essentially will be catching here and there while occasionally pinch-hitting. His time with the Cubs will involve a lot of behind the scenes action, learning as much as he can on how to handle a major league pitching staff.

If Contreras isn’t going to play, why is he in the majors right now? In my mind, allowing him to continue maturing in Triple-A as a catcher while hitting everyday might have been just as effective as keeping him on the bench in Chicago.

I get Contreras getting promoted, I truly do. I know that every single piece of information that he will learn from Montero and Ross will be invaluable in his development as a big league catcher, presumably one on a team that will be World Series contenders for years to come.

Next: Cubs promote prospect Willson Contreras

In my mind though, the best way to get better is playing, something that Contreras will not being doing much of if he stays in Chicago for the rest of 2016 as the third-string catcher. Hopefully, the Cubs made the right decision and everything pays off for Contreras in the end.