With Willson Contreras now the starting catcher for the Chicago Cubs, what role will Miguel Montero have with the team in 2017?
2017 will be an adjustment period for Chicago Cubs’ catcher Miguel Montero. After being the primary catcher since joining the Cubs in 2015, Montero will be the backup this season.
The Cubs gave David Ross a fair share of playing time in 2015 and 2016, just not as much as Montero. For comparison’s sake, Montero played 113 games in 2015 and 86 in 2016; Ross played 72 in 2015 and 67 in 2016.
At first glance, it looks like Montero lost playing time last season after playing so much in 2015. However, getting injured combined with Willson Contreras’ emergence are to blame for this. No disrespect to Ross, but Montero still played more often despite going on the DL in late April.
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Of course, one would be naive to not understand the importance of Contreras’ emergence in regards to Montero. Despite making his MLB debut on June 17, Contreras still appeared in 76 games.
With Ross retired, the Cubs will be going back to a two-catcher rotation after the three-man combination from 2016. Kyle Schwarber is healthy and capable of catching, but it looks like he will not be doing so very often.
Montero’s role in 2017
Because the Cubs essentially have just two catchers on their roster, one would expect Montero to play fairly often this season. Because catching exerts so much energy, catcher are not expected to play 150+ games like other position players.
At the same time though, it seems evident that the Cubs’ plan for this season is to play Contreras as much as possible. In his 76 games last season, he hit .282 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI. If the Cubs doubled his playing time, Contreras could be a 25 HR/75 RBI player.
During the 2012 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Montero played in a career-high 141 games. That season, he was 29-years-old; this season, Contreras will be just 25 years old. While he will need his days off, Contreras should be young and fresh enough to play majority of the games.
If this does wind up being the case, Montero will be a pinch-hitter and mentor for Contreras at the most. He will get playing time on occasion, but the starting job most likely will be Contreras’ (barring injuries or struggles).
One should not view Montero as a dead-weight for the Cubs this season. Even though he will play less, he has a spot on the roster for a reason. This season, he will have to adjust to being the best backup catcher possible, rather than the best starter possible.