#5: Willson Contreras
A great rookie season brings hope for a solid future. In 2016, catcher Willson Contreras came to the Chicago Cubs as a band aid to cover the hole left by Montero’s injury. He launched a home run in his first MLB at-bat. After ten games, he batted .370/.485/.741, with three home runs, nine RBI, and five runs scored. Needless to say, he stayed put in Chicago.
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This spring, Contreras is proving that he can handle the bat well. To this point, he is hitting for a .326 average with four doubles, three home runs and nine runs scored. The one area of concern for the young catcher is strikeouts. In his rookie campaign, Contreras struck out 25 percent of the time. That trend is continuing this spring with 10 strikeouts in 43 at-bats.
The other dimension of Contreras’ game that adds concern to opponents is his defense. This spring, he has nabbed 46 percent of would-be base stealers. That stat was 37 percent in 2016, above the league average. The weapon of his arm in combination with the tagging abilities of Javier Baez is an asset no other team can boast.
What helps Contreras in terms of making the All-Star game is the depth at the position in the National League. Buster Posey is still around and is likely to make it a fifth All-Star appearance. Other 2016 All-Stars, Wilson Ramos and Matt Lucroy, are in the American League now. Matt Wieters joining the Nationals may be a tough player to beat, as is the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina.
However, at this point, Contreras is the number two-rated catcher in the NL in terms of fantasy leagues. It is a good start.