Chicago Cubs: White Sox versus Cubs series preview

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22: (L-R) Ian Happ
CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22: (L-R) Ian Happ /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

Willson Contreras has stepped up of late

The Cubs’ recent play has been aided by the performance of catcher Willson Contreras. In the month of July, Contreras is hitting .339 with six home runs and 14 RBI. The 25-year-old has come into his own this season, slashing .269/.334/.491 with 15 home runs and 52 in 87 games this season.

Contreras played in 76 games last season, hitting 12 home runs and driving in 35. Even though it’s still July, Contreras has already eclipsed both those numbers and could be a candidate to hit 25 home runs this season.

The young back-stop is finding success this season even though his line drive percentage is down from a year ago. According to Fangraphs, Contreras is hitting 1.6% less line drives and 2.8% more fly balls this season. In addition to hitting more fly balls, Contreras is also hitting the ball harder. Fangraphs tell us the 25-year-old is making hard contact 1.7% more this season compared to last. These numbers help to explain Contreras’ increased home run total.

Other key guys have stepped up as well

In addition to Contreras, Javier Baez has been red-hot of late. Over his last 19 at-bats, Baez is hitting .421 with two home runs and four RBI. On the season, the 24-year-old Baez is enjoying a .271/.308/.476 slash line with 12 home runs and 39 RBI. While many would like to see Baez’s OBP increase, he has recorded 73 hits in 86 games, including 17 doubles.

Kris Bryant is also doing his part to help the Cubs this season. The 25-year-old third baseman is slashing .280/.403/.530. In addition to that, Bryant has slugged 19 home runs and driven in 42. While Bryant is enjoying a productive season, he has caught fire in the month of July. In 59 at-bats, Bryant is hitting .356 with three home runs and 10 RBI.

As the Cubs look to stay hot in the second half, it will be important for these players and their teammates to keep producing at the plate.