Chicago Cubs: Willson Contreras ranked as third-best catcher in baseball

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

As MLB Network runs down the best at each respective projection heading into 2020, Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras once again earned high praise.

Willson Contreras has been mentioned plenty in recent months – but not for reasons Cubs fans are too keen on. For the most part, the two-time All-Star backstop’s name has swirled in trade rumors as Theo Epstein looks to shake up a roster faded down the stretch once again in 2019.

But for at least a couple days, we can appreciate Contreras’ talent knowing that (at least for now) he’s set to hold things down behind the dish once again this season. MLB Network recently ranked Contreras as the third-best catcher in all of baseball in its recent Top 10 Catchers segment – trailing only Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto.

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In just 105 games, Contreras turned in an .888 OPS and 127 wRC+ last year, earning his second consecutive selection to the Midsummer Classic. We’ve always known what he’s capable of with the stick – there are few catchers who can do what he does at the plate.

The Chicago backstop and Venezuelan native came out of the gates scorching hot, slashing .286/.381/.556 in the first half. He struggled in the second half, battling through injuries yet again – so staying healthy and on the field in 2020 will undoubtedly be a huge part of his focus this year.

Behind the dish, Contreras still has room for improvement. Defense is what separates a guy like Grandal, who inked a deal with the crosstown White Sox, from Contreras, who has struggled with pitch framing in his still-young career.

There’s no doubting his arm, though. The combination of Contreras and Javier Baez has culminated in some insane caught stealing highlights in recent years – and I suspect we’ll see plenty more before we close the book on the upcoming campaign.

According to Fangraphs, Contreras improved year-over-year with his work behind the plate. Potential implementation of an automated strike zone in coming years could erase this shortcoming in his game, as well – but for now, we’ll hope the positive momentum continues under former catcher and first-year manager David Ross.

Next. Will we see Rizzo back in the leadoff spot in 2020?. dark

In an offseason that’s offered little for Cubs fans to be excited about, this news – paired with Baseball America featuring four Chicago prospects in its Top 100 rankings – has been a breath of fresh air. Soon, the team will be reporting to Mesa – as they look to open a new era on the North Side.