The Chicago Cubs are loaded and ready to spring forward with their young catching core. If fans were not impressed enough by the current young backstops working their way up, another name has emerged, and he had an impressive 2019.
Catcher is the name of the game. Or, in this case, the name of the organization. An uptick in catching talent has been quickly established for the Chicago Cubs. While there is no likely scenario in Willson Contreras leaving, or any least anytime soon, it is safe to say the position is brimming with flair.
Chicago made many young men happy last summer in the first-year player draft. Amongst the mass of eager talent was 32nd round selection Bryce Windham. Windham, a product of Old Dominion University, played four seasons as a Monarch. After that, he experienced a dream come true in being drafted.
The Cubs have a ton of up-and-coming catching talent awaiting the opportunity to help the franchise, and Windham is no exception. At 23 years of age, Windham does possess a little more experience than many when debuting in professional baseball. That extra year of college may represent in the future as a game-changer for the left-handed-hitting prospect.
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Windham arrived at Old Dominion in 2016, redshirting in his first year there and playing his first season as a sophomore. His first season, Windham played in 21 games. He played mostly defense, as Windham stepped to the plate just five times. One of the stranger stat lines.
He failed to record a hit. However, Windham did walk twice in his at-bats and stole a base. In Windham’s second season, he played in 53 games. The batting average was less than stellar, yet Windham still managed a substantial .393 on-base percentage. Windham did record a 20.18 strikeout rate yet also walked at a considerable rate of 18.35 percent.
In the minutiae of his career at ODU, Windham recorded slash lines of .293/.405/.329 and .338/.463/.417, respectively. Something clicked for the then 21-year-old as Windham turned his entire game around in a very positive way. When it was all said and done, Windham had played 182 games as a Monarch, finishing with a .300/.428/.355 line. He stole 18 bases and recorded 99 walks.
Chicago Cubs: Rookie ball ain’t no thang
In a kind of surprising chain of events, Windham played a considerable amount in his rookie season. Windham appeared in 35 games, working 148 plate appearances and did not disappoint. The 23-year-old slashed .325/.459/.419 with just a 12.8 percent strikeout rate and a 20.3 percent walk rate.
Windham finished his inaugural year with a .427 wOBA and video game level 150 wRC+. He possesses above-average speed, which is unique for a catcher and drove the ball to the opposite field at a 54 percent rate, which is unheard of for any hitter. Impressively, 22.8 percent of his plate appearances resulting in contact were recorded as line drives.
He has a stance and swing which rivals Jason Heyward, carrying a slight toe-tap with a smooth swing through the zone. The ability to go to the opposite field is entirely natural, which resulted in ten extra-base hits last season.
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Windham may fall behind the age curve, just a smidge; however, what the lefty hitter successfully showed in his 35 game sample size was nothing short of majestic. He will continue to jockey for position in the deep catching basin, but if Windham can continue this dominance, the 23-year-old will be a valuable asset to the Cubs for a long time.