Cubs: Miguel Amaya must develop ahead of schedule

Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Cubs seem to have settled their catching situation. But it is still vital top prospect Miguel Amaya begins developing ahead of schedule.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer discussed a litany of topics during a Monday Zoom call with reporters, including the potential for the team to engage young stars in extension talks.

Hoyer hinted the core will all be on the roster for the start of spring training, meaning Willson Contreras is likely staying put. Craig Mish of SportsGrid reported last month the Cubs and Miami Marlins were engaged in talks centered around Contreras, but nothing ever developed.

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With Chicago also moving to sign Austin Romine as the new backup catcher, things look to be set behind the dish. But the Cubs cannot bank on this duo in the near future.

The reality with Contreras is he remains one of the most valuable – if not the most valuable – trade chips on the roster. He has been one of the best catchers in baseball since he first arrived to the majors in 2016, and with another year of arbitration in 2022, Contreras should continue to attract plenty of interest.

Romine is fine for what he provides as a backup. He actually hit .281 with a .748 OPS in 72 games with the New York Yankees in 2019, numbers the Cubs would surely welcome. But he is nothing more than a stopgap on a one-year deal.

This is why the Cubs need Miguel Amaya to take off this season

Victor Caratini once looked like he could be Contreras’ successor in the event of a trade. Obviously, that is no longer possible given Caratini was included in the Yu Darvish deal.

As such, the Cubs need a long-term answer if they remain hesitant with respect to Contreras’ future. Amaya can be that guy. But he needs to prove it, and prove it right now.

The 21-year-old has shown promising signs throughout his young professional career. Amaya spent the 2019 campaign at High-A, finishing the season with 11 homers and a .753 OPS. He also threw out 35 percent of would-be base-stealers.

Cubs manager David Ross lauded Amaya’s catching ability last spring, saying his defensive tools alone made him big-league ready. Of course, Chicago still preferred Amaya get some seasoning in the batter’s box.

Well, this past winter has been every bit as encouraging. Amaya played 10 games in the Puerto Rico Winter League, hitting a pair of homers and two doubles while also drawing eight walks and striking out just three times in 38 plate appearances.

The Cubs desperately need Amaya to sustain this momentum heading into spring training and the 2021 season. There is a general lack of clarity with respect to the team’s future, making the progression of top prospects all the more important. This is especially true at a premium position like catcher.

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Amaya will be someone to watch in 2021. He might even earn some big-league at-bats if the Cubs struggle early and sell high on Contreras. Regardless, Chicago will be better for it should Amaya prove to be ready sooner than anticipated.