Willson Contreras

From BR Bullpen

Willson Eduardo Contreras

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 210 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Catcher Willson Contreras made his major league debut as a late-game defensive replacement for the Chicago Cubs on June 17, 2016. In his maiden big league at-bat on June 19th, he crushed the first pitch he saw from A.J. Schugel of the Pittsburgh Pirates for a two-run pinch homer. In 76 games, he hit .282 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs. In the 2016 World Series, the Cubs followed an unusual pattern in having three different players start a game behind the plate: Miguel Montero, David Ross and Contreras. All three homered during the seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians that resulted in the Cubs winning their first title since 1908.

Contreras took over as the Cubs' undisputed starter at catcher in 2017, following Ross's retirement and Montero's relegation to a back-up role. This was confirmed even more when Montero was let go on June 28th, after complaining of pitcher Jon Lester's failure to hold runners on base. Two days earlier, on June 26th, he had accomplished something never seen in the 140-year history of the Cubs: playing catcher, he led off a game against the Washington Nationals with a homer off Gio Gonzalez at Nationals Park. It was the first time in team history that a catcher had hit a lead-off homer. Joe Maddon had been experimenting with some unorthodox choices in the lead-off spot in recent weeks, because of injuries and the inability of Kyle Schwarber to produce in the role; slugging 1B Anthony Rizzo had found some success in the role, but with a lefthander on the mound, Maddon had pegged the righty Contreras in that particular game. The homer came as Contreras started a huge hot streak: beginning on June 19th and culminating with a two-homer, 6 RBI performance on August 3rd, Contreras hit 13 homers in 35 games. He also hit a scorching .343 from July 9th to August 3rd. His performance coincided with the Cubs waking up from their early-season doldrums and taking over the lead in the NL Central, as he was the team's most productive hitter during the stretch. It was thus a huge blow when on August 9th, he had to be placed on the disabled list with a hamstring problem and was likely to be lost until September. Luckily, the Cubs had acquired veteran Alex Avila from the Detroit Tigers at the trading deadline, and rookie Victor Caratini who had backed him up since Montero's departure, was also available to help out, so they had a back-up plan ready. On September 15th, he was handed a two-game suspension for throwing his mask, which bounced and hit umpire Jordan Baker in the leg, after being thrown out along with P John Lackey for arguing a missed third-strike call by Baker in the first game of a crucial three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. He appealed the suspension, which was reduced to one game, which he served on September 17th. His absence was not too costly as the Cubs swept the series, giving themselves some precious breathing room in the division title race. He finished the season at .276 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 117 games. In the postseason, he was a combined 7 for 23 with 2 homers in two series as the Cubs were eliminated at the NLCS stage by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Contreras made the All-Star team for the first time in 2018 as he played 138 games for the Cubs and hit .249 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs. He was voted in as the starter by the fans more in recognition of his excellent performance the previous season than for what he was doing that year. The Cubs had a disappointing season, in that they lost out in the final days of the season on a chance to clinch the top seed in the National League in the postseason. Instead, they had to play a one-game playoff with the Milwaukee Brewers for the division title - which they lost at home - and then also lost the Wild Card Game at home, to the Colorado Rockies in extra innings, for a quick postseason exit. Willson went 0 for 3 with a pair of walks in the Wild Card Game. He bounced back in 2019 and made the All-Star team fully on merit this time, as he hit .286 with 18 homers and 52 RBIs in the first half. However, only a few days after the game, on July 15th, he had to go on the injured list with a foot injury. The Cubs immediately went out and acquired veteran Martin Maldonado from the Kansas City Royals to take over for him in his absence. He returned on July 24th and the Cubs traded the now superfluous Maldonado to the Houston Astros on July 31st to obtain IF/OF Tony Kemp. However, on August 4th, he was injured again, hurting his hamstring, and this time the Cubs went to the waiver wire, picking up recently released veteran Jonathan Lucroy to fill in in his absence. He was expected to miss a full month.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (2018 & 2019)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2017)
  • Won one World Series with the Chicago Cubs in 2016

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "A fearless Willson Contreras becoming a weapon for Cubs", USA Today Sports, October 20, 2016. [1]
  • Phil Rogers: "Contreras catches on quick, earns place as backstop", mlb.com, February 23, 2017. [2]

Related Sites[edit]