There is just so much excitement from Cub fans to see Wilson Contreras. In his very first plate appearance, fans gave him a standing ovation! Think about that for a moment. This kid has done absolutely nothing at the major league level and the fans are on there feet cheering him on!
Contreras then takes the very first pitch deep and fans lose their minds. The kid gets a curtain call to acknowledge one swing of the bat. The whole thing took under 5 minutes to unfold. Has anyone seen this before outside of little league?
The excitement for Kris Bryant was very close. But just about every fan knew his name within 10 minutes after he was drafted. It was a forgone conclusions by many that Bryant was going to be one of the main building blocks of the new Cubs. This was not the case for Contreras.
Two years ago, the Cubs didn’t even protect him! That’s right. Two years ago any team could have simply claimed him as a rule 5 draft choice. It wasn’t until after that year when Contreras began to show results.
Contreras started his professional career at the ripe old age of 17. He was a third baseman from Venezuela. He was just one of the many young guys that get a chance to play baseball professionally. He is also a guy that you just can’t look at the stats to get a complete picture of the player. The reason being is that nothing he did with the bat really stood out as a guy that was going to be a major force in the future.
Then in 2013, the Cubs asked the kid to put on the gear of ignorance. He was to be converted from a 3B to a catcher. The Cubs liked the arm and the athleticism of the young farm hand. He was assigned to Kane County (A ball). He ended the year with a line of .248/.320/.423. Those kind of #’s won’t exactly get you noticed.
Nonetheless, the Cubs promoted the young catcher to Daytona for the 2014 season. It was mostly based on the kids work behind the dish. Contreras did show a strong arm and cat like reflects when it came to blocking pitches. The season ended pretty much the same offensively. His year end stats were listed as .242/.320/.359.
After both the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Wilson played Winter ball in Venezuela. He did show a bit more promise with that bat while down there. There was no doubt that the kid was willing to work. One thing that most scouts praised was his work ethic and how he always has the motor running in high gear. Because of this he was once again promoted.
Contreras started the 2015 campaign in Tennessee. Something must have clicked! The kid just started to hit. And hit. And hit! Unfortunately for Contreras, the Cubs also selected a catcher of the future that Summer. Kyle Schwarber was drafted 4th overall and was put on the fast track to Wrigley.
To his credit, Contreras continued to work hard. There was talk for the very first time that this kid might be a great backup to Schwarber in Chicago. Wilson must have had different ideas and went out and won the Southern League batting championship with a .333 average. This was from a guy that averaged around .256 the previous 4 seasons.
It earned him a chance to show his skills in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is a league used for teams to put their very best prospects to compete. In most cases, guys that play in the league make it to the majors within 2 years. Kris Bryant, Addison Russell Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber have all made appearances in the league.
Seemingly overnight, Wilson Contreras’ name had become one of the hottest names in all of baseball. The Cubs made him take the Winter off to rest. They wanted him back fresh to start in Iowa the following Spring. His name was now being mentioned as the possible #1 catcher for the Cubs future! The rest is history.
So why write an article to state the obvious? It shows how prospects are just so hard to judge. For as many obvious stars like Bryant and Schwarber, we can name 1oo more that may never even have their name whispered by fans. It shows that there are guys down on the farm that aren’t a blip on the radar right now but will have you drooling for their eventual call up to the show.
We write this because of the overwhelming panic going on right now about the Cubs pitching in year 2018 and beyond. Most folks know the names of the big bats in the Cubs system right now. But when you bring up the names of some of the pitchers you get a response of, “Meh.”
The Cubs have addressed the pitching situation with volume. Over the past 3 drafts, they have drafted dozens of guys. The idea is that only 2 or 3 need to make it to the show. It also seems pretty obvious that the plan for the organization goes against conventional wisdom. The Cubs will go with a American-like lineup on offense. Then they will buy pitching.
Of course they could also trade a few pieces for a top of the rotation youngster. But they will not be backed into a corner to make such a move. To Theo’s credit, he doesn’t cave in to pressure from the fans or media to make a move. It must make sense to the way the Cubs are doing things. It’s the Cubs Way.
This plan will work out just fine if the Cubs don’t have to spend money on a #3-#5 type of starter. If every 3 or 4 years you spend on a Jon Lester or Jake Arrieta type of guy, you should be able to afford this luxury. This is especially true if the system can continue to produce positional players that you pay the league minimum.
The Cubs have a few guys in the system that we should see in Wrigley over the next 18 months. We also wouldn’t be surprised if a pitcher shows up from nowhere just as Wilson Contreras did. In any event, it’s a great time to be a Cubs fan!