Cubs catcher Willson Contreras

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

Cubs 3 Up, 3 Down: Contreras Continues Ascension

Willson Contreras is on pace to topple his significant career-highs.

Chris Emma
June 25, 2019 - 11:34 am
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(670 The Score) The Cubs earned an 8-3 win and entertained with some fireworks in the opener of a four-game series against the Braves on Monday evening.

Here are the latest trends with the Cubs:

THREE UP

1.) Contreras ascending

Cubs ace Jon Lester has come to appreciate the chip on the shoulder of catcher Willson Contreras and has seen how it has allowed him to develop as a player. After a down season in 2018, Contreras has re-emerged as one of the best catchers in baseball and is enjoying a career year.

Near the halfway point of the 2019 campaign, Contreras has 16 homers, which is on pace to far surpass his career-high of 21 set in 2017. He has a slash line of .294/.388/.561 with a .394 weighted on-base percentage and 144 weighted-runs-created-plus -- all the best marks of his career.

Contreras is a 2.2 wins-above-replacement player on FanGraphs and is on pace for a career-best WAR season as well.

2.) Heyward producing at the plate

Lost in the shuffle of the Cubs' win Monday was the eighth-inning homer hit by outfielder Jason Heyward. It marked his 11th long ball of the season, tying his career-best mark in a Cubs uniform.

Heyward also has a .339 wOBA and 108 wRC+, which would mark his best numbers since arriving in Chicago in 2016.

3.) Two strikes, same Javy

It seems shortstop Javier Baez has a pitcher right where he wants them down 0-2 in the count. Baez has a 1.099 OPS when facing an 0-2 count this season. That's by far the best mark in baseball among eligible hitters. 

THREE DOWN

1.) Quintana lit up

Cubs left-hander Jose Quintana endured one of his worst starts ever Saturday, allowing nine runs (eight earned) over 4 1/3 innings in the team's 10-2 loss to the Mets. 

Quintana allowed three home runs while the Mets produced 80 percent medium or hard contact off him. It shot up his season numbers, and he now sits at 4-7 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.40 WHIP.

2.) CarGo not carrying much load

The Cubs' hopes for a revival of veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez aren't going as they hoped to this point. Since debuting with the Cubs on June 3, he's slashing .184/.319/.316 over 47 plate appearances. Combine that with his 30 games in Cleveland, and Gonzalez is hitting .203 in 2019.

An excellent hitter throughout most of his career, Gonzalez has a 30.5 percent strikeout rate. He's a -0.4 WAR player so far for the season.    

3.) RISP struggles

The Cubs won their game Monday with some timely hitting in a five-run fifth inning. They finished 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

It only pushed the Cubs up a little in that category. They're now 25th in MLB and 14th in the National League in hitting .246 with runners in scoring position.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.