Willson Contreras

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Willson Contreras Could Be Next Cub To Garner MVP Attention

Contreras had a breakout 2017, with 21 homers and 74 RBIs.

Bruce Levine
March 21, 2018 - 5:03 pm
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By Bruce Levine--

SURPRISE, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- On a Cubs team with several potential MVP candidates, the new player to garner such fanfare may be squatting behind the plate.

Catcher Willson Contreras had a breakthrough 2017 campaign, hitting .276 with 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .855 OPS in 117 games. He may not be quite as recognizable as star teammates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but with his high-level performance, high-energy play and exciting demeanor, Contreras will garner plenty of attention.

Could that become MVP acclaim? Had it not been for a hamstring pull that cost Contreras a month in the second half of 2017, manager Joe Maddon thinks he'd have been in the MVP conversation at season's end.

"Had he not got hurt last year, there would have been suggestions," Maddon said. "He was on the verge of a really dynamic year. He had a great year."

Contreras, 25, has had a busy spring getting to know two new starters in the rotation in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. While still energetic and emotional, Contreras has toned his jitterbug style of being too busy with his setup and footwork behind the plate, which has helped his pitchers feel more comfortable. Maddon feels the sky is the limit for him.

"He could do that again," Maddon said of Contreras repeating his offensive season. "He really understands his position a lot better. His game calling and presence back there has gotten a lot better. Offensively, he has figured some things out. He has always been good. Just gauging against the best pitchers, he was really good. He got us going several times last year. If he stays well, with his natural growth, I can understand why people would say those (MVP) things."

Contreras was humble when the topic of preseason MVP considerations was broached.

"I have heard some of that talk," he said. "I am not paying attention to that. I must concentrate on doing my job. I am not seeking an MVP or batting title. I think about winning and getting into the playoffs and back to the World Series. If it comes, it comes, but that is not what I am seeking. My job is to do my work and keep it simple. I go the plate being ready and finding a pitch I can drive.

"I believe we are ready for a good start. It seems way different than last year. Last year at this time, we were a little bit off. We weren't quite ready yet. We want to take off from the beginning." 

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.

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