Contreras Stating Case As Best Catcher In MLB

Willson Contreras is off to a torrid start, with 11 homers and a 1.031 OPS.

Bruce Levine
May 22, 2019 - 9:28 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- After a disappointing 2018, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras has learned to better channel his energy and aggressiveness.

The result has been a monster start to 2019 for Contreras and the case building that he may be the best catcher in all of the big leagues. For years, the Cardinals' Yadier Molina and the Giants' Buster Posey have been the gold standard for catchers. Now, it's Contreras and the Phillies' J.T. Realmuto who are the best in the business in the mind of Cubs manager Joe Maddon. 

"You still have to consider Yadier up there," Maddon said. "Posey, I don't know if he is still playing the same level he had been a couple of years ago. I still have high regard for him. Right now, Realmuto and our guy are tops. He has done some things in this series that has impressed the (heck) out of me."

Contreras, 27, was hitting .317 with 11 homers, 30 RBIs and 1.031 OPS entering play Wednesday. His batting average and OPS lead all catchers, while he's second in homers and tied for second in RBIs.

Contreras' defensive skills and pitch framing have improved as well.

"Stars come and go in this game," Contreras said. "Yadier and Posey have been there for a lot of years. I think all the catchers look up to them. Yes, I hope to be one of the best guys."

Contreras was the starting catcher for the National League in 2018, but that honor wasn't reflective of his season. Contreras hit .249 with 10 homers, 54 RBIs and a .729 OPS, and he struggled mightily in the second half, hitting .200 with a .585 OPS.

In the offseason, he set out to hone his skills and get his swing and mind in sync. Contreras has also done a better job of controlling his emotions, not letting adversity snowball.

"On offense, I worked mostly on the mental side of the game," Contreras said. "On defense, game-calling is the area I worked to get better at. I always had the ability to use the whole field, but I was not doing that last season. I put too much pressure on myself to match the numbers I had in (2017). That took a lot away from my concentration. This year has been way different. I have just worked and not put pressure on myself to get numbers. I am letting things happen and using the whole field. The defense has gotten better with experience. When you are a kid and get to the big leagues, you want to show what you have. When you play every day for a while, you learn how to be a better player and a better man and conserve your energy for later in the season."

Contreras wants to keep his focus amid his high-level resurgence, and he knows that means keeping his focus on the work rather than the praise.

"Some people might suggest I am the best catcher in baseball or in the world," Contreras said. "I don't listen to that, but I know I am a good athlete. I try to keep it humble. I play as hard as I can and try to do the little things to help us win."

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