Willson Contreras celebrated his 24th birthday on Friday night by going yard for the third time this season, an opposite field homer leading off the seventh inning. Contreras just keeps getting on base as he continues to impress at the plate with Triple-A Iowa.
Contreras broke up the shutout in the seventh and Albert Almora Jr. delivered the game winner, a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth. The I-Cubs won in walk-off fashion for the first time this season with a 3-2 victory over the Sounds.
Contreras went 1-for-4 with the solo homer and ran his hitting streak to six games. Contreras has as least one hit in eight of his last nine games. And Contreras has reached base either with a hit or a walk in 28 of the 29 games he’s played in this season.
Willson Contreras is batting .340/.437/.500 after 29 games with eight doubles and three home runs for a .937 OPS. Contreras has more walks (16) than strikeouts (13) in 106 at bats.
Contreras hit .344/.423/.410 in April with four doubles and a .832 OPS. Contreras walked (8) as many times as he struck out (8) in 61 at bats. In May, 13 games, Contreras is batting .333/.455/.622 with four doubles, three triples and a 1.077 OPS. Contreras has eight walks and five strikeouts in 45 at bats.
The Cubs are happy with the progress Contreras has made defensively. Contreras could likely handle a big league staff right now but the front office feels he just needs more time to develop his receiving skills.
Theo Epstein talked to Comcast SportsNet’s Patrick Mooney about Contreras earlier this week as the Cubs prepared for Miguel Montero to come off the disabled list.
“You always try to balance Major League need with long-term player development,” Epstein told Comcast SportsNet. “We think it’s really important that our best prospects spend as close to a full year as possible at the Triple-A level. Especially with catchers, their time at Triple-A is invaluable, because it’s as close as you can get to the Major League dynamic, understanding how to handle pitchers, how to call games, how to maintain a sense of calm, even when things are speeding up during the course of a game.”
“When you have a catcher making his Major League debut, there’s a lot that goes into that,” Epstein told Patrick Mooney. “A lot of guys have to kind of nurse him through that. He’s got to make some mistakes, so that he can learn from them. He’s got to build relationships. There will be a time for that.”
Epstein said the Cubs feel Contreras will hit in the majors. The Cubs want Contreras to focus on his defense. Epstein reiterated Contreras does an excellent job with blocking pitches and has an “outstanding arm.” The Cubs would like to see him do a better job receiving pitches “in all the different parts of the zone.”
Contreras will also benefit at the Triple-A level by working with more advanced scouting reports than are available at the Double-A and lower levels of the minor league system.
“So I think he’s going to adjust pretty well over time offensively,” Epstein said to Comcast SportsNet. “It’s really the nuances of running a pitching staff that he’s working on. Triple-A is the perfect place to do that.”
Willson Contreras told the Des Moines Register that he benefited from the rehab stint Miguel Montero just completed with the Iowa Cubs. Contreras and Montero developed a relationship last year that continued throughout Spring Training. The Des Moines Register reported their “relationship has blossomed into a mentorship” and Montero even introduced Contreras to his agent.
Willson Contreras should make his Major League debut at some point late in the season, unless something unforeseen happens. If he’s not up in August, Contreras should at least spend September in the big leagues. For now, Contreras just keeps putting up impressive numbers at the plate while developing his receiving skills.