Willson Contreras has done a very good job of adjusting to Major League Baseball and big league pitching since making his debut in June. Contreras has also made steady improvement defensively, both as a catcher and receiver. Offensively, Contreras has given Joe Maddon another bat from the right side that makes pitchers work and lengthens the lineup.
Willson Contreras won the Southern League batting title last season and was tearing up the Pacific Coast League before the Cubs called him up in June. With his approach and the ability to hit the ball to all fields, many thought Contreras would be able to hit the best pitchers in the game.
Contreras announced his arrival with an unforgettable home run on his first swing in the big leagues. Contreras hit .325/.426/.600 with two doubles and three home runs for a 1.026 OPS in his first 13 games. Contreras was making it look rather easy. And then the league adjusted.
As Contreras focused on learning the pitching staff he struggled at the plate. In his next 24 games (91 at bats), Contreras hit .231/.307/.363 with four doubles, a triple and two home runs for a .670 OPS. Contreras struck out 26 times with eight walks. Contreras had only four singles in the last eight games of that stretch and looked rather overmatched at the plate.
Contreras stayed with the process, and well, he’s back to being Willson Contreras offensively.
Over his last 18 games, Willson Contreras is batting .293/.369/.500 with three doubles, three home runs and a .869 OPS. Six of his 17 hits have gone for extra bases and he’s walked seven times with 11 strikeouts. Contreras has reached base safely with either a hit or a walk in 16 of the 17 games he’s actually had a plate appearance.
Contreras hit his eighth homer on Wednesday at PETCO Park to the opposite field and showed off his power. It was a no doubter.
Against left-handed pitching, Contreras has hit .298/.355/.491 with five doubles and two home runs for a .846 OPS. And versus right-handed pitching, Contreras has hit .258/.351/.439 with four doubles, a triple and six home runs for a .790 OPS.
With his recent adjustments, Willson Contreras is slashing .270/.352/.455 after 55 games in the majors with nine doubles, a triple and eight home runs for a .807 OPS. Contreras has walked 21 times with 48 strikeouts in 189 at bats.
There is always the concern that a player will not be able to adjust to big league pitching. Baseball is a game of adjustments. It can only be seen as a positive that Willson Contreras has already shown the ability to adjust at the highest level and produce results.