Will Willson Contreras Be Among The Elite Catchers In The Game? Don’t Be So Quick To Assume…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Heading into 2018 everyone is most likely expecting a big season from Willson Contreras, viewing him among the elite catchers in the game.  Is that an accurate assumption, though?  When you look at the numbers he posted last season you would think that would be a given:

377 At Bats
.276 Batting Average (104 Hits)
21 Home Runs
74 RBI
50 Runs
5 Stolen Bases
.356 On Base Percentage
.499 Slugging Percentage
.319 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The number that jumps out is his power, which he paired with a solid average (and a few stolen bases).  That alone places him among the top of the rankings, but as you dive into the numbers there are some significant warning bells sounding.

The first is the power, which was consistent over the course of the season but needed a dramatic jump in his HR/FB (20.4% to 37.0%).  Over the first half of the season he hit a home run about once every 22.6 AB, and while maintaining that pace would be solid it’s actually an unspectacular mark (if he reached 500 AB, which isn’t a given, it would yield around 21 HR).  Then you have his groundball tendencies, at 53.3% (after a 54.3% in his MLB debut in ’16), and it’s hard to get excited about him being a significant source of power.

Furthering the issue is the breakdown of his home runs, which also helps to transition to questions about his average.  All but 4 of his home runs came against fastball variations last season (3 against sliders and 1 against curveballs), so it would make sense for opposing pitchers to start limiting the number of fastballs they throw him.  That’s exactly what happened, and something we’d expect to continue:

  • Through July 31 – 62.16%
  • From August 1 Forward – 56.77%

He also consistently struggled to make contact against non-fastballs, with a Whiff% of 17.72% against breaking balls and 24.67% against offspeed pitches.  That means the change of approach could easily yield more strikeouts (22.9% overall), something we likely would’ve expect anyways (25.9% in the first half).

So, let’s just summarize the issues:

  • He could hit fewer home runs
  • He could strikeout more
  • He also could see limited AB, as the Cubs utilize other players behind the plate

It all comes together for an overdrafted player in ’18 and someone who likely won’t be among the elite.  He should have some value, but in most cases he’s not worth the draft day cost.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Projections:

Player
Date Published
Cano, Robinson10/09/17
Castillo, Luis10/03/17
Gerrit Cole10/30/17
Didi Gregorius11/20/17
Wil Myers10/24/17
Quintana, Jose11/13/17
Sanchez, Aaron12/05/17
Schoop, Jonathan11/27/17
Stroman, Marcus10/16/17
Walker, Taijuan 11/06/17

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