Rebound or Bust: Can Willson Contreras Rebound To Fantasy Relevance?

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Last year we had concerns that Willson Contreras would be an overdraft, and clearly that’s exactly what happened.  Viewed as one of the better offensive catchers in the league, just look at the poor numbers he posted in 2018:

474 At Bats
.249 Batting Average (118 Hits)
10 Home Runs
54 RBI
50 Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.339 On Base Percentage
.390 Slugging Percentage
.313 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Our biggest question heading into last season was in his power, and that clearly was the issue.  While things have trended in the right direction, his groundball rate continues to be an issue that will help to limit his power potential:

  • 2016 – 54.3%
  • 2017 – 53.3%
  • 2018 – 52.0%

That said would we still expect an improvement on last year’s mark?  Groundballs or not, Contreras saw his HR/FB plummet from 25.9% to 9.3% last season.  The problem could be a steadier diet of breaking balls, up to 32.91% in 2018.  He’s notably struggled against curveballs (career .226 AVG) as well as changeups (.196 AVG, though it’s not a breaking ball), and there’s every reason to believe that pitchers aren’t going to flip the script until he forces them to.

Can Contreras, who turns 27-years old in May, make the necessary adjustments and tap into his power more?  Absolutely, and he showed fewer groundballs in the first half of ’18:

  • First Half – 48.6%
  • Second Half – 57.9%

Maybe he doesn’t return to his 2017 levels, but 16-20 HR wouldn’t be a stretch.  Couple that with a decent approach (his Oppo% was a career high 26.6% last season), though it’s not perfect (12.9% SwStr%, 28.9% Hard%), and there’s at least a little bit of value.

His biggest positive may be the fact that he’s going to play, especially with the recent loss of Salvador Perez further clouding the position.  Contreras may never be elite, given the power questions, but a .250 hitter with moderate power is at least going to hold value.  Just how many catchers are going to get 450+ AB at this point?  He’s not going to be elite, so don’t pay an elite price, but as a mid-tier option he’s worth grabbing if the price drops.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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