Chicago Cubs: Team needs to be careful with Willson Contreras

(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs will need to monitor Willson Contreras’ usage in 2019. He faded down the stretch last season due to a lack of days off.

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be the first to admit that he had a terrible 2018 season. After being selected as the starting catcher for the National League in the All-Star game, Contreras batted just 0.200 with three home-runs and 20 RBI’s in the second half of the season.

Part of that was attributed to him not taking care of his body or doing his pre-game routines. Essentially, Contreras got lazy in the second half.

"“I used to get to the ballpark, like I did in 2017, and I’d usually get on the elliptical or bike or stretch or lift. To be honest, I didn’t lift at all [as 2018 went on]. I came out of my routine completely. I didn’t deserve to have a good year last year.” – via NBC Sports Chicago"

The other part is that Willson Contreras caught more innings than any other catcher in Major League Baseball last season. His 1109.2 innings behind the plate in 2018 were the most since Geovany Soto caught 1150.1 innings in 2008 for the Cubs.

The problem was that the team did not have a reliable backup catcher who had the same potential at the plate as Contreras or at the very least could be serviceable. Look back to the 2017 season when he slashed 0.276/0.356/0.499 with 21 home-runs and 74 RBI’s. That season he caught just 821.1 innings because the team had quality backups in Miguel Montero, Rene Rivera, and Alex Avila.

Last year, the Cubs had Chris Gimenez who was nothing short of awful slashing 0.143/0.219/0.143 in 28 at-bats. Victor Caratini offered little at the plate as well slashing just 0.232/0.293/0.304 with two home-runs and 21 RBI’s in 181 at-bats.

The Cubs offense was so inconsistent last season, scoring 1 or 0 runs in 40 games. It’s crazy to think that the Cubs failed to score more than two runs in roughly 25 percent of their games but that’s exactly what happened. A lot of blame for the lack of offense could be placed on the shoulders of former hitting coach, Chili Davis.

Nearly every player last season, with exception to Javier Baez had a regression from the previous year under Davis.

"“We hit more groundballs in the second half than any other team by a huge margin,” Epstein said. “Our goal is to hit line drives and fly balls out of the ballpark – but hit line drives. – via NBC Sports Chicago"

This season, Victor Caratini looked like he was going to be able to provide some stability for the offense in games that he played as he was slashing 0.571/0.647/1.000 with one home-run and five RBI’s in 14 at-bats prior to taking a pitch off his hand.

Caratini is very close to returning to the lineup and certainly, nobody should expect him to keep pace with that slash line. If he can provide any sort of offense for the Cubs in games that he starts, it would benefit Willson Contreras and ultimately the Cubs.

Contreras has already matched his home-run total from last season and he is motivated to perform well this season.

"“I know that I can be better,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of on the field and off the field. I always reflect on myself — what did I do today? How much effort did I give on the game? How much effort did I give defensively?"

Next. 5 pitching prospects to call up in 2020. dark

In 2019, Willson Contreras is hitting 0.305 with an OPS of 1.023 to go along with 10 home-runs and 25 RBI’s. If Caratini starts to show any sort of regression back to 2018, the Cubs should be proactive in acquiring another backup catcher to help keep Contreras fresh down the stretch.