The Cubs held their annual Cubs Convention over the weekend. There, catcher Willson Contreras explained that he used to study fellow catchers Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, but that isn’t the case anymore. Via Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times, Contreras said, “I used to watch a lot of those guys, but now I’m watching myself because I know that I’m going to be better than them. That’s my plan. That’s my [mindset].”
Contreras, 25, has had a solid first two seasons in the big leagues. Across 193 games, he has hit .278/.356/.494 with 33 home runs and 109 RBI in 711 plate appearances. He also graded out well defensively according to various metrics, including those found at Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. His 3.2 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, ranked fifth among the 33 catchers that had at least 300 plate appearances. He trailed Gary Sanchez, Posey, J.T. Realmuto, and Mike Zunino. Molina had an uncharacteristically average season, ranking 14th in WAR.
What are the odds Contreras has a better 2018 than Molina and Posey? The Steamer projections, found at FanGraphs, see Posey with an .833 OPS and 4.6 WAR, Contreras with an .811 OPS and 3.0 WAR, and Molina with a .742 OPS and 2.6 WAR. All it would take for Contreras to surpass Posey’s projected numbers is to perform a bit better than expected, which isn’t an unreasonable thought for a 25-year-old who has already found success against major league competition and has 27 games’ worth of postseason experience under his belt.
Contreras said, “In my mind, I want to be the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.” He will have some competition for that honor, not only with Posey, but with Gary Sanchez and J.T. Realmuto, among others. Contreras added that his main goal for the 2018 season is to stay healthy. “Hopefully, this year I can make the All-Star team,” he said.
In almost all circumstances, especially within the world of sports, too much confidence is better than too little, so the Cubs have to be happy with how Contreras is feeling about himself with spring training on the horizon.