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Willson Contreras: “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].”

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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.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.