“One of the most talented batters I’ve ever met” – Reading Eagle

When Willson Contreras came to the plate on Saturday nine times, he was playing the first three strikeout games of the season.

But that wasn’t reflected in his turn at bat, which triggered the Chicago Cubs to beat Arizona Diamondbacks 4-2. An eight-pitch lead-off walk with Contreras’ Mark Melancon led to nine innings on three runs, and despite previous strikeouts, he continued his fierce start to the season with a free agent months ahead.

Manager David Ross believes that Contreras’ success and maturity stems from his satisfaction and understanding of what he can control.

“This is as good as I think I’ve seen Wilson … I’m very happy physically and mentally where he is now,” Ross said. “I think he knows he’ll be a really good Major League Baseball player for a really long time. He’s going to make a lot of money, and he just helps support his teammates. I’m focused on doing things and having a really good season and enjoying playing baseball. And I watch it almost every day. “

Contreras leads all major league catchers in many offensive categories such as batting average (.286), wOBA (.397) and wRC + (155). He believes he is making the right mental adjustments in the batter’s box and is trying to create contact with the look of every plate.

With this approach, he hits less and his 19.7 K% is now almost 9% lower than last year. And he allows him to walk more. Contreras has reached the base in 18 of the last 19 games and has only hit more than three times in 27 games. And when he is in contact, Contreras is hitting the ball hard. His 49.3 Hard Hit% leads the majors and the 116.2 mph exit speed is career high, the seventh best in the league.

But perhaps most importantly, Contreras is hitting the ball on the opposite field with a career high clip.

“I realized that it was the opposite way of contacting me that led me to the big league,” Contreras said on Saturday. “I did it with a double A, it was a triple A, which made me a better batter.

“My idea right now is to try to get in touch, and no matter what happens after that, I can’t control it. Keep it simple on the home plate.”

In the past, going in the opposite direction was usually a good indicator of when Contreras would be locked in. Except now, he has been doing it at a high level of his career for a long time. According to FanGraphs, only two big leaguers are hitting the ball on the opposite field with clips larger than his 37.3%.

Part of that approach stems from Contreras’s appreciation for being a good all-rounder and his desire for quality contact. Although his approach can be determined by how the team pitches to him, batter coach Greg Brown acknowledged Contreras for doing his homework on the pitcher and applying it in-game.

“Wilson is one of the most talented batters I’ve ever met, because of his ability to move the ball in the opposite direction, which is his ability to move his hips in the opposite direction,” Brown said. .. “He has enough bat speed and understands the space where he doesn’t have to pull the ball. He can create most of the field and I think that’s what you’re looking at. ..

“Even when his numbers weren’t always there at first, he stuck in the process of knowing that a better day would come.”

With the addition of a designated hitter to the National League and a backup catcher for Yan Gomes’ height, the Cubs allowed Ross to keep Contreras’ bats in the lineup while reducing the damage caused by everyday catching. In other words, Contreras will have more days to start as a DH, like Saturday, and will be able to concentrate on hitting only.

Contreras, who turned 30 on Friday, doesn’t seem to forgive him Contract status and imminent free agent Affects his performance. He will continue to hold an arbitration hearing next month to determine his 2022 salary. As he reported to Spring Training, Contreras revealed that his focus was on the season and he would not worry about his future or make major contract extensions. He is clearly peaceful no matter what his future is, whether he is trading this summer or experiencing a free agent for the first time in his career.

It helps that Contreras knew how he wanted to challenge the season. He saw first-hand that his longtime teammates Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez were dealing with the same situation last year. Contreras remembered hearing the deal he had discussed almost every day in the clubhouse and realized he didn’t want to recreate it this year.

“I don’t want the team to lose focus on winning the game or playing the game hard. I don’t want others to be bothered by my personal affairs,” Contreras said. I did. “It’s a personal thing. I don’t think everyone needs to hear my thoughts. I need to know what my thoughts are. But seeing them go through it and then learning I’m glad that. “


“One of the most talented batters I’ve ever met” – Reading Eagle

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