Cubs summon top catching prospect Contreras

June 16th, 2016

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have decided to accelerate catcher Willson Contreras' development and promote one of their top prospects from Triple-A Iowa.

Contreras, ranked No. 2 among Cubs prospects by, was to join the team on Friday at Wrigley Field for a series against the Pirates. He was batting .350 in 54 games at Iowa, with nine home runs, 16 doubles, three triples and 43 RBIs.

Contreras, 24, the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year last season, was with the big league team in Spring Training, and he has been watching their games while in the Minor Leagues to study the pitchers. Promoting him now will give Contreras a chance to adjust to the Major League environment and the speed of the game. Plus, the Cubs hope he can learn from veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross.

Contreras will be the third catcher on the Cubs' depth chart. Tim Federowicz was designated for assignment to make room for Contreras.

Contreras has started 44 games at catcher at Iowa, and has thrown out 31 percent of basestealers. On Wednesday, the Nationals swiped two bases in a 5-4, 12-inning win over the Cubs, and opposing teams now have stolen 51, second most in the National League. Manager Joe Maddon said after the game that he wants his team to control the running game better.

"We've been trying," Maddon said. "It is what it is. So far, our record is pretty good."

What the Cubs plan to do with Contreras is similar to what they did last year with Kyle Schwarber, who was called up for Interleague games in June. He batted .364 in six games, and eventually earned a promotion later in the year.

On Wednesday in Iowa's win over Colorado Springs, Contreras extended his hitting streak to 20 games; he was batting .383 (31-for-81) in that stretch. Montero worked with the young catcher last summer during the veteran's rehab stint at Double-A Tennessee, and then again this spring. Montero said the toughest thing for Contreras to learn is how to handle a pitching staff.

"It's hard to throw a young guy into a role like that with a good ballclub, good pitching staff and throw him in like that," Montero said in March. "You need to ease him into an everyday role. There's no doubt in my mind he's an everyday guy."