Contreras, Williams named top player, pitcher
Double-A teammates enjoy breakout seasons in 2015
CHICAGO -- Willson Contreras' and Ryan Williams' visit to Wrigley Field on Monday was special beyond being their first chance to see the ballpark. The battery mates, who worked together much of this season, got to make it together.
Contreras, a catcher for Double-A Tennessee, and Williams, a pitcher for both Class A South Bend and Tennessee this season, were named the Cubs' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively. Both players were honored in a pregame ceremony before the Cubs' final home game of the season.
"Throughout the whole year we've kind of joked around," said Williams, ranked No. 30 among Cubs prospects by MLB.com. said. "When I got to Tennessee, he was one of the first people I got to know. It's been awesome to go through the season with him. It's definitely special to have him be a part of [today]."
Added Contreras: "He's a really good guy. We really communicate well with each other, and we've been like brothers for the whole season."
Contreras, ranked No. 10 in the organization, finished his first year at the Double-A level with a .333 average, good enough for the Southern League's batting title. The 23-year old is the first Tennessee player to win the title since Joe Gate in 1978.
And for the catcher, who split time at the position early in the season with current Cubs rookie Kyle Schwarber, the feat caught him off guard. After Schwarber was recalled, Contreras moved into the everyday role, finishing second in the league in doubles (34), RBIs (75) and on-base percentage (.413).
"I still can't believe what I did this year," Contreras, said. "When I won the batting title, I went to my room and looked at the numbers, and I said, 'Oh my God, what are these numbers?' It was just the hard work that I did, and I will keep working."
Contreras is hoping that playing nearly every day, as he did this season, continues to benefit him down the road. Signed by the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent in December 2009, Contreras will continue in the instructional and fall leagues.
Williams, 23, started working with Contreras once he was called up on June 3, finished with a 14-3 record and a 2.16 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) between South Bend and Tennessee. Both marks led the Cubs' Minor League system. The 10th-round Draft pick out of East Carolina, he walked 18 batters and allowed two home runs while striking out 98.
"I didn't want to be that person to look back at what I did," Williams said, who will spend the offseason working on his strength. "I kinda set goals before the year, so it was more of a checklist of where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. So it was nice to stop the season and kind of look back."
"[Today] is something I'll remember for the rest of my life. … It's just special to be a part of the Cubs organization."