Willson Contreras, catcher, 6-1, 175
Signed as international free agent in 2009
Likely landing spot in 2014: High-A Daytona
Potential Cubs Comp: Welington Castillo.
Rule 5 eligible in 2014
Watching minor league catchers is something that can irk people who normally watch major league games. While top-shelf catchers can come close to landing a ball in a shoebox at second, youngsters often can't. While watching a game in early 2013 in Beloit, I saw Contreras' throws tended to float to the right-field side of the bag. Later in the year, a league announcer noted he had one of the best arms behind the plate in the league. It's what you see.
Buoyed by 11 homers, Contreras' OPS (in a pitcher-friendly Midwest League) was .742, despite a BA under .250. With Rafael Lopez and June draftee Tyler Alamo, the Cubs catching position probably lags the other positions. By a bit.
Daytona has had a revolving door behind the plate the last few years. The league champs had five different catchers last season, with three getting between 83 and 97 at-bats. With Contreras probably starting, the backup will be likely just that. As to whether Contreras (who ought to trade his excess "L" in "Willson" to Welington Castillo for a semi-colon to be named later) has much of a shot at a big-league career of more than a fill-in, I'm not sure.
It would be very tempting to grab a top-end catching prospect in the draft in June. Team Theo opted for high-school pitcher Duane Underwood over high-school catcher Wyatt Mathisen in 2012, and Mathisen was a known quantity. You don't draft early in baseball based on need. That said, a decent catching prospect could rocket through the system quicker than a (insert position here). I'll probably do a list before June's draft on some catchers I like.
Until then, I like Contreras. Even if he doesn't put it in the shoebox yet.