According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are planning on promoting catcher Willson Contreras to the major leagues before tomorrow's home game against the Pirates. Rosenthal said the plan was for the Cubs to carry three catchers and Jon Heyman then reported that Tim Federowicz is the catcher on the way out.
Contreras, 24, was listed by Baseball America as the Cubs second-best prospect at the start of the season and he is arguably the top catching prospect in all of baseball. He currently has a 20-game hitting streak in Triple-A Iowa and is hitting .350/.439/.591 with nine home runs and 43 RBI over 54 games. Contreras had obviously mastered hitting at the Triple-A level and the Cubs clearly felt that there was little more for him to learn in the Pacific Coast League.
The Cubs signed Contreras as a third baseman out of Venezuela in 2009. In 2012 the decision was made to move him behind the plate, and Contreras quietly moved up the Cubs system one level at a time after that. He was not considered to be anything more than a fringe prospect until his breakout season with the Tennessee Smokies last season. Contreras won the Southern League batting title with a .333 mark, along with 8 home runs, 34 doubles and a .413 on-base percentage. This year, he proved that his 2015 breakout wasn't a fluke by putting up even better number in Iowa.
As is common for a converted infielder, Contreras has struggled defensively throughout his career, but he has made great strides in recent seasons. In fact, his defensive limitations have been vastly overstated by some. His arm is good and he fields his position well. He used to have trouble blocking pitches in the dirt, but he's improved there as well. What he mostly has to learn is the art of pitch framing and simply calling a game, things that he can likely learn in the majors working with Miguel Montero and David Ross better than he can by staying in Iowa.
Finding playing time will be the biggest issue for manager Joe Maddon will have with Contreras, since Ross and Montero will both still be on the active roster.
For more on Contreras, check out this article in the Des Moines Register by Tommy Birch from a few weeks ago.
Alongside the contributions of Albert Almora Jr., the "waves and waves" of talent coming through the minor league system show no signs of cresting.