All Aboard The Willson Contreras Hype Train (Fantasy Baseball)
First, let’s look back at what Contreras did in 2017. For the year he hit .276/.356/.499 to go along with 21 homers, 74 RBI, and even five stolen bases. These are impressive numbers considering he played in only 117 games. The Chicago backstop was on a tear before straining his hamstring, which cost him most of August and the beginning of September. Between the All-Star break and when he went down, Contreras hit .311 with 10 homers in 90 at bats.
Heading into this season there’s really no reason to think Contreras can’t repeat his 2017 production. He’s only 25, he’s on a team that scores lots of runs, and he hits behind two on-base machines in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. If anything, fantasy players will be able to buy low on Contreras in 2018 drafts since he missed that month. More casual players may have forgotten about him somewhat, or maybe they’re not realizing how productive he was.
I’m not going out on a limb by saying Contreras is a good offensive player. Most everyone knows that. However, one of the big fantasy debates this offseason has revolved around what to do at the catcher position. Sanchez is (probably) going to be the first catcher off the board. Like Contreras, he is young and hits in a great lineup. Sanchez has even more home run upside, though.
This pits Contreras against Buster Posey for who should be the second catcher off the board. The argument for Posey centers entirely around batting average. Posey hit .320 in 2017, which was a good 44 points higher than Contreras. What helps Posey’s case is that in this age of relief pitcher specialization a consistent average hitter is tough to find. Power is more prominent and therefore easier to find in fantasy than it once was.
Still, Contreras doesn’t kill your batting average, and his power potential is a lot higher than that of the 31-year-old San Francisco catcher. Posey’s home run totals have decreased each of the past four years, bottoming out at 12 in 2017. The former MVP is a stable fantasy selection this spring, but right now give me the upside of the younger Contreas as the second catcher off the board.
Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, follow him @toomuchtuma.