Player Spotlight: Willson Contreras
I’m going to be spotlighting a couple players per position that I find especially interesting each week. These are going to be more of a stat based, analytical deep dive on a specific player. The projections next to the player names are an average of THE BAT, ATC, Steamer, and ZIPS projection systems found on Fangraphs. NFBC ADP data is from the date range 1/01/2019-02/03/2019. Let’s try and figure out Willson Contreras.
Willson Contreras, CHC (ADP 137): 486 PA, 56 R, 15 HR, 58 RBI, 4 SB, .258/.340/.428/.767
Contreras entered 2018 as the number 3 catcher off the board in most drafts. To say he disappointed his owners would be an understatement. Contreras just had a weird year in 2018. Let’s start with the positives. He was able to stay healthy for the whole season after missing a month in 2017, setting a career high with 138 games. Even through the disappointment, he had a 100 wRC+ which is above average for a catcher. He chipped in 4 steals. That’s... about it. His .249/.339/.390/.730 slash line came with just 10 home runs. These numbers were all down from 2017 where he owned a .276/.356/.499/.855 slash with 21 homers in 100 fewer AB’s.
The first thing I do when I see a player had a disappointing season is try figure out what went wrong and then see what can be done to get back to the expected level of performance. Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is a great way to see what kind of luck a player was hitting in to. Contreras had a 27-point drop in his batting average between 2018, so it must have been a low BABIP, right? Well, his BABIP was only 6 points lower in 2018 so the batting average drop wasn’t just due to BABIP. What led to the homerun drop? He actually raised his flyball percentage by over 1% so that couldn’t have been the culprit. He could stand to raise his FB% even more though as it’s only 30%. He still hits the ball on the ground far too often for a power hitter (53% career). A player that hits the ball on the ground this often is going to have odd swings in power output, because he relies on his HR/FB% to fuel his HR total. Last season it dropped from 26% to 9.3%. This not only explains the HR drop, it explains the batting average drop as well. Those HR were turned into outs.
Now, the reason behind that HR/FB% drop is puzzling until you start looking into his contact profile. In 2017 he had a 17% soft contact% and a 35.5 hard contact%. 2018 saw him post a 22.4 Soft% and 28.9% Hard%. He just wasn’t hitting the ball hard anymore. So, what few fly balls Contreras was hitting, weren’t being hit hard. That’s extremely concerning to me as a prospective fantasy owner. We don’t know what led to the softer contact so it’s really hard to project a bounce back. It would be less concerning if there was some sort of an injury we could point towards, and maybe there was one that we just didn’t know about. Teams don’t tell us everything!
I’m currently sitting in a position where I can’t draft Contreras, even at his discounted ADP. I do believe that a young player just had a rough season and can return to pre-2018 levels; I just don’t have the statistical evidence or the logic to expect it. I’ll let other owners draft him while I wait on my catcher.