Powell at the Park: An embarrassment of riches for the Cubs


Kris Bryant rounds the bases after hitting a solo homer in the fourth inning against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, April 13, 2016. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune)

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By Kevin Powell

The Cubs will call up top catching prospect Willson Contreras on Friday before their home series against Pittsburgh. MLB.com has the 24-year-old rated as the best catching prospect in baseball. In 54 games at Triple-A Iowa this year Contreras is hitting. 350 with nine homers and 43 RBI’s. Not only does he have a strong bat, but many believe his future is behind home plate. Unlike Kyle Schwarber, who split time with Contreras at catcher in 2015 at Double-A Tennessee, the Venezuelan is known for his defense and strong arm.

When the Cubs struggled for years and many doubted a major market team heading into rebuilding mode, the plan continues to unfold. It seems every couple weeks there’s talks of the next top prospect joining the big league club. In 2014 Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were called up. Then in 2015 it was was Kris Bryant, Schwarber and Addison Russell making their debuts. Last week it was Albert Almora getting the call. And now, Contreras.

There’s plenty of credit to go around for the Cubs successful rebuild. Of course, there’s president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. And don’t forget vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod. If the Cubs were going full tank-mode, they couldn’t miss on draft picks and signings. So far, so good.

Bryant went ahead and batted .275 with 26 homers and 99 RBI’s last season and won NL Rookie of the Year. He’s on his way to another great season, hitting 15 homers while driving in 45.  Schwarber hit 16 long balls with 43 RBI’s in just 69 games last season, and knocked five homers in the postseason. This season Baez has been versatile in the field and at the plate, adding a walk-off homer at Wrigley last month. After eight days in the bigs, Almora is hitting .353 to go along with a game-winning RBI double Tuesday night against the Nationals. You get the point. These guys are good.

Anytime there’s an injury or a hole to be filled, the Cubs don’t have to look far. They just glance at their farm system and pluck the next best prospect. It really is an embarrassment of riches.


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