Cubs not ready to promote hot catching prospect Willson Contreras

CHICAGO -- The cries for the next Chicago Cubs phenom are starting to grow louder, but the team insists they're in no rush to promote hot-hitting Triple-A catcher Willson Contreras.

Entering play Thursday, Contreras was batting .337 with a .427 on-base percentage while garnering rave reviews for his defensive prowess. But the Cubs are happy with their three-headed monster of David Ross, Miguel Montero and Tim Federowicz.

Senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod said a call-up would depend on a specific need by the Cubs.

"It's a totally different ballgame when you get up here," McLeod explained Thursday morning. "And now you're trying to game plan for an opposing team, you've got this pitching staff that's here. [There are] very high expectations of the guys sitting behind the plate. Willson is aware of that, and we're doing everything we can to prepare him for that time. But right now, a lot depends on what the need might be up here."

Presumably, we'd see Contreras if there was an injury to one of the Cubs' catchers, but with three on the roster, we can't be sure he would come up even then. At least now that we're deeper into the season, the team might feel more comfortable with him in the big leagues, even if it's for a short period of time.

"It would depend on what the need is," McLeod reiterated. "Willson is off to a great start to his Triple-A career. He continues to mature over the last two years. The last 12 months have been nothing short of stellar for him."

Contreras has missed getting on base in only a handful of games this year, hence his lofty percentage. Though Montero is hitting only .218 going into Thursday's game, his on-base percentage is a more-than-respectable .347. But observers might have an issue with Montero's defense. The Cubs starting catcher has thrown out just one of 18 base stealers and has a minus-2 defensive runs saved, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Montero's real value, of course, is in his receiving and dealing with a veteran staff. He's always in the top 10 in pitch framing, and this year is no different. With the Cubs' rotation sporting the best ERA in baseball, those behind the plate deserve some credit. That's why Contreras will have to wait his turn.

"The offensive production has been terrific," general manager Jed Hoyer said of Contreras. "There is so much more than looking at the offensive stat line. He keeps getting better with his framing. He keeps better at game calling, and the staff down there (Triple-A Iowa) loves him."

If you're not wondering about Montero, then you might be questioning why Federowicz is still on the team. Hoyer recently indicated Federowicz's spot on the roster is a fluid one which might rotate between positions and players throughout the year. For now, things are going well and the Cubs want the insurance of an extra catcher. Federowicz has to clear waivers to be sent down. The team doesn't want to risk losing him -- at least not at the moment. There may come a time when that strategy changes, in which case Contreras could perhaps make his debut.

"He's going to come up to the big leagues and deal with a lot of veteran guys," Hoyer said. "Veteran pitching staff, a veteran coaching staff and to be able to be a young catcher is difficult. The work he's putting in, in Iowa, will make that much easier.

"We couldn't be happier with what he's doing right now."