Could William Contreras Be the Best Catcher in Baseball?

William Contreras is off to a scorching-hot start to his 2024 season. Has he become the top backstop in Major League Baseball?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 27: William Contreras #24 of the Milwaukee Brewers is congratulated after scoring during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at American Family Field on September 27, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

William Contreras is off to a scorching-hot start to his 2024 campaign. Heading into Friday’s showdown with the Houston Astros, Contreras is in the midst of a nine-game hit streak and a 23-game on-base streak. Additionally, he has already racked up 18 multi-hit games this season.

On top of these impressive feats, he has also been one of the best run producers in all of baseball to open the year. After putting together a breakout season in 2023, Contreras has manage to take yet another step forward this season.

Since joining the Milwaukee Brewers in December of 2022, Contreras has evolved into one of the top catchers in Major League Baseball. He is one of the premier offensive talents at the position, and he continues to refine his craft behind the dish as he gains more experience.

Contreras checked in as Just Baseball’s No. 3 catcher heading into the 2024 season, but he is quickly making an argument to be higher up on the list.

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Could William Contreras be the top backstop in Major League Baseball? Let’s dive into the metrics and see where he stands in comparison to the rest of the league.

Stats and rankings updated prior to first pitch on May 17.

A Blistering Start to the Season

William Contreras has been one of the top offensive weapons in all of baseball thus far. Through his first 43 games, Contreras is fourth in MLB in doubles (13); third in hits (61); second in on-base percentage (.434); and first in runs scored (39).

Combine his elite level of offensive production with his strong performance behind the dish, and Contreras has been the most valuable backstop in baseball to open the season.

Contreras leads all major league catchers in fWAR at 2.6. The next closest players are Will Smith of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Ryan Jeffers of the Minnesota Twins, each with 1.9 fWAR.

In terms of offensive production, Contreras has been the gold standard thus far. He leads the position in wRC+ (180), wOBA (.428), batting average (.359), on-base percentage (.434), and OPS (.987). Likewise, he also leads the position with a whopping 34 RBIs, and his 39 runs scored are 14 more than the next closest player.

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Even further, not only has Contreras been elite this season, but he has been the most valuable backstop in the sport since taking over the full-time catching role for the Brewers a season ago.

Since the start of the 2023 season, Contreras has an fWAR of 8.3, which is the highest mark at the position over that stretch. For reference, Adley Rutschman of the Baltimore Orioles has the second-highest fWAR at 6.9.

While Contreras has transformed into a valuable defender, it’s his offensive production that has separated himself from the pack. The table below highlights his metrics between 2023-’24, along with where he ranks among all major league catchers over that stretch:

2023 – ’24 Metrics:wRC+: 138wOBA: .374BA: .306OBP: .383SLG: .480OPS: .864
MLB Rank:1st1st1st1st2nd1st
Rank is among MLB catchers with a minimum of 600 plate appearances; Stats via FanGraphs

Dating back to Opening Day of the 2023 season, no backstop has been a bigger threat at the plate than Contreras. His ability to hit for both contact and power at an elite level is what makes him such a lethal hitter, and it’s why he ranks first in many major offensive metrics.

Combine his fantastic approach with his innate ability to adapt his swing based on the situation, and it’s no surprise to see Contreras take another offensive leap forward this season.

What Makes Contreras Elite?

Contreras’ ability to alter his swing based on the game state and pitch count is a unique talent, and it’s what makes him such a special hitter. Whether it’s shortening his swing in an effort to put the ball in play when necessary, or flashing his elite bat speed on a home run swing, he can do damage in multiple ways.

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Contreras has pole-to-pole power, and he utilizes all fields in his approach. Below is his 2024 spray chart, which highlights just how successful Contreras has been at spraying the ball all over the field:

Via Baseball Savant

Contreras’ success in this area all stems from a disciplined approach, which continues to improve throughout his career. This season, he is chasing at a career-low 23.8% clip, and he has managed to slash his chase rate in each successive year of his young career.

Thanks to his improved pitch selection, he’s cut his strikeout rate to a career-best 18.4% while boosting his walk rate to an 11.2% clip (which is also a career high). In turn, he is getting on-base at an elite rate, and he is hitting a whopping .359 through 196 plate appearances.

What’s more, Contreras has improved his power output while maintaining his strong approach. His hard-hit rate sits at an outstanding 60.3%, which is third in baseball only behind Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto. Relatedly, his average exit velocity of 94.4 mph is in the top two percent of baseball.

He already has 13 doubles and six homers on the year, and his 20 total extra-base hits are the 10th most in the majors and the second most among catchers. In turn, his Isolated Power has seen a 25 point uptick from a season ago and sits at .194.

Contreras is a difficult out for opposing pitchers every time he steps in the batter’s box. He is producing against all types of pitches, he is doing damage on pitches all throughout the strike zone, and he is efficient against both righties and lefties. In turn, he has evolved into one of the game’s most well-rounded hitters, and it’s difficult to find a weakness in his game.

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Is Contreras the Best Catcher in MLB?

When debating who might be the top catcher in baseball, names such as Adley Rutschman and Will Smith often headline the conversation, and for good reason.

Smith has a much longer track record than both Rutschman and Contreras, and that certainly holds value. He has consistently been one of the top offensive catchers in the game for the past handful of seasons, and he’s continuing to improve as a defender with each successive season.

Similarly, Rutschman has done nothing but win since taking the reigns at the major league level. Like Smith, he’s one of the top offensive catchers in the sport, and he has provided strong defense himself throughout his young career.

Combine his prospect pedigree with his immense value to the Orioles, and there’s a reason why Rutschman was Just Baseball’s unanimously ranked No. 1 catcher heading into the season.

However, no catcher has posted better offensive metrics since the beginning of the 2023 season than William Contreras. In terms of fWAR, he’s been baseball’s most valuable catcher over the past two seasons, and he’s seemingly continuing to improve his overall game.

Combine the strides he has made defensively since joining the Milwaukee Brewers with his offensive ascension, and it might be time to call William Contreras the best catcher in Major League Baseball.

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