2024 ZiPS projection: 121 G, .241/.339/.427, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 112 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR
2023 final stat line: 125 G, .264/.358/.467, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 127 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
2022 final stat line: 113 G, .243/.349/.466, 22 HR, 55 RBI, 132 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR
For as crazy of a year as 2023 was for the entire Cardinals roster, it's hard to argue that anyone had a bigger whirlwind of a season than newcomer Willson Contreras.
The Cardinals knew, or at least should have known, when they signed Contreras that he was not a defensive first catcher, and there would be growing pains going from one of the best of all-time in Yadier Molina to an offense-first catcher like Contreras.
Instead, during the month of May, the Cardinals removed Contreras from full-time catching duties and instead made him a primary designated hitter. That only lasted a few weeks, but it would still cause quite a controversy nationally and in St. Louis.
Contreras started off the season very slow at the plate, which makes a lot of sense with the noise he was dealing with, but during the final three months of the season, he produced like a top-5 hitter in all of baseball. Now that Contreras should be comfortable in his role with the Cardinals, I would expect him to be more consistent offensively throughout the year and build off of his incredible second half.
I don't think it would be realistic at all to expect him t be a top-5 hitter in 2024, but to be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball and be a top 30-40 bat in the game should be what we expect out of him. So why are Contreras' projections so low?
After posting a 132 wRC+ in 2022 and 127 wRC+ in 2023, ZiPS has his wRC+ dipping all the way down to 112, dropping significantly in terms of his average, on-base, and slugging percentages. There really isn't anything to point to that happening aside from getting older, and yet Contreras is just 31 years old. It feels like another miss when it comes to player projections here.