As All-Star voting enters its second week, Willson Contreras and Ian Happ have risen above the woeful state of the Cubs.
By the numbers, both are All-Star candidates. Beyond them, fans would have to search high and low for ballot-worthy Cubs. Christopher Morel and Patrick Wisdom might be in the picture if only games since May 17 counted, but no such luck.
Let’s check out the candidates, with numbers through Sunday:
Contreras leads major-league catchers with 2.2 wins above replacement, as listed at Fangraphs.com. He also leads major-league catchers at 154 weighted runs created plus unless you reduce the required number of plate appearances to 101, the number Braves catcher William Contreras — Willson’s brother — has. William is at 185 wRC+.
Contreras has been an offensive force for the Cubs, hitting .267/.394/.506 and leading major-league catchers with 10 home runs. Statcast data show 57.1% of his batted balls have had exit velocities of 95 mph or higher. That’s the fourth-highest hard-hit percentage at all positions, trailing only J.D. Davis, Yordan Alvarez and Aaron Judge.
Among National League catchers, the Diamondbacks’ Daulton Varsho and the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto are next in line at 1.5 fWAR. Realmuto (5.0 defensive runs at Fangraphs) and Varsho (3.8) have an edge over Contreras (-0.6) defensively, but they have had quieter bats, with Varsho at 110 wRC+ and Realmuto at 97.
Overall, Contreras has a big All-Star-worthy edge.
The Dodgers’ Mookie Betts has been the NL’s best outfielder by far, an MVP candidate with a 3.3 fWAR, 16 homers and a 151 wRC+.
Next in the fWAR line among NL outfielders are three at 1.9: the Mets’ Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil (who also plays second base) and Happ.
Happ dramatically has improved his contact rate. He has struck out in 19.6% of his plate appearances this season after striking out at a 29.2% rate in 2021. The lowest strikeout rate of his career has been 25% in 2019 after a career-high 36.2% in 2018.
Happ has raised his batting average from .226 last season to .275, his on-base percentage from .323 to .378 and his slugging percentage from .434 to .466.
By wRC+, in which 100 indicates an average hitter, Happ is up to 134 after 103 last season. Among NL outfielders with at least 150 plate appearances, he ranks sixth.
Happ is not an automatic All-Star choice, but he ranks among the worthy candidates.
Words of Wisdom — and Morel
Since switching to a bat with a hockey-puck-shaped knob May 17, Wisdom has cut his strikeouts to 28.8% of his plate appearances and posted a 131 wRC+ and 0.7 fWAR. But his season numbers stand at 36.2% strikeouts, 114 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR. The Padres’ Manny Machado (160 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR) is a clear choice at third base.
Morel (.278/.360/.485, 135 wRC+, 0.8) has credentials that would look much like Happ’s if you doubled the totals. But he has played only since May 17, and those with more time have stronger cases.