MESA, Ariz. - Most of the discussion this spring around Cubs catchers has been Kyle Schwarber's development at the position or David Ross' retirement tour.
But top prospect Willson Contreras is flying under the radar, hoping to soak up as much knowledge as he can in his first big-league camp.
Contreras just isn't here to pick the brains of veterans, however. He wants to make this team, even if that's a longshot with Miguel Montero, Ross and Schwarber all currently healthy on the Cubs' roster.
"I came here to do my best," Contreras said. "I came here to learn these pitchers, to improve my defense. My goal is to make the team.
"If I don't make the team, I'll go to Triple-A, but I will do my best to get out of there as soon as possible."
Contreras exploded onto the scene last year, winning the Southern League batting title with a .333 average for Double-A Tennessee while posting an .891 OPS with 46 extra-base hits (34 doubles, four triples, eight homers) and 75 RBI. That was good enough to earn the Cubs' minor league player of the year accolade.
Contreras will be 24 in May and finds his name on top prospect rankings for the first time (No. 67 overall on Baseball America's Top 100 list; No. 57 on Baseball Prospectus' rankings).
MLB.com rated Contreras as the best catching prospect in the game and Baseball America had him second behind only New York Yankees backstop Gary Sanchez.
That's a huge jump for a guy the Cubs left exposed in the Rule 5 draft just two winters ago.
Contreras said the key to his breakout season was simply not overthinking; he felt he was in his own head too much in the past.
Contreras - a Venezuelan native - has been in the Cubs organization the past seven years and looks like the catcher of the future.
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"I've heard nothing but wonderful things," Joe Maddon said, "whether it's catching receiving, blocking, throwing and of course hitting - he's very good at the plate and he's got a great approach."
"I had a chance to sit down and speak with him [early in camp] and I'm very impressed. He's very passionate; he loves to play this game.
"I also believe that he believes strongly he belongs here and he can do this, which is really important. He's not far off."
Maddon and the Cubs want to see Contreras communicate in the dugout and clubhouse, learning to deal with all the personalities as a catcher and commanding the English language.
"All those things are the next most important things in regards to getting here and staying here and fulfilling his potential," Maddon said. "He's really dripping with some potential."