Welington Castillo knows what it takes to develop into a big-league catcher coming up through the Cubs system.
It wasn't that long ago that Castillo was seen as the catcher of the future for the Cubs, but now that title belongs to Willson Contreras in Triple-A Iowa.
Meanwhile, Castillo has found a new home with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he has flourished into one of the top offensive catchers in the league, hitting 24 homers with a .796 OPS in 122 games with the D-Backs.
Before the Cubs traded him away last May, Castillo got a chance to see what Contreras was all about and thinks the game's top catching prospect has what it takes to survive — and thrive — in Chicago.
"He was always good," Castillo said. "He's getting better as he matures and gets older and learns how to control the game a little bit more.
"He used to not call a good game when he wasn't feeling great, but now he's a little more mature. I think he's really close to being in Chicago. He can help them sometime soon."
Right now, Contreras is the top offensive performer in the Cubs system, regardless of position or level.
He entered play Sunday leading all Cubs minor-leaguers in average (.335), homers (9), OPS (1.013) and tied for the lead with 39 RBI.
This coming after Contreras won the Southern League (Double-A) batting title with a .333 average last season.
"Willson certainly is off to a wonderful start in his Triple-A career," said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president of player development and scouting. "He's continued to mature over the last three years. Specifically, these last 12 months have been really stellar for him."
Despite his success offensively, the Cubs still feel Contreras needs more time to develop as a catcher.
"He's still in that finishing phase in the minor leagues," McLeod said. "It's a totally different ballgame when you get up here and now you're trying to game plan for an opposing team. You've got this pitching staff that's here, with very high expectations of the guys behind the plate.
"Willson's aware of that. We're doing everything we can to prepare him down there for that time. But right now, a lot depends on what the news would be up here. We couldn't be happier with him."
The big-league Cubs are currently carrying three catchers on their 25-man roster, including veterans Miguel Montero and David Ross, who are well-respected by the organization's pitchers and coaches for their defense behind home plate and the way they call games.
Third-string catcher Tim Federowicz also has drawn rave reviews for his work behind the dish, so the Cubs have the luxury of giving Contreras plenty of time to develop in the minors.
From what he's seen, Castillo believes Contreras will have no trouble handling a veteran pitching staff in Chicago that currently leads the league in ERA by a wide margin.
"He's been playing a little winter ball back in Venezuela, so that will help him a lot, just learning how to handle a pitching staff," Castillo said. "That pitching staff, they know what they're doing, so they're gonna help him a lot, too."
The Cubs are in a different spot with prospects now than they were just last spring when Kris Bryant and Addison Russell came up. Now, a guy making his big-league debut doesn't have to be the focal point on a team with the best record in baseball and so many big names/personalities to deflect attention.
Castillo admits it's "a little tough" to handle the expectations of a fanbase that hasn't seen a championship in more than a century, but still thinks Contreras will have success.
"He's mature enough to not even think about it and just go out there and compete and have fun," Castillo said. "...Joe Maddon and [bench coach] Davey Martinez do a really, really good job with the young guys.
"They're really open and give the confidence to the players to go and have fun."