Cubs News: 2023 Season Projections: Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes
Rick Osentoski - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: 2023 Season Projections: Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes

by - Senior Writer -

As we inch closer to the first spring training game of the season set to take place this weekend, now would be a great time to start making our positional group projections for the year. This roster has gone through a complete overhaul over the past two years, but in a good way. They have restocked the farm, brought in better talent, and appear ready to not only surprise the NL this season, but to do damage in the second half.

We begin our season projection series with the men calling the pitches as we start with the Catcher position. This is one of the many positions that will look different this season, as the Cubs will have a new starting catcher for the first time since 2016. After 10 years in the Cubs organization, including seven on the MLB roster, Willson Contreras elected to hit free agency following the 2022 season and signed a five-year contract worth roughly 90 million.

His loss from an offensive side of things will be challenging to replace, but his glove often drew a ton of criticism. That is one thing the Cubs have going for them this season, as they have been more focused on defense than in seasons past. Replacing Contreras will be the returning Yan Gomes for his second season and free agent acquisition Tucker Barnhardt.

Neither of them will be able to replace the offense Contreras had, but both of them are gold glove-caliber catchers that know how to frame. They will have to do that very well this season, as the Cubs hope their defensive-minded approach works in their favor.

Tucker Barnhart

Although the Cubs have not made it official as to who will be the opening-day starter, I expect things to play out in a platoon role this season where Barnhardt starts against righties and Gomes against lefties. Signed to a two-year seven million dollar deal, the switch-hitting Barnhart is back in the NL Central after one of his worst offensive seasons.

This is a guy who has seen plenty of time behind the plate and has been as steady as they come, both offensively and defensively. If you are going to replace Contreras with anyone, why not replace him with a veteran that knows what he is doing? Barnhardt is that type of guy, even if the numbers don't always show.

Prediction: 94 games, .257 average, eight homers, 33 RBIs.

Although the Cubs may go with a platoon approach, Barnhardt may emerge as the No. 1 catcher due to having more right-handers than left-handers. If that is the case, the Cubs will get someone who can stabilize the bottom of the order while coming away with clutch hits. His switch-hitting ability will allow David Ross to mix and match at specific points as he is looking for a bounce-back year.

Yan Gomes

While Gomes may not have been the starter last season, he is familiar with this staff, serving as Contreras' backup a season ago. Known for his relationship with young pitchers and how he calls a game, there is no secret why the Cubs had the third-lowest ERA in baseball in the second half of the season.

Gomes was a significant part of that as he saw more time behind the plate in the final two months, and the pitchers loved throwing to him. Given their success with him last season, it wouldn't shock anyone to see him be the No. 1 catcher this season, and that will get sorted out this spring.

Prediction: 78 games, .243 average, six homers, and 29 RBIs.

As mentioned above, the Cubs may not have a designated No. 1 catcher per se, as this could be a roster filled with matchups. If that is the case, Gomes will be the catcher against left-handers as he has mashed lefties most of his career, including last season when he hit .311 off them.

Sure, Gomes has been able to handle his own against righties, but why not use him to his strengths to make your team better? That is something Ross will do a lot of this season, as the Cubs will play the matchup game a lot more than most teams do.

While those two are expected to shoulder the load this season, injuries do happen, and when it does, it will be up to others to step up. Look for Miguel Amaya, Luis Torrens, and Dom Nunez as some of the possible minor leaguers who could see some time behind the plate this season.

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