Cubs 2014 top pick Kyle Schwarber determined to stay behind the plate


When the Chicago Cubs made their 2014 first-round pick, Kyle Schwarber wasn’t considered the ‘best available’. But the Cubs knew how good of a hitter he was, and how much upside he had. The only question was where he would end up playing.

Schwarber believes it’s behind the plate, and it sounds like the Cubs are on board to give it their best shot.

"“Ultimately, for us, that’s where the greatest impact lies,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday. “When you can put that left-handed bat behind the plate, that’s something we have to try.” h/t Jesse Rogers, ESPN Chicago"

“Players are drawn to him,” Epstein said. “He has leadership qualities and a big personality. And a special bat. He sees the ball incredibly well.”

After being the No. 4 overall pick, Schwarber compiled solid hitting numbers at three different level. He posted a combined .344 batting average, to go along with 18 home runs and 15 RBIs. Even as he progressed through the system, there were still questions about his ability to handle one of the most difficult positions to play in baseball. And with a bat that seems destined to move him through the system at a similar pace to

Kris Bryant

, the catching position would need some time to catch-up.

The easiest option would have been to put Schwarber in left field. He did see action in the outfield and behind the plate this summer, but he doesn’t want to take the easy route.

"“It’s my job to prove that I can,” Schwarber said. “I have a passion for catching. I feel like if I can do that, I can help out in a lot of different situations. I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”"

The catching position is one of the spots the Cubs are ‘weaker’ at in depth throughout the system. There are some talented players, including current Cubs catcher Welington Castillo, who has improved defensively but seen his numbers at the plate dip. There’s also Victor Caratini, who the Cubs acquired in the James Russell/Emilio Bonifacio deal with the Braves. And then Schwarber, whose bat is about major-league ready, but needs some time refining his game behind the plate.

That’s why instead of going to the Arizona Fall League, Schwarber will report to the instructional league for hands-on training. Theo Epstein felt he saw enough progress through the season to give Schwarber the opportunity.

"“Once you show that, then it’s in there,” Epstein said. “It didn’t necessarily come out all the time, but once you show that physical ability, it means if you work hard and get the right coaching and improve, it’s in there. And it can come out.”"

“Players are drawn to him,” Epstein said. “He has leadership qualities and a big personality. And a special bat. He sees the ball incredibly well.”

A capable, left-handed hitting catcher would be a huge luxury for the Cubs to have. The farm system is already loaded with talent, and the front office knows not all the prospects can make it with the Cubs. There’s only so many spots.

But the belief is that Kyle Schwarber is going to make his way to Wrigley Field at one position or another, his bat leaves no question about that.