As the Chicago Cubs Kyle Schwarber continues to come back from surgery on his knee, several questions still remain. Will he continue to get work as a catcher? Or should he? If medically cleared, there’s no reason for him to not catch–even if he’s not the best defensively.
I know that as many Chicago Cubs fans read the title of this post, there was a fire lit inside them. The debate on Kyle Schwarber‘s place on the roster is one that will have a Cubs’ fan fired up in no time. Let me correct that. His place ON the roster is assured. But where he plays is not and is always up for debate.
In 2012, Fox Sports had an article about the “era of great offensive catchers” coming to an end. Some of the names then–Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, Mike Napoli and even Miguel Montero–have either fallen off at the plate or don’t catch much anymore. Many find themselves in the American League where they can play out their days at first base or as a designated hitter.
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When I think about a great hitting catcher, the name that comes to mind is Mike Piazza. But the truth is he wasn’t that bad a catcher–or as “common knowledge” has made him out to be. In fact, he was one of the best when looking at runs prevented. So as it turns out, he was just a really good catcher, period.
It’s not just about Schwarber
But my thinking for Schwarber being behind the plate isn’t totally based on what he can do. Yes, outside of an occasional matchup that doesn’t favor him I believe he needs to be in the lineup. He’s that impressive of a hitter. But a good portion of this goes to Willson Contreras as well. This will be his first full season as a “full-time” catcher. Miguel Montero showed flashes of the offensive threat that he once was, but he’s also 33 years old. The position simply wears a player down, from the everyday grind to injuries–it’s rare to see a catcher play as long as, say, David Ross. But remember, he was a career backup.
That’s not to take anything away from Rossy. But having Schwarber mixed in behind the plate will give Contreras and Montero days off. Less wear and tear on the knees. And you still have Ross within the organization and Montero on the field. Give Schwarber the chance to improve before simply saying “no, he can’t do it.” From what he’s shown us in the regular season and the World Series if he says he can be a catcher–I believe him.
If medically there’s no concern about his knee, I say go with the plan they had in place last year. Have him catch one of the starters each outing. Clearly, it won’t be Jon Lester. But matching him up with someone like Kyle Hendricks could work. Hendricks is able to control the running game from the mound, and having a bright mind on the bump to help teach Schwarber? It’s just an idea, but I think it’s a pretty good one.
Just a little over a week until the pitchers and catchers (including Schwarber) arrive in Mesa to get the 2017 season underway. Regardless, it’s going to be one hell of a ride this year.