Healthy and ready for his first big-league season, Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber is turning heads – even in his own dugout in manager Joe Maddon.
Chicago Cubs’ lore is already littered with references to Kyle Schwarber.
Just 24 years of age, the former catcher and current outfielder has put his knee injury behind him and is ready for his first full regular season. After a historic postseason comeback last year, all eyes are on Schwarber.
In two years’ worth of playoff appearances, Schwarber carries an OPS north of 1.100. Yet, the question remains: what does he bring to a big league roster over the course of 162 games?
"“It’d be interesting to see [Schwarber] play an entire season and then look at the numbers at the end of the year to see what he’s capable of doing,” Maddon told MLB.com. “It’s going to be spectacular. … This kid hasn’t even gotten near his potential yet.”"
In 2015, Schwarber put up impressive numbers after joining the Cubs. In 69 games, he drove in 43 runs and swatted 16 long-balls. Although in a small sample size, Schwarber trailed only Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo on the team in OPS.
There’s no mistake: Kyle Schwarber is less valuable than he was just a year ago. It’s not the injury that hurts. It’s the ensuing position change that started with the injury.
Crowded outfield will help Schwarber
The former first-round pick can catch; that has been made clear. The team lists Schwarber as its third-string catcher, behind Willson Contreras and Miguel Montero. But he will play the outfield on a near-daily basis in 2017.
"“He is a left fielder slash catcher right now,” Maddon said. “Maybe as the years progress and the knee gets better, we’ll look at him differently, but for right now, him understanding all of that is very important to his success and ours.”"
In all honesty, this is the best case scenario.
Chicago’s roster features several quality outfield options. Jon Jay and Albert Almora Jr. will split time in center field. Jason Heyward, the reigning Gold-Glove winner at his position, controls right field. Schwarber could split left field playing time with a combination of Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Matt Szczur – giving him plenty of days off as he works back into the grind.
The expectations for Schwarber could not be higher. Despite a season-ending injury just a year ago, an ideal roster mix and one of the best managers in the game have him set up for succes