Chicago Cubs: Projections are very high on Kyle Schwarber in 2018
By Jake Misener
After struggling in his first full big league season, slugging Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber is hoping for a resurgent 2018 campaign.
Much of the talk surrounding the Chicago Cubs in recent days, of course related to pitching. After signing the top free agent starter available in Yu Darvish, the staff has been under close examination from just about anyone with even a slight interest in the upcoming season.
That very addition boosted the Cubs’ PECOTA projection from 89 to 92 wins – good for a third-straight National League Central crown. The next-closest team in the division? The St. Louis Cardinals at 84-78, followed by the Brewers at a disappointing 83-79.
But we’ve hashed out some of these projections already. There’s one, in particular, that caught my eye this morning. And those belong to outfielder/catcher Kyle Schwarber. After bursting onto the scene in a big way in 2015 and making an improbable (and historic) return to the field in the 2016 World Series, last year was a massive disappointment.
Struggles from the start
Schwarber barely kept his average above the .200 mark (.211 to be exact) with an OBP of just .315. Granted, a big part of that is the fact he wasn’t getting on via the base hit, but 150 strikeouts to 59 walks didn’t do him any favors either.
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After a drastic offseason transformation in which he dropped a ton of weight, Schwarber is seeking redemption heading into Spring Training. A former first round draft pick, the former Indiana University star hopes this is the year it all comes together. And, based on PECOTA projections, he may be onto something.
Team-leading power potential
Everyone knows Kyle Schwarber has all the makings of a 40-homer guy. That being said, he could just as easily turn into a hitter who sprays line drives all over the diamond and ‘settles’ for 20-25 long-balls. If that meant a higher average/on-base percentage, I think we’d all be perfectly content with such an outcome.
But PECOTA seems to lean toward the former likelihood. Projected for a team-leading 33 home runs, Schwarber figures to be an integral part of the Chicago offense. Paired with two other projected 30-homer bats in Kris Bryant (30) and Anthony Rizzo (30), the Cubs’ young slugger could be on the brink of a big turnaround campaign.
We saw that power last season. Despite the struggles, Schwarber blasted 30 home runs and was roughly a league-average offensive player – at least in terms of OPS+. What he lacked – and what fans hope for in 2018? A more well-rounded approach at the plate.
A terrifying trio of hitters
PECOTA projects an approximate 30-point increase both in his average (.243) and OBP (.346) in 2018. He joins Rizzo and Bryant as one of the top three run-scorers on the team, as well (92). Last, but certainly not least, Schwarber projects to drive in 85 runs with the third-highest slugging percentage of the bunch.
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When you take a step back and look at these numbers, as a whole, one big thing stands out. What seems to be expected isn’t a one or even two-man show. Chicago is built as a cohesive unit, with six guys projected to hit 20 or more home runs – and three to blast 30-plus. This is a club that, with a strong showing from Kyle Schwarber, could find themselves right back in the NLCS come October.