Chicago Cubs: Spring performances leading to increased optimism

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Kyle Schwarber

Kyle Schwarber isn’t the portly fellow he used to be. One of the biggest stories around Cubs camp this year has been his tremendous weight loss. Take a look at this incredible side-by-side comparison of Schwarber in Spring Training last year and this year. Courtesy of Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation:

It’s not joke. He’s dropped some serious poundage. And that could be a very big deal for the Cubs. Since he arrived in the league, “experts” and naysayers have said he’s destined to a designated hitter in the American League. This new-look Schwarber now has the potential to be faster, which could mean better defense in the outfield.

Additionally, it could result in even better bat speed. Worried about loss of power? Don’t be. He’s hit two home runs so far this spring, and both of them were spectacles. Even he does lose a little bit of power, it doesn’t necessarily mean less home runs. He was already hitting the ball out of the park and over scoreboards. The ball only has to clear to the wall.

Overall, Schwarber’s first full season in the major leagues was a bit of a disappointment. He slashed .211/.315/.467 on the year. For all the hype and anticipation leading into 2017, that was a pretty big letdown. But he still managed to hit 30 home runs, and a look at his seasons splits suggests he started to figure things out later in the year.

A tale of two halves

Despite a less-than-mediocre season slash line, it was a tale of two halves for Schwarber. And his second half was much, much better than the first.

First half: .178/.300/.394, 13 home runs, 82 wRC+

Second half: .253/.335/.559, 17 home runs, 129 wRC+

That second stat line may not jump off the page, but it’s a huge improvement. If he can pick up where he left off, he’ll have a great season. The truth is Kyle Schwarber doesn’t need to hit for a high average to be an above-average player.

Unlike last year, he’ll be coming into this season having played a full year. That’s significant on its own. If he can get on base at a high clip, which he’s proven he’s capable of doing, while continuing to hit for power, he’ll be a dangerous and productive cog in the Cubs’ lineup.